Vicodin is a combination narcotic painkiller that contains acetaminophen and hydrocodone, and is among the most commonly prescribed painkillers in America today. Acetaminophen is a non-narcotic painkiller that enhances the effects of hydrocodone in Vicodin, however acetaminophen can be dangerous when taken in high quantities, as it can lead to liver and kidney disease.
Vicodin is intended to manage moderate to very severe pain, and is commonly prescribed for very minor pain, even when a less potent, non-narcotic painkiller may provide sufficient relief.
The majority of people who become addicted to Vicodin do not intend to do so, but rather find themselves obsessing over it, and craving it despite their pain symptoms dissipating. Like all painkillers, the hydrocodone in Vicodin mimics the effects of opiates like heroin, dulling the brain’s perception of pain by stimulating the reward center with an overflow of dopamine. This process is what creates the euphoric feeling associated with Vicodin use, and often prompts a user to crave more of the drug, without medical justification. Many of the effects of Vicodin are very dangerous, but all are frequently eclipsed by the euphoria it produces. Some of these effects are as follows:
- Shallow breathing
- Lowered blood pressure
- Slowed heart rate
- Slowed reaction time
- Blurred vision
- Ringing sound in ears
Vicodin Addiction From Prescriptions
When an individual is prescribed Vicodin, it is usually intended for short-term use, such as post-surgical pain. However, after several days or weeks of taking Vicodin, it is not uncommon for an individual’s tolerance to the drug to increase, thereby needing more (or higher strengths) to achieve the same effect as the initial dose. Because Vicodin is not typically prescribed for chronic pain, the need to take this drug for long periods of time is extremely rare. When tolerance increases and an individual feels that his or her Vicodin is no longer effective, this can be an early warning sign of a developing addiction Early warning signs can become a legitimate concern when the initial complaint of the ineffectiveness of Vicodin for pain management is followed by drug seeking behavior, which can include some of the following:
- Using more Vicodin than prescribed without authorization from the doctor
- Doctor shopping – seeking out multiple doctors from whom an individual can obtain prescriptions for Vicodin
- Obtaining more Vicodin from friends and/or family members for whom it has been prescribed
- Seeking out overseas online pharmacies for more Vicodin if more cannot be obtained through original prescribing doctor
- Becoming irate and/or extremely agitated with each failed attempt to get more Vicodin
- Use of other depressant drugs like alcohol, benzodiazepines, and/or additional painkillers to enhance the effects of Vicodin
- Inappropriate administration of Vicodin, such as crushing and snorting or dissolving and injecting the drug
- Minor self-injury to report to ER physicians as justification for more Vicodin
- Skipping a dose of Vicodin to justify a double dose later
Vicodin addiction does not happen overnight for any individual, but its effects can be so overwhelming, that an individual may not realize when he or she is becoming psychologically dependent on the drug.
Psychological Dependence of Vicodin Addiction
Psychological dependence happens when the brain drastically reduces its natural production of essential neurotransmitters that regulate human emotion, motivation, and pleasure, as a result of the imbalance created by excessive Vicodin use. The main neurotransmitters affected in this way are dopamine and endorphins, both of which are present in excess when Vicodin is used. When this happens, an individual feels that he or she cannot survive, or function normally with Vicodin, especially since the brain is no longer producing sufficient amounts of these chemicals naturally. The end result is that Vicodin becomes just as important for survival as food and water, and addicts will go to great lengths to have enough of the drug for a sense of normalcy. Some of the things that Vicodin addicts will do to maintain their addiction can be alarming, degrading, and/or devastating, and many Vicodin addicts who are desperate to get more are extremely likely to resort to whatever depressant drug they can obtain in short order. These drugs can be:
The more desperate the addict, the more likely he or she is to engage in risky administration of drugs, such as sharing needles for an immediate high. This can be especially true in those who are suffering withdrawal from Vicodin.
Additionally, since drugs cost money, Vicodin addicts must find a way to obtain the financial ability to acquire their drug. One of the most prominent signs of addiction is financial troubles, as a result of all financial resources going toward drug use, and overall neglect of financial obligations. When an addict is low or void of money, yet still drug seeking, he or she may:
- Steal from friends, family, or strangers to get money
- Engage in fraud or forgery to finance his/her addiction
- Provide sexual favors or engage in prostitution
- Sell or pawn most cherished possessions for drug money
Physical Addiction and Detox From Vicodin
In addition to psychological dependence, Vicodin also creates a physical dependence that can cause grueling and severe withdrawal symptoms in addicts when they stop or drastically reduce their intake of the drug. For many addicts who have experienced withdrawal before, the thought of going through it again can be terrifying. While none of the symptoms of withdrawal from Vicodin are life-threatening, they can be severe and are often a significant deterrent from getting sober in an effort to begin recovery. Some of these withdrawal symptoms are as follows:
- Cold sweats
- High fever
- Goose bumps
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Severe cravings
- Extreme anxiety
- Abdominal pain
- Extreme agitation
It is common for individuals who are addicted to Vicodin to try to detox themselves at least once before seeking help from a detox center. The problem that is most frequently encountered with self-detoxification from Vicodin is the fact that an addict is left to his or her own devices throughout the process, and despite a deep desire to achieve sobriety, the intense cravings and additional physical symptoms can only be eased by taking more Vicodin, and addicts give in to this craving more often than not. In a detox facility, there are no drugs for addicts to abuse, and there is staff available to monitor the symptoms of each patient, and provide medication to ease severe symptoms, as well as facilitate sleep during the process.
Help for Vicodin Addiction
A life of Vicodin addiction can lead to serious consequences including arrest and jail or prison sentences for illegal behavior surrounding drug use. The initial onset of addiction may seem subtle at first, but the downward spiral of negative consequences can be rapid and severe, taking a once upstanding and successful member of society to the deepest depths of despair. The common misconception that Vicodin is safer than heroin because it is a medication prescribed by physicians is erroneous because Vicodin has the same effects on a user’s brain as heroin, and without intervention and treatment, a Vicodin addict can quickly become a heroin addict. It is important to understand that addiction is the same, across all drugs, as it is characterized as the continued use of a substance or engagement in a behavior despite repeated negative consequences. Vicodin is no less capable of producing addiction than any other drug, legal or illicit.
Once addicted to Vicodin, the best chance for recovery and survival is an addiction treatment program that can help individuals to answer and understand several key questions regarding their condition and recovery. These include:
- What are the underlying issues or sources of pain that have contributed to addiction?
- What is necessary in everyday life to cope with, and survive difficult situations without the use of Vicodin or other addictive drugs?
- What other parts of life are affected by addiction, and how can changes in those parts of life help to prevent relapse?
- What are the triggers for relapse? How can dangerous people, places, and things be identified and avoided?
- How can overall physical health influence the risk for relapse?
- Where can support for recovery and fellowship in sobriety be found?
The answers to all of these questions and more can be found in an effective drug rehabilitation program that can be specifically tailored to the individual needs, spiritual beliefs, and preferences of the addict. If you, or your loved one is suffering from Vicodin addiction, please call us now and speak with a trained counselor about your situation and concerns. We will work with you to find the most effective treatment program based on the individual needs and preferences of the addicted individual. We understand that addiction treatment is only as effective as it is relatable. We are here to ensure you are paired up with the most addiction rehab programs that will work. Addiction treatment does work, so please call us now, and let us help you find the program that will work for you.