How do you get addicted to hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone can be habit forming and might trigger dependence if misused or abused. More on hydrocodone’s addictive potential and tips for safe use, here.

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Hydrocodone is a narcotic pain killer usually prescribed for the treatment of moderate to moderately-severe pain. It is known to be extremely habit forming and is associated with more cases of illegal abuse and drug diversion in comparison to any other opioid medication. When abused, hydrocodone can rapidly lead to physical dependence or addiction.

But, how does a person actually become addicted to hydrocodone? What are the signs of hydrocodone addiction? Learn the answers to these and many other questions regarding hydrocodone’s addictive potential, here. At the end, we welcome your questions. In fact, we try respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries…so please let us know how we can help!

Hydrocodone chemistry and use

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid, synthesized from an opioid alkaloid compounds in the opium poppy plant called, “codeine”. It’s a narcotic painkiller with analgesic properties similar to morphine. Additionally, it is also and occasionally used as a cough suppressant (antitussive agent), similar to codeine.

Hydrocodone itself is a Schedule II narcotic, but is generally mixed with other substances such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and antihistamines; and marketed in multiple Schedule III combination products. As such, hydrocodone is available under many brand names and can be found in the form of:

  • liquid
  • concentrated solution
  • tablet, a capsule
  • extended-release (long-acting) tablet (Oxycontin)
  • extended-release capsule (Xtampza ER)

What medicines contain hydrocodone?

Currently, hydrocodone can be found on the market under the following brand names.

Hydrocodone and acetaminophen (paracetamol):

  • Oxycet
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • Vicodin ES
  • Vicodin HP
  • Loracet
  • Lorcet Plus
  • Lortab
  • Hycet
  • Maxidone
  • Norco
  • Zamicet
  • Zydone…

Hydrocodone and aspirin

  • Alor 5/500
  • Azdone
  • Damason-P
  • Lortab ASA
  • Panasal 5/500

Hydrocodone and ibuprofen

  • Ibudone
  • Reprexain
  • Vicoprofen
  • Xylon

…and others.

What does hydrocodone do in the body?

Hydrocodone affects the brain and body, and has various effects.

Hydrocodone binds to several different receptors in the brain such as: mu, kappa, and delta opioid receptors. It affects the brain and nervous system in a very similar way as other opioids do – by attaching to opioid receptors and then changing the way that they brain RESPONDS to or PERCEIVES pain. As a secondary effect, hydrocodone also acts on the reward center, the limbic system, of the brain. This is why it can be so addictive: hydrocodone is incredibly efficient as a pain reliever and a way to get high.

At the beginning of hydrocodone therapy, users usually feel:

  • a sense of well-being
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • euphoria
  • sleepiness
  • lethargy
  • numbness
  • reduced stress

Hydrocodone influences the body through the central nervous system (CNS) by altering the user’s sense of pain, both physical and emotional. The most common physical results felt after taking hydrocodone are:

  • pain relief
  • cough suppression
  • respiratory depression (slowed breathing)
  • lessened muscle tension
  • lower body temperature

How does hydrocodone addiction form?

Prescription drug addicts may start off as innocent users of prescription pain medications or curious drug abusers. After initial user, many start to abuse the drug mainly because it can relieve pain and make them feel euphoric.

This drug has the ability to interact with the body’s natural “feel good” receptors, and increases dopamine activity in some regions in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasurable effects and is connected to the brain’s reward system. This means that when an activity (such as eating, sleeping, reproducing…or using hydrocodone) floods the reward pathways with dopamine, the brain will be urged to seek it again.

With time and repeated use, the body produces less dopamine on its own. This condition leads to the development of hydrocodone tolerance and makes previous doses less effective. So, you will need to increase your amounts of hydrocodone in order to achieve the desired effects.

Additionally, the body begins to adjust to the prescence not only of DOSES of hydrocodone over time – but also its prescence. The brain adapts to the chemical by “upgrading” some processes and “downgrading” others. This chemical homeostasis is thrown off balance when hydrocodone is not present in the system, and the reason why withdrawal symptoms will occur whenever you try to quit use or lower the regular dosage. The presence of withdrawal symptoms means that you have developed hydrocodone dependence.

