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Can you get addicted to hydrocodone?

Yes, you can get addicted to hydrocodone.

Many people use hydrocodone for pain relief as prescribed. But because hydrocodone can get you high, is as potent as morphine or codeine (see Vicodin vs. Codeine comparison charts) and because it is the most frequently prescribed opioid in the U.S., hydrocodone is frequently abused. Learn what you can do to prevent hydrocodone addiction here.

What medicines contain hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is frequently found in brand name formulations and in combination with other drugs such as acetaminophen. while hydrocodone itself is listed as a Schedule II drug by the DEA, it is only sold in combination formulations. Some of the more popular forms of medications that contain hydrocodone include:

  • Hycodan
  • Lorcet
  • Lortab
  • Tussionex
  • Vicodin

Hydrocodone dependence is expected (but not the same as addiction)

Any long term use of hydrocodone can lead to physical dependence on hydrocodone. But dependence on a drug is not enough to medically diagnose someone as an addict. In fact, many people who take hydrocodone as prescribed are expected to show signs of physical dependence on hydrocodone after several weeks of continued opioid use, although a mild degree of physical dependence may develop after only a few days of opioid therapy.

Doctors also expect that people taking hydrocodone over time will experience a couple of signs of dependence: tolerance and withdrawal.   Higher tolerance for hydrocodone is a phenomenon wherein you get reduced analgesic effect after some time of using hydrocodone… and you need to increase dosage to achieve desire pain relief effect. Furthermore, hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms are also present when you stop taking hydrocodone abruptly. Withdrawal is normal for people who cut back on hydrocodone after chronic, long time use, which is why many doctors taper your dose gradually when you want to stop. So if these are the signs of hydrocodone dependence what are the unique characteristics of hydrocodone addiction?

How do you get addicted to hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone, like most other opioids, induces sedation and alters the perception of pain. Hydrocodone also triggers euphoria, a sense or state of extreme well-being. When you start using hydrocodone for its euphoric effect (With or without a prescription), you increase your risk of addiction. Other ways that you can get addicted to hydrocodone include:

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  • chewing, snorting or injecting hydrocodone
  • taking higher doses of hydrocodone than prescribed
  • taking hydrocodone more frequently than prescribed
  • using hydrocodone to get high

Hydrocodone addiction signs

A positive drug test for Vicodin may indicate normal use, or could be a sign of Vicodin addiction.   The hydrocodone detection period is generally 2-4 days after last does, but can extend to 90 days if a hair sample is tested.  So how do you know the difference between normal prescription use and misuse of Vicodin?

Addiction is neurobiological disease. Hydrocodone addiction is characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following:

  • compulsive use of hydrocodone
  • continued use of hydrocodone despite harm or negative consequences
  • craving hydrocodone
  • inability to control drug use
  • obsessive thinking about hydrocodone

How to avoid hydrocodone addiction

If you have been prescribed medication that contains hydrocodone to treat moderate to moderately severe pain and want to avoid addiction, there are a few things that you can do to prevent hydrocodone addiction.

1. Use hydrocodone only for medical reasons – Addiction potential for any prescription drug increases when you start to use drug recreationally, for performance enhancement or for psychological relief. Be sure that you use hydrocodone only for pain relief or cough suppression.

2. Keep records of your prescribing information – Record prescribing information, such as quantity, frequency, and renewal requests to monitor your use.

3. Check in with your doctor from time to time – Periodic re-evaluation of therapy can help you assess how well hydrocodone is working to relieve pain or treat cough. It is possible that there are other treatments which may help your medical condition, so check in with your prescribing doctor to report and evaluate your choices.

Hydrocodone questions

If you have any questions about hydrocodone use, abuse or addiction potential…please leave them here. We welcome all readers to anonymously ask their questions and we will respond promptly and personally.

Reference sources:The Relative Abuse Liability of Oral Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Hydromorphone Assessed in Prescription Opioid Abusers
Daily Med drug info on hydrocodone

Photo credit: Tartar Time Photography

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20 Responses to “Can you get addicted to hydrocodone?
JJ
6:11 am December 19th, 2011

This stuff will destroy your life,
Run form this drug and dont look back!

Jordan
2:23 am January 20th, 2012

How addictive is Hydrocodone? (I am doing a high school Project so I need an intelligent answer)

12:50 pm February 14th, 2012

Hi Jordan. Thanks for your question. Hydrocodone is highly addictive. Check out the Controlled Substances Act and hydrocodone as a Schedule II or III drug, and start your research on the addictive liability of hydrocodone from there.

frank villagrana
12:25 am January 16th, 2013

been taking lortab 10/325 for the past 13 years day in day out…120 milligrams daily…i am fine…but people put things in your mind…and you end up questioning yourself…is that normal….i feel fine…somepeople would say it is dangerous what i am doing…your opinion please….

