Vicodin Abuse

Vicodin is a brand name medication that contains acetaminophen and hydrocodone. The presence of the second ingredient in this medication makes it vulnerable to misuse, as hydrocodone can cause a euphoric high when taken in large doses. Unfortunately, this behavior can lead to addiction, among other consequences.

Understanding Vicodin Abuse

Hydrocodone and acetaminophen together are used to treat moderate to severe pain. They may be prescribed to someone for an acute pain problem or for a long-term issue. However, it is always extremely important that Vicodin users take their medication exactly as prescribed and do not deviate from their doctor’s orders.

According to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, “Combined hydrocodone and acetaminophen is one of the most widely prescribed pain relievers and has become one of the most frequently abused drugs nationwide.” Many individuals misuse this medication in order to

  • Experience a euphoric high
  • Counteract tolerance to opioids by taking higher and higher doses of the drug
  • Stave off withdrawal symptoms because of an existing substance use disorder

Those who abuse Vicodin put themselves at risk of becoming addicted to the drug, as well as a number of other serious physical and psychological problems associated with drug abuse. And the longer this continues, the more severe one’s issues will generally become.

Signs and Symptoms of Vicodin Abuse

Vicodin causes relaxation and a relief of tension, which can be enjoyable. Unfortunately, many people take larger doses of the drug in order to experience these effects more intensely. In addition, the drug also causes confusion and drowsiness, which is why it is unsafe to drive while on it. Those who abuse Vicodin are likely to experience these effects as well as others, according to the National Library of Medicine, including

  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dry throat
  • Problems urinating
  • Rash
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings

Larger doses of the drug make these effects more likely to occur and more likely to linger. Many people who abuse Vicodin, however, will attempt to ignore the side effects listed above rather than to see a doctor or stop using the drug. These are important signs to look for if you are trying to determine if your loved one is a Vicodin abuser.

Dangers of Vicodin Abuse

Like other opioid-based drugs, Vicodin can cause serious side effects when abused, a number of which can create irreversible issues. In addition, the drug also contains acetaminophen, which can cause its own intense side effects. Some of the common dangers associated with Vicodin abuse include

Respiratory depression

Even one large dose of Vicodin can lead to severe respiratory depression where one’s breathing becomes extremely shallow or even stops altogether. This can cause coma, brain damage, and death if the individual is not treated immediately. Call 911 if you believe anyone has overdosed on an opioid drug.

Liver problems

Too much acetaminophen taken either at once or over a long period of time can cause problems for the liver, and when Vicodin is taken consistently and in large doses, its presence in the body can add up, potentially causing liver failure and death.

Withdrawal symptoms

Opioid drugs like hydrocodone can cause a person to become dependent after they have taken them for a long period of time, and as a result, withdrawal symptoms can occur if the individual suddenly doesn’t have access to the drug. According to the NLM, opioid withdrawal symptoms include

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Goose bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle, bone, and joint pain


Depression can occur as a result of long-term opioid abuse, or existing depression can worsen. This can lead to suicidal thoughts and other life-threatening symptoms, so it is important for the person to receive help right away.

Hearing loss

A number of individuals have experienced hearing loss as a result of using hydrocodone-based drugs. While there is no way to be certain who might potentially experience this issue, abusing one of these medications can put one at risk for some of the rarer issues associated with their use because of the frequent use of unregulated, high doses.

Vicodin is an effective medication for the treatment of pain when taken as prescribed, and it usually doesn’t cause severe side effects. However, when one chooses to abuse the drug, they are putting themselves at serious risk of experiencing the effects listed above, much more so than those who take their medication as recommended by their doctors.

Who Abuses Vicodin?

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “The most frequently prescribed combination” of hydrocodone and another medication is “hydrocodone and acetaminophen.” As a result, the drug is extremely available and has an incredibly high potential of abuse. Hydrocodone itself has been the second most frequently encountered opioid medication in illicit drug evidence since 2009.

  • People of all ages, ethnicities, economic groups, and genders abuse Vicodin and drugs like it. Though this was once considered to be a white-collar abuse problem, it is now understood that all populations have issues with opioid addiction, particularly hydrocodone-based drugs.
  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Vicodin was abused in the past year by 4.8 percent of 12th graders. The drug was the fifth most misused overall, surpassing
    • Ritalin
    • Ecstasy
    • Cocaine
    • Hallucinogens
    • Cough medicines
    • CNS depressants
  • An estimated 82,480 visits to the emergency department in 2011 were associated with the nonmedical use of hydrocodone-based drugs.

Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin is addictive, and one who misuses it consistently and in large doses will often eventually experience this severe mental illness. However, this is not the end of the issue. Many people overdose and return to their substance abuse afterward while others keep abusing the drug just to stave off its severe withdrawal symptoms. Others turn to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain, making it easier to sustain their habit.

Those who become addicted to opioid drugs can no longer control their substance abuse and will not be able to stop on their own. This is why treatment is necessary for a safe, effective recovery.

Am I a Vicodin Addict?

If you have been misusing your or someone else’s Vicodin prescription, it is time to consider whether or not you may already be addicted. Ask yourself the questions below to find out if you are exhibiting the signs of compulsive use.

  • Do I abuse Vicodin every day?
  • Have I ever done anything dangerous or risky in order to obtain more of the drug?
  • Are my friends and family members concerned about my substance abuse?
  • Have I ever overdosed on Vicodin?
  • Have I ever experienced severe withdrawal symptoms when I wasn’t able to obtain more of the drug?
  • Am I considering moving to another drug that is stronger in order to combat tolerance?
  • Have I noticed other aspects of my life are suffering because of my substance abuse including
    • Work?
    • School?
    • My relationships?
    • My ambition?
    • My financial situation?
  • Despite the issues Vicodin has caused in my life, do I feel I won’t be able to stop using it without help?

Answering yes to any of these questions is a sign that you need help. In order to create real change, you will need to attend Vicodin addiction treatment.

Vicodin Addiction Treatment

An addiction to prescription opioids is usually handled with a number of different treatment methods utilized together in a personalized rehab program that fits the needs of the individual patient. These options can include


  • Methadone: a synthetic opioid that can either help patients slowly detox from Vicodin or maintain them as they go through their recoveries, minimizing withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and their chances of relapse
  • Buprenorphine: a partial opioid agonist that works similarly to methadone but is better suited for individuals with less severe dependencies and more extensive social supports (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  • Naltrexone: an opioid antagonist that is best for treating highly motivated recovering addicts who are no longer dependent on opioids

Behavioral therapies

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: a program that helps patients relearn positive attitudes and behaviors to avoid relapse (NIDA)
  • Group therapy: a program that helps recovering addicts support one another
  • Contingency management: a program that provides patients with rewards for every passed drug test