However, drug dependence IS NOT THE SAME as drug addiction Aaddiction is considered to be an ongoing, chronic and multi-factorial condition that can be influenced by genetics, psychology, and the environment.

Signs of hydrocodone addiction

Not all addicts display the same symptoms. So, signs and symptoms of hydrocodone addiction can vary among different individuals who are abusing the narcotic painkiller. Generally, addiction is recognized when you display several of the following:

  1. Continue to use hydrocodone despite awareness of negative consequences.
  2. Find illegal ways to obtain it (internet, doctor shopping, stealing).
  3. Feel an urge to use hydrocodone again and again.
  4. Are unable to stop regardless of multiple attempts to do so.
  5. Have lost control over your doses and frequency of use.
  6. The inability to stop taking hydrocodone or stay quit after you stop.
  7. Suddenly changed or lost interest in hobbies and pleasurable activities.
  8. Obsess over getting and using hydrocodone.

Avoid becoming addicted to hydrocodone

According to the FDA, hydrocodone shouldn’t be prescribed to people with mild pain, temporary pain (such as pain from a surgery), or pain that comes and goes. Additionally, people in recovery from addiction or alcoholism should self-report thier medical history to a prescribing doctor. Honest assessment can help you manage pain in a way that does not risk your recovery.

Finally, the best way for to protect yourself from developing a problem is to only use this drug as prescribed by a doctor. Your doctor will recommend a dose and the duration of your treatment with hydrocodone. DO NOT use more hydrocodone than prescribed, use hydrocodone more frequently than prescribed or in ways OTHER THAN prescribed (crush, snort, smoke or inject it). These precautions will help prevent addiction.

Questions about hydrocodone dependency

If you still have questions about the addictive potential of hydrocodone, please leave them here. We do your best to answer all legitimate inquiries with a personal and prompt response. In case we don’t know the answer to your question we will gladly refer you to someone who can help.

Reference sources: DrugAbuse: America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse
DrugAbuse: What are opioids
MedlinePlus: Opiate and opioid withdrawal
DEA: Drug Facts Sheet: Hydrocodone
Health Quality: Tapering and Discontinuing Opioids
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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  1. I know someone who gets brand name Norco. Isn’t that hydrocodone the generic ones. I believe the name brand Norco is made with better ingredients then the generic brands. So people abuse the generic meds needing to use more of those pills trying to get relief. In other words…a person MIGHT need to take 2 or 3 generic pills to get the same effect yhat 1 name brand pill will deliver. So they get addicted. ??????

  2. How much hydrocodone does it take to withdraw? I was in an accident and was prescribed Lortab 5/325 and took 3-4 pills daily before taking them every other day. I was on the medicine for about two months. I quit cold turkey and experienced horrible symptoms like muscle spasms, anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc. Everything has calmed down and it’s been a month and two weeks since quitting cold turkey, but I still get muscle spams/twitches from time to time, depression and anxiety. Is normal to withdraw from a low dosage? And is it normal to still have muscle spasms after not taking the medicine for a month and two weeks?

    1. Hi Renee. Hydrocodone withdrawal is different for each individual. It may last from few weeks to several months. It seems to me that you’re experiencing post acute withdrawal symptoms.

  3. I started taking oxy 80’s twice a,day prescribed by doctor a gf showed me how u snort went down a long 5 year road abusing them 100mgs to 200mgs daily cut myself bak tried subs finally November 26 2016 went to rehab didnt take anything for 2 months after ive taken 30 mgs once a week for the last 4 weeks with no withdrawal symptoms… but this week my anxiety has been acting up so i took (30mgs tues), (30mgs friday) (60mgs sat) (30 mgs monday) so i took a total of 150mgs spaced out over this last week only taken them two days in a row but still taken tem 4:days out of 7 spaced out. I apologize for stuch a long post but i wanted you to have all the information. . *** with all that just said should i be worried that i will have a physical dependency to them again and should i expect withdrawl symptoms tomarrow or am i being paranoid!!!!???? The main question i have is how long of prolong use of them does it take to develop a physical dependency to them again??? And how many days in a row would i need to go to have withdrawl symptoms again?????

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