Pain can diminish your quality of life, but the medications that are commonly prescribed for pain—like hydrocodone based drugs—can also cause debilitating side effects, including chemical dependence and addiction.
Derived from codeine, hydrocodone is an opioid painkiller that is combined with drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control physical discomfort. The drug is also prescribed as an antitussive, or cough suppressant. Hydrocodone can be taken as a pill, capsule or liquid suspension. It is also available in extended-release forms for long-lasting pain control. As an opioid drug, hydrocodone affects the way your body experiences pain and pleasure.
Users can quickly develop a tolerance to the drug’s pleasurable effects, and those who abuse hydrocodone often become addicted. Trying to quit hydrocodone on your own can be an uncomfortable, demoralizing process. Like other opioids, hydrocodone can cause severe withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly or reduce the dosage too quickly. Cravings for the drug can drive you right back to it, no matter how badly you want to quit. To give yourself the best chance of a successful recovery and a drug-free future, it is important to seek help from a drug rehab program that offers specialized treatment for hydrocodone abuse.
The Country’s Most Popular Painkiller
Hydrocodone is readily available as an active ingredient in hundreds of pharmaceutical products. According to Business Insider,hydrocodone with acetaminophen is the most popular drug in the US.1 The U.S. Department of Justice reports that hydrocodone is prescribed more often than any other opioid pain reliever in the country.2 Because of its ubiquity, hydrocodone is very easy to obtain through prescription—your own or someone else’s— and on the street.
Like other opioids, hydrocodone can be highly addictive. In fact, in 2014, the US Drug Enforcement Administration changed its classification as a controlled substance from Schedule III to Schedule II to reflect its high abuse potential.3
Opioid drugs like hydrocodone block sensations of pain and generate feelings of pleasure by interacting with specialized receptors in the brain, spinal cord and other organs in your body. These opioid receptors affect the brain’s natural reward circuit, which reinforces healthy, positive behaviors like food consumption or sexual reproduction.
When you abuse opioid painkillers, your brain responds to the drugs by rewarding you with feelings of pleasure and euphoria. However, the brain and body eventually get used to those chemical responses, which means that higher or more frequent doses of hydrocodone are needed to get those same pleasurable feelings.
Side Effects and Dangers
As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, hydrocodone slows down all of your body’s vital systems, including respiration, blood circulation, and digestion. Taking too much hydrocodone can make your breathing and heart rate dangerously slow, leading to respiratory suppression, unconsciousness, and death. Combining alcohol, anti-anxiety medications or sleeping pills with hydrocodone significantly increases the chance of an overdose.
Amy of Heroes in Recovery faced the struggle of opioid detox and rehab, and for her, it was more than worth it. She says, “I can’t believe I let a drug control my life for so long! While on it, I became very anxious, irritable, and antisocial. I rarely laughed, I was just on autopilot. What a sad existence! I am back to the old me! I am happy and I enjoy the little things in life again. Thank God for another chance!”
Opioid overdose is an overwhelming problem in the US, and in 2015, 15,000 people died as a result of overdosing on an opioid-like hydrocodone.4
The more you abuse hydrocodone, the more vulnerable you are to an overdose or other dangerous side effects, such as the following:
- Slow breathing
- Low blood pressure
Over time, hydrocodone abuse can take a serious toll on your health. The drugs that are combined with hydrocodone in medications like Vicodin (acetaminophen) and Vicuprofen (ibuprofen) can cause harmful long-term effects, such as liver damage, kidney problems, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Long-term opioid drug abuse can cause lethargy, depression, memory problems, chronic constipation, and insomnia. The long-term use of opioid drugs can even increase your sensitivity to pain.
In spite of the destructive consequences of hydrocodone abuse, most people who abuse the drug have trouble quitting on their own. Hydrocodone withdrawal can produce adverse reactions that begin as soon as 12 hours after you stop taking the drug. As you withdraw from the medication, your brain initiates powerful cravings to encourage you to go back to the drug. You may also experience flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, chills, goosebumps, muscle aches, a runny nose, and watery eyes.
