Can you get addicted to Vicodin?

Yes, Vicodin can lead to addiction. Read about what Vicodin’s chemistry, what makes Vicodin addictive, and the ways you can avoid addiction…plus, more here.

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Q: Is Vicodin addictive?

A: Yes. Vicodin can be habit forming.

In fact, the main ingredient in Vicodin – hydrocodone – can cause euphoric effect. So, even if you start out taking it from a doctor’s prescription, you can get hooked! To avoid problems, any change you make in dosage or frequency of use should only be done in accordance with a physician or a medical professional. If you are not careful, you can be facing the dangers of addiction and even overdose…

So, what makes Vicodin an addictive substance? And how can you avoid becoming addicted? We answer these questions in this article. If you’d like to learn more, we invite you to leave your questions in the comments section at the end of the page.

Vicodin chemistry and use

Vicodin is a two-ingredient combination formula consisting of hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

1. Hydrocodone is an opiate analgesic and an antitussive drug prescribed for the purpose of relieving pain by changing the way the brain and nervous system perceive it. But, it is also useful for relieving cough by decreasing activity in the part of the brain that causes coughing.

2. Acetaminophen is the second active compound found in Vicodin. It works as an analgesic and is used for the treatment of several health issues such as: headaches, arthritis, reducing fever and is often given as an alternative to aspirin.

Vicodin tablets, as a medication consisted of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen, are available for use in the following strengths:

  • VICODIN® – hydrocodone bitartrate 5 mg and acetaminophen 300 mg
  • VICODIN ES® – hydrocodone bitartrate 7.5 mg and acetaminophen 300 mg
  • VICODIN HP® – hydrocodone bitartrate 10 mg and acetaminophen 300 mg

Besides these active ingredients, Vicodin tablets also contain the following inactive ingredients: colloidal silicon dioxide, crospovidone, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, povidone, pregelatinized starch, and stearic acid.

What medicines contain Vicodin?

In addition to the brand medication “Vicodin”, there are many other drugs who are made of the same two (2) prinicple active compounds. To date, other medications that contain hydrocodone and acetaminophen in their chemical formula include:

  • Hycet
  • Loracet
  • Lorcet Plus
  • Lortab
  • Maxidone
  • Norco
  • Oxycet
  • Percocet
  • Zamicet
  • Zydone

What does Vicodin do in the body?

When taken, Vicodin typically produces the following effects:

  • drowsiness
  • euphoria
  • lowered inhibition
  • pain relief
  • relaxation
  • sedation
  • suppression of the cough reflex

When taken orally, Vicodin is metabolized in the body within 20-30 minutes. After this period the user eventually feels the effects of sedation. Vicodin can “numb” a person’s pain by producing the same physiological effects as the body’s natural endorphines. However, when a huge amount of hydrocodone hits the brain at once it depresses the central nervous system (CNS) and damages essential functions such as the heart and respiratory system.

How is Vicodin abused? Vicodin abusers sometimes crush or dissolve the tablets for the intention of snorting, smoking, or injecting. These routes of administration drastically shorten the required time for Vicodin to reach the brain. For example, intravenous injection delivers Vicodin to the brain in the shortest amount of time compared to the other routes of administration. Smoking or snorting Vicodin creates an intense euphoric high. But, these methods of drug delivery also increase the risk of overdose and death.

How do you get addicted to Vicodin?

Often, people get ‘hooked’ on Vicodin unintentionally.

You may have started taking Vicodin as prescribed by your doctor. Quickly, people can build up tolerance to the drug and develop physical dependence – even after a couple of weeks of regular dosing. Tolerance means that you start to require increasingly larger doses in order to produce the same level of pain relief. Physical dependence means that you need to take Vicodin continuously to prevent the occurrence of Vicodin withdrawal syndrome. Both of these conditions lead to continuous use of the medication, which can eventually lead to addiction.

In the brain, hydrocodone is the opioid substance which makes you become hooked on Vicodin. It acts by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When hydrocodone attaches to the receptors, it can produce a sense of intense well-being.

The effects of opioids like hydrocodone are typically mediated by specific subtypes of opioid receptors (mu, delta, and kappa) that are activated by the body’s own opioid chemicals (endorphins, encephalins). So, the longer you use it, the more your body loses the ability to produce endorphins naturally. This is the main reason why people feel depressed when they quit the usual doses. Eventually, addicts end up needing more pills in order to keep feeling normal and function regularly.

Signs of Vicodin addiction

Addiction is defined as compulsive drug use in the face of major, negative consequences to one’s life. If you find yourself doing the following, you may have a problem with this medication. These are the common signs of Vicodin addiction:

  • being preoccupied using the drug
  • buying the drug illegally
  • constantly looking for new ways of getting new prescriptions
  • sacrificing other responsibilities such as work and family
  • visiting multiple physicians to obtain the drug

If you feel that your Vicodin use is getting out of your control, it’s best to seek help and start treating your addiction before you sink deeper in it.

How to avoid Vicodin addiction

Every prescription medication – including Vicodin – comes with medical guidelines. The medical guidelines contain certain rules and precautions regarding the use of the medication. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make sure you are informed about the medication you are using.
  • Make sure that you follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding dose and frequency of use.
  • Do not treat Vicodin as a recreational drug.
  • Only use it for medical reasons and exactly as prescribed.
  • Keep in contact with your doctor about any concerns, questions or complication during the time you use Vicodin because this way you can be sure that you are using the medication accordingly.

Questions about getting addicted to Vicodin

If you have any questions about Vicodin use, abuse, or addiction please post them in the designated COMMENT section below. We try to respond promptly and personally to all legitimate inquiries. In case we don’t know the answer to you your question, we will gladly refer you to professionals who can help.

Reference Sources: NIDA: America’s addiction to opioid medications
Medline Plus: Hydrocodone Combination Products
DEA: Hydrocodone
LiverTox: Hydrocodone
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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