Tuesday July 22nd 2014

How does hydrocodone work?

Hydrocodone affects the body and brain by interacting as an opiate agonist at specific receptor binding sites in the central nervous and other tissues. Does hydrocodone have the same effects for everyone? And how can you make hydrocodone work better. We explore here and invite your questions about hydrocodone at the end.

How does Hydrocodone work in the body?

Hydrocodone is an opioid medication used to help treat mild to moderate pain but which can also suppress the cough reflex. Specifically, For example, hydrocodone causes pain relief causes suppression of the cough reflex by a direct effect on the cough center in the medulla of the brain. Hydrocodone also appears to exert a drying effect on respiratory tract mucosa and to increase visocity of bronchial secretions.

Some possible effects of hydrocodone on the body include:

  • bradycardia
  • cough supression
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • hyperglycemia
  • loss of consciousness
  • shallow breathing
  • impaired coordination
  • slowed heart rate
  • nausea/vomiting
  • urinary urgency

Can you overdose on hydrocodone? Yes. However, the more serious and life-threatening side effects of taking hydrocodone are more likely to occur when hydrocodone is not taken as directed. Most people taking hydrocodone as directed experience only mild side effects.

How does Hydrocodone affect the brain and nervous system?

Hydrocodone is a central nervous system depressant, which means that it slows brain activity when taken. More specifically, hydrocodone is an opium-derived synthetic substance which affects the body by altering brain activity. And as an opiate agonist, hydrocodone exerts its principal pharmacologic effect on the central nervous and on the intestines. But what actually happens in the brain when you take hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone interacts as an agonists at specific neurotransmitter receptor binding sites, specifically with subtypes of opiate receptors such as:

1. The delta-receptor, which is localized in the limbic regions of the CNS

2. The mu-receptor, which is localized in pain modulating regions of the CNS

3. The the kappa-receptor, which is localized in the deep layers of the cerebral cortex

4. The sigma-receptor, which is thought to mediate the dysphoric and psychotomimetic effects of some opiate partial agonists

Hydrocodone binds to these opiate receptors in the brain, numbing feelings of pain and can also cause a euphoric “high.” But people who get high on hydrocodone have more chances of becoming addicted to hydrocodone than those who use hydrocodone as prescribed.

How fast does Hydrocodone work

Hydrocodone hits its peak blood plasma levels after about 1.3 hours. Some people crush and snort the powder from hydrocodone tablets to try to get more immediate effects, but this is dangerous and puts them at greater risk for adverse effects or potential overdose.

How long does Hydrocodone work?

Hydrocodone is taken as needed, generally every 4-6 hours. However, hydrocodone will wear off more quickly in some people than in others. Similarly, hydrocodone detection time in urine is relatively short (not more than a couple of days at most).

What makes Hydrocodone work better

Although you take hydrocodone as needed, there are a few warnings for taking hydrocodone. Hydrocodone needs to be taken exactly as directed. That means it can’t be crushed, chewed, or snorted – when it’s taken in any of these ways, more of the drug than is safe may be released into the bloodstream, leading to a potential overdose. Additionally, hydrocodone should not be taken along with other central nervous system depressants. Alcohol or benzodiazepines can cause excessive drowsiness and make it easier to overdose.

Does Hydrocodone work for everyone?

No, Hydrocodone is not right for everyone. Hydrocodone is an addictive durg, and it’s not recommended for those with a history of drug or alcohol abuse. Some people may experience serious side effects to Hydrocodone. There may be other medications you’re taking which prevent you from using Hydrocodone, so always check with your pharmacist when starting a new medication. Anyone who experiences problems while taking Hydrocodone should talk to their doctor immediately.

How hydrocodone works questions

Do you still have questions about how hydrocodone works? Please leave your questions, comments or experiences with hydrocodone here. We’ll be happy to answer your questions ASAP with a personal and prompt reply.

Reference Sources: DEA: Hydrocodone
Medline Plus: Hydrocodone
Toxnet: Hydrocodone

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14 Responses to “How does hydrocodone work?
John
7:16 am March 20th, 2013

How do you know if you’ve been high on hydrocodon?

5:43 am April 11th, 2013

Hi John. Feeling high is a pretty distinct experience and one of extreme well-being. If you’re wondering if you’ve ever gotten high, you probably haven’t.