12:27 pm February 15th, 2013

Hello Frank. Well, long term use of opioids can damage the liver or other internal organs. Have you been in for a general physical to make sure that your metabolic system is doing ok?

JD
8:26 pm February 20th, 2013

I have been taking hydrocodone for a few different pains, per doctors orders, for over 2 years. I think I’ve developed an addiction but I’m not sure how to overcome the addiction and still manage my pain. I can’t seem to find any helpful information on this because all information just says ‘if you’re addicted quit taking it’. If I don’t manage my pain, I can’t function. I can’t just take things like tylenol or advil or other OTC things because they cause intense gastric pains which is one of the things I’m supposed to take the hydrocodone for. I’m just not sure what to do but your page has been the most helpful so far, in helping me decide if it is possibly addiction or just normal from use over time.

2:25 pm February 21st, 2013

Hello JD. You bring up a good question: are you experiencing physical dependency or addiction? The main indicator is psychological compulsion. If you’re taking hydrocodone as prescribed and don’t feel euphoric effect, you’re simply dependent on the drug physically. If you do feel high when you take hydrocodone and like it, you may be addicted.

People living with chronic pain really need to consider quality of life issues when thinking about stopping opioid pain medications. If you take hydrocodone as prescribed and it doesn’t interfere with your job, home or social life (negatively), it seems like long term use for chronic pain is working. However, if you find that you are avoiding people responsibilities, or are obsessing about taking hydrocodone to feel better….it might be time to consider other pain treatment options.

Does this help?

JD
7:58 pm February 21st, 2013

Thank you, it is helpful. I do have compulsions to take it, even when it’s really not physically needed at that time. I think it’s 1. I’m so used to the pain, I am used to taking it and have the impulse to take it from conditioned behavior (taking the pills every day over so many years). I’m so very used to taking them. And 2. because I want to avoid feeling any of that pain so I try to stop it as soon as I know it’s going to present itself. I do not always take it as prescribed, admittedly. Though, I do not have any conflicts with my responsibilities, job, loved ones, social life, etc. If anything, I feel I’ve been more able to handle those things since I don’t have to worry about the pain or embarrassing myself by being hunched over, sweating or otherwise showing distress in some corner or at a meal with others. It’s a fine line between need and crutch; it’s very confusing and I just don’t want to become like some people I’ve read about who take 20+ 10mg pills a day. I did start to take an excessive amount at one point, trying to chase the euphoric feeling when I was dealing with some issues, but I stopped and drastically cut back from the amount I was taking. In all, I probably take 10mg – 10.5mg on average. On a good day, just 7.5mg. On a bad day 30mg. I suppose if I can’t stop the compulsion soon, I’ll have to talk to my doctor about alternative management options, if there are any. Thanks again for the helpful information.

MFM
7:10 pm April 2nd, 2013

Hello, it is good to find a site where the comments are not 10 years old. This page seems sincere so here is my 2 cents worth. I’m white male, age 53 and a hard hat construction worker and former U.S.Army Paratrooper. So yep, body has run its course. 20 years of Chiropatric Care 4-8 times a year as well as vitamins B-12 (( to be good for back pain)) I was sent to a doctor at age 49 because of the “not getting any better” speech. They did a MRI on back and hands and after running the quantlet of what worked and what didn’t the 1st year the doctor decided that Norco 10/325 worked best for lower back pain and carbo-tunnel of both hands. That started in Feb.2010. In Mar.2011 I had hernia surgery and again in Dec.2011 and now got chronic pain with the back and hand pain. I had a sympathetic nerve block in Oct.2012 and again in Mar.2013. So here is my questions. I’m prescribed 8 Norco 10/325 a day, 2-10mg Valium a day for sleep which I sometimes don’t take at all, and some compound cream to rub on back and hernia area. Over 3 years of this Norco 10/325 I decided to cut back and want to quit because I feel I want more and thats not good. My pain management doctor offerd me Oxycontin, plus other more stronger but I told him I do not want to go any higher up the scale then I am. I wonder if this Norco is “medication” , which is fine, or turned into a “drug/dope” which is not fine? It seems that the last couple of months I have been in a constant state of withdrawal but not sure if it is because I live alone and isolate because my body can’t move like it use too ((I walk with a cane)) or I’m depressed or what? One thing I’m sure of,is I would not be writing to this web site if I was not concerned about something. Thank You..

