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How is hydrocodone abused?

Drug abuse is defined as using a substance in a way that is not recommended as prescribed, or taking a drug to get high. When you take more hydrocodone than is prescribed, more often than is prescribed, or if you are self-prescribing hydrocodone then you are abusing the drug. Likewise, if you take hydrocodone for euphoric effect, this is hydrocodone abuse. Mixing alcohol and hydrocodone is another form of hydrocodone abuse.

Here we review hydrocodone abuse and its side effects. Then, we invite your comments or questions about hydrocodone use and treatments for hydrocodone addiction at the end. We try to respond to all questions personally and promptly.

Can hydrocodone be abused?

Yes. Hydrocodone can be abused. However, abuse does not necessarily mean you are addicted to hydrocodone. Instead, hydrocodone abuse can be the first step in developing an addiction with problematic consequences in your life.  But hydrocodone addictive effects are nothing to mess around with. Hydrocodone is VERY addictive; daily use of hydrocodone can progress to drug addiction after only a few weeks.

How hydrocodone is abused?

Hydrocodone is abused by:

  1. mixing hydrocodone with other prescription medications, alcohol, or illicit drugs
  2. taking hydrocodone in higher doses than prescribed
  3. taking hydrocodone more often than prescribed
  4. taking hydrocodone in ways other than prescribed (chewing, injection, snorting)

What happens when you abuse hydrocodone? Specifically, when you change the way you take hydrocodone, you can trigger the release of concentrated amount of hydrocodone affecting the body. This is why you can experience a high when you snort of chew hydrocodone. This happens because there is no metabolic barrier for the full effects of the drug. What does this mean exactly?

Hydrocodone is meant to be swallowed. It then gets digested in the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract and distributed through the bloodstream to the blood brain barrier. This digestion helps mitigate the effects of hydrocodone. Without this process, you increase and intensify the delivery of hydrocodone to the blood-brain barrier and can increase the risk of physical dependency.

Hydrocodone abuse side effects

When you abuse hydrocodone you increase the potential side effects doctors warn against. You are also doing damage to your body. You are affecting your body’s ability to absorb and process the medication. The more you continue to use hydrocodone, the more you damage the organs used during its metabolic processes. Other side effects that can have an impact on you will include:

  • accidents
  • confusion
  • death
  • fainting
  • fatigue
  • liver damage and failure
  • losing consciousness
  • overdose
  • seizures
  • shallow breathing/heart beat

Side effects can also extend to behaviors and can impact your social, work, and psycho-emotional life. Effects may include:

  • change in mood regulation
  • hospitalization
  • losing your job
  • seeking out hydrocodone regardless of consequence
  • strained family and friend relationship

Signs of hydrocodone abuse

Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint whether or not someone is abusing hydrocodone. This is because some cases of hydrocodone abuse begin as medical need. But generally, you’ll start to notice mood swings: feeling good while on hydrocodone and poorly without it. Occasionally, other substances like alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opiate may also be in the mix. If you think someone might be abusing hydrocodone then you can expect them to:

  • buy hydrocodone online
  • get hydrocodone through illegal means
  • doctor shop
  • go through more hydrocodone then they need

They may also change the way they take it such as snorting it in order to feel the effects of hydrocodone faster than having to wait for it to go through the GI tract.

Hydrocodone abuse questions

Still have questions about hydrocodone? Please leave them here and we’ll try to respond to you quickly.

Reference Sources: NY Senate: Prescription Drug Abuse
NCBI: Toxicity and abuse liability
Iowa: Reducing prescription drug abuse

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9 Responses to “How is hydrocodone abused?
8:42 pm August 27th, 2013

I have been taking small doses of my husbands vicodin to feel an emotional lift,is that abuse?

12:34 pm September 2nd, 2013

Hi Kim. Yes, taking even small doses of Vicodin for emotional effect is considered abuse. Have you considered speaking with a psychologist to identify why you’re feeling like this and what other options can help you?

7:22 am January 25th, 2016

My friend just took 70mg of norco, 2ng of lorazepam, 1mg of Xanax, 700mg of soma, and 30mg of flexeril. What should I do???

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
1:57 pm January 25th, 2016

Hi, Nathan. If your friend doesn’t feel well, call 911 ASAP.

9:22 am August 26th, 2016

I did a search and it brought me to you ,I am coming down off norcos I got some pill called backlifin I was told it would help with the with drawls .Im being honest here I have gone through 6 days of hell till I got the bacllafen I have plenty of people to want to help but I phycisaly cant funtion as Im doing this at home and am dead serious this time is there any thing that will help with the pain I have that is leagle to buy ibuprophen dont cute it .if you can give me suggestions on only home help no doctors

4:15 pm August 26th, 2016

Hi Linda. Medications that have been used for severe hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms have included short acting anti-depressants, buprenorphine, clonidine, or Immodium. Mostly, over the counter NSAID medications like Ibuprofen and Tylenol can help with the aches or pains. Also flu medications might be helpful treating flu-like symptoms.

Home remedies are a helpful way to support hydrocodone withdrawal on your own terms. Here is what you can use at home to help you get through this time: bland diet, heating pads, increased fluid and electrolytes intake, keeping busy, peppermint/ginger teas for nausea and stomach issues, talking to someone, warm showers and/or baths. Also short acting sleep aids, acupuncture or other alternatives can help you promote sleep.

Finally, if you are having drug cravings or a hard time with your emotions, seeking support groups and talk therapy can help your mental state to have the strength to get through the process of withdrawal.

Hope this helps and you successfully quit hydrocodone for good. Please let us know how it goes or if you have any other questions.

3:04 am September 7th, 2016

My elderly friend is taking 3,500 m of hydrocodone a month and runs out a week or two early. She is taking muscle relaxers and sleeping pills and is having wrecks by running in to things. She sleeps all the time and zones out with memory problems and takes pills from husbands bottle. What should I do?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
4:09 pm September 15th, 2016

Hi Janna. I suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:

6:49 pm May 13th, 2017

Lol Nathan. Is he sex addicted too.

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