Mike
5:30 pm May 28th, 2013

I was addicted to hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Norco Etc.. And it worked I understand some what I just know it kills pain if taken as needed and to much will overdose if to much taken and it gets you “High” but I’m back on it (Taking it as needed for teeth removal) but anyway I want to learn more about it how it works I read the article great explanations and facts also great detail but I want to know how does it actually get you “High”? How does it make you feel that “Buzz”? Thank you for your time

Mike

10:22 am June 3rd, 2013

Hello Mike. Experts still don’t know why exactly you can get high on opioids like hydrocodone. They do know that prescription painkillers work by binding to receptors in the brain to decrease the perception of pain. Create a feeling of euphoria is kind of like a secondary side-effect of this chemical reaction. Here’s some more on how opioids (man made opiates) work in the body and brain:

http://teens.drugabuse.gov/educators/curricula-and-lesson-plans/mind-over-matter/mom-teachers-guide/opiates/mechanism-action

jp
5:48 pm August 20th, 2013

Due to RA and to a lessor extent UC, hydrocodone has been a huge help to me. The euphoria of pain relief coupled with whatever “high” is such a relief. I have anxiety issues and am hoping to find an anti anxiety medication that best accomplishes the hydrocodone affect but without the reality of a far worse situation using too much and the addiction balancing act. I am working with my primary Dr. but any additional advise most appreciated.

jp

1:19 pm August 21st, 2013

Hello jp. Yes, the euphoric effect can influence anxiety. But this is the main cause of psychological dependence. Have you tried treating anxiety with cognitive behavioral therapies? Or psychotherapy in general?

Star Mom
10:41 pm January 26th, 2014

When I was on chemo I was given hydrocodone. As soon as the pain was relieved I stopped the meds quickly and early to avoid addiction. After chemo I feel depressed, no energy etc…have been off opiates for two years. When I did take one again (dentist) I felt happy, energetic and focused. Why? Is there an anti depressant that mirrors the effect? What part of my brain is being stimulated by the meds that’s not otherwise? Most anti depressants make me feel more depressed. They must be targeting something else? Any recommendations I can discuss with my doctor?

12:06 pm January 27th, 2014

Hello Star. Opioids like hydrocodone can cause euphoria through their interaction with the central nervous system. The precise mechanism of action of hydrocodone and other opiates is not known, although it is believed to relate to the existence of opiate receptors in the central nervous system. I’d suggest that you report the symptoms of euphoria to your prescribing doctor and possible a pharmacist. You can get more specifics about the way that hydrocodone works in the brain vs. anti depressants through a consult, and you can monitor these feelings during your use of hydrocodone with some specific guidelines to be sure that you don’t cross the link from use to abuse. Does that help?

Christina Ott Gianna
12:47 pm February 23rd, 2014

I had a complete knee replacement 2 1/2 weeks ago and also have RA. I am experiencing pain and taking hydro condone. As soon as the med wears off I am in pain again. I don’t want to become reliant on them but can not live with the pain level. How long before someone becomes addicted? The high is …only taking the edge off.

9:42 am February 25th, 2014

Hello Christina. It takes about 3 weeks for the body to become physically dependent on opioids like hydrocodone. However, dependence is different than addiction. How long has the hydrocodone been prescribed? Do you feel high when taking it? Have you reported symptoms to your prescribing doctor?

Carolajcat
3:25 am April 28th, 2014

I have Fibromyalgia and neuropathy. I’ve been on many medications to deal with the pain. Most have left me fatigued and hopeless feeling, including Cymbalta. Recently I had a kidney stone and was prescribed Vicodin. I noticed that it really helped with my Fibromyalgia pain and asked my doctor if I could get more for times when the pain is bad. He agreed as long as I limit my consumption to one or two a day. They work well this way and I have been using at least one a day…usually at bedtime…for a couple of months. Recently I took one during the day and discovered that I felt more alert, energetic, and able to do things. Today I took one just for that reason alone as I was depressed and listless. I then went with a friend to visit a shut-in parent. Without it I would have stayed home in bed as I have done ever so many days. We played cards and I had I good time. I felt alive and useful. Good with life. I suspect this is a type of high, but there was no buzz or anything. Just a sense of well being. Living as I have been praying to be able to live for the last several years. I am 67 and afraid of living the rest of my life in pain and fatigue. Is there any way I can experience this sense of well being occasionally without becoming addicted or damaging my body further? I have never been addicted to any drugs, cigarettes or alcohol so I had assumed my likelihood of addiction was low. However I am now worried.

11:05 am May 14th, 2014

Hello Carol. Hmmm. The sense of well-being that you describe is clinically known as “euphoria” and is the chemical result of using opioids. I’d suggest that you speak about this with a psychotherapist to investigate alternatives…b/c using Vicodin to improve mood can lead to addiction.

D Shep
12:16 am June 19th, 2014

I am again a regular guy who was prescribed hydrocodone and ended up a slave to it! I have been taking approx 10 10mg hydros a day for the last six weeks and realized I was back in the viscious cycle I took nothing for two days and withdrawals were unbearable. Then the third day I took 1 10 mg and today I took half of a 7.5 am I gonna start the whole withdrawal over again???

1:46 pm June 19th, 2014

Hello D. The short answer is: NO. You won’t experience the severity or intensity of the original withdrawal symptoms. However, you are prolonging the process of withdrawal. Seek professional guidance via a pharmacist or your prescribing doctor to set up an individualized tapering plan for yourself. You don’t need to go cold turkey off hydrocodone. But you also don’t need to suffer from withdrawal syndrome. There is middle ground, but you need medical advice to set up a plan that’s best for you!

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