Withdrawal can make you feel anxious, irritable, jumpy and restless. You feel that you’ll do anything just to make these bad feelings stop—even if it means going back to the addiction that’s destroying your health, your self-esteem, and your future.
A Timeline for Safe Opiate Withdrawal
When you’re faced with quitting hydrocodone, withdrawal might seem like an overwhelming obstacle. How will you get through the days ahead without feeling sick, edgy, anxious and depressed? What will you do to control your pain? How will you get by in the days, weeks and months ahead without the drug?
Professional drug rehab programs help you recover from hydrocodone addiction as safely and comfortably as possible. Although there’s no way to completely avoid the challenges of withdrawal, having a compassionate support team on your side can greatly influence your success.
Your personal timeline for hydrocodone withdrawal will be based on your current physical and mental health, your history of drug use and your level of intoxication at the time you enter rehab. When you’re admitted to a rehab facility, you’ll be assessed by a treatment team to determine the best plan for detox and rehab.
The acute phase of hydrocodone withdrawal could last for a few days to a week or more, depending on your specific addiction and your body’s reaction. Recovery begins with detox, a process that rids your body of any drugs or other foreign substances. This process should be overseen by consulting physicians.
Hydrocodone detox may include the following components:
- A medically supervised tapering process to gradually reduce your intake of hydrocodone in order to minimize withdrawal symptoms
- Talk therapy in the forms of one-on-one counseling and group therapy to reinforce your commitment to sobriety
- Nutritional counseling and holistic therapies to restore your physical health and emotional well-being
- Pharmaceutical therapy with opioid replacement drugs, anti-anxiety medication, anti-nausea drugs, and other medications to help you cope with cravings and withdrawal
Withdrawing from the effects of hydrocodone is only the first step in your healing process. Experienced addiction counselors can help you create the fulfilling, healthy life you deserve by guiding you safely through detox and into recovery.
From Rehab to Recovery
Hydrocodone addiction often begins with a genuine need for pain management. The New England Journal of Medicineattributes 60 percent of opioid abuse to drugs obtained through a prescription.5 When pain isn’t controlled, the risk of opioid abuse and addiction increases greatly. Finding your way to health involves discovering new ways to manage physical or emotional pain.
A comprehensive rehab program for painkiller addiction involves the following:
- Individual psychotherapy to address the conditions underlying your pain
- Behavioral modification strategies, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), to teach you the coping skills you need for your new, drug-free life
- Holistic therapies like guided meditation, yoga, experiential therapy and expressive therapy to address your emotional and spiritual needs
- Physical exercise programs and nutritional supplementation to restore strength to your body
- Peer groups and 12-Step facilitation meetings to develop a strong base of moral support
- Family counseling to educate and heal the people who matter most to you
- Aftercare services to support you in the weeks and months that follow your rehab program
If you’re searching for a rehab program that addresses your body, mind and spirit, Black Bear Lodge offers a unique opportunity for holistic healing. Our residential treatment center is located in the foothills of northern Georgia, in an atmosphere that promotes serenity and recovery. We provide a comprehensive range of rehab services to help you and your loved ones on the path to recovery. Our admissions coordinators are available at any time to answer your questions and provide support. Please call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline at 706-914-2327 today.
1 Ramsey, Lydia, “The 10 most popular prescription drugs in the US.” Business Insider, 26 October 2016. Accessed 30 October 2017.
2 “Hydrocodone.” Drug Enforcement Administration. October 2014. Accessed 30 October 2017.
3 “Rules – 2014.” Drug Enforcement Administration. 22 August 2014. Accessed 30 October 2017.
4 “Prescription Opioid Overdose Data.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1 August 2017. Accessed 30 October 2017.
5 Lembke, Anna, “Why Doctors Prescribe Opioids to Known Opioid Abusers.” The New England Journal of Medicine. 25 October 2012. Accessed 30 October 2017.