7:19 am April 4th, 2013

Hello MFM. Taking opioid pain medications like Norco or OxyContin is difficult over the long term. Like you’ve begun to notice, your body becomes more tolerant (totally natural process) to the effects and you need increasing amounts of the meds to experience pain relief. But, there is an effect on mood that comes, as well.

My suggestion to you (and this might seem out of left field) would be to schedule an appointment with a psychotherapist. Living alone can cut us off from humanity and people who we need to connect with and feel a part of a greater good. I think that talk therapy can really help you, as you seem honest, sincere and able to get to the heart of things pretty instinctively. If you are restricted from moving and can’t get to face-to-face meetings, schedule online therapy. I can speak from experience that it’s worth the money that I’ve ever spent, and that psychologists can work on a sliding scale. Reach out for help, and you can get it.

Debbie
4:57 am February 20th, 2014

I have been prescribed hydrocodone-chlorpheniram for a virus i have . I am so scared to take it. I read its addicting but my phlegm im my chest is not getting better and my dr said for me to take 1/2 tsp for one or two days and itll be ok . I wont have and withdrawl systems and my cold will get better i have just read so much stories online on how terrible this prescription is please let me know if i can take it safely for a few days .

carole
5:55 pm February 22nd, 2014

How long does it stay in your system and is there a test to see if it is still in your system and how much is in there. How long does it take to come off it

9:44 am February 25th, 2014

Hi Carole. Yes, there is an “Extended Opioids” test that is usually ordered in addition to a DOT-5, 7 or 9 panel test that can detect hydrocodone in urine for about 2-4 days after last use. Effects of immediate release hydrocodone usually wear off within 4-6 hours, although extended release versions can last for up to 12 hours.

Craig
11:20 am May 30th, 2014

Hi, i am prescribed Hydrocodone / acetaminophren 325mgs, i have sever pain from a broken back, nerve damage and arthritis. i am 34 years old. i only take the pain meds when i absolutely need them, i have been given many different narcotics, and though some help i have never had a euphoric effect nor an altered state talked about for this drug. i believe i have a high tolerance for pain and a higher one for drugs, does that mean i wouldn’t get addicted if i don’t get the “altered” effects? is there a better drug for sever pain that is not a narcotic?

Jake
6:51 am December 3rd, 2014

Hello, well where do i start. First of all, i had an iliestomy done on me and was perscribed Norco 10/325 for the pain. Soon after the pain was gone i stoped taking the pain meds. However i liked the high feeling that i would feel while taking the pain meds, so i started taking them just for the high and now i can’t seem to stop. What should i do? Please help me?

12:27 pm December 3rd, 2014

Hello Jake. You are not alone. In addition to the physical dependence, it seem that psychological dependence may have begun. I’d suggest that you start by full disclosure with your doctor; addiction is a medical issue and s/he can refer you to local treatment services including with outpatient or inpatient clinics/rehabs. Reach out for help there, or call 1800-662-HELP to be connected to a treatment center in your area.

Jake
6:28 am December 4th, 2014

I was afraid of hearing that, but it’s good to know that im not alone. Im really disapointed in myself for allowing this to happen. I was always told this could happen, but i guess some of us learn the hard way. Thank you so much for the advice. I never been to any rehab/clinics of this sort, so i was wondering if you can tell me how these work?

tk
4:45 pm September 24th, 2015

If i have had addiction problems in the past, would taking hydrocodone for a couple days give me withdrawal? I had a tooth pulled, I’m fresh out of rehab and was prescribed 12 5/325 hydrocodone. I ate those and probably 3 10/325 hydrocodone that were prescribed to my step dad (without asking). Clearly this is scary signs of abuse so i need to stop. But will i withdrawal?

12:10 pm September 25th, 2015

Hi TK. No, it won’t. Taking hydrocodone for a couple of days is not enough time for your organism to get dependent to it, so you can expect no withdrawal symptoms.

Keith
5:56 pm March 28th, 2016

I have a back problem that I have been working with a pain management doctor for about three months now. To begin with I told him I did not want any heavy pain meds. so we tried a few things like Lyrica and that didn’t help at all. He says the only thing left for him to do is give me a mild dose of Hydrocodon, 5-325 , twice a day as needed for pain. The only time I’m in pain is when I walk or stand I can relieve it by sitting.
I am afraid to take this, I have heard so may stories about people getting hooked on pain meds. I have never had a addiction to anything other than smoking that I quit, Should I take these or not , I don’t know.? It would be nice to be able to exercise or walk through a store. Tell me what you think please.

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