How much hydrocodone is too much?

How much hydrocodone is too much for your body depends on your personal opioid tolerance and what other medications you are taking. While it takes a significant amount of hydrocodone to overdose, hydrocodone is usually combined with other, more dangerous medications. More on hydrocodone overdose, acetaminophen poisoning, and safe doses here.

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How much is too much hydrocodone? The safe amount of any narcotic depends on a person’s individual tolerance to opioid medications, as well as mode of ingestion.

However, it takes a significant amount of hydrocodone itself for the medication to be fatal – about 9 times the normal therapeutic dose. Still, hydrocodone is almost always packaged in a combination product with acetaminophen, which must be taken exactly as directed to avoid serious health problems (snorting hydrocodone acetaminophen is particularly dangerous). In this article, we’ll look at safe amounts of hydrocodone and acetaminophen doctors prescribe. And we invite your questions about how much hydrocodone is safe at the end.

Hydrocodone strengths

Hydrocodone is not generally available as a stand-alone drug. Instead, the strength of a hydrocodone dose depends on the formulation and other medications included in a combination, and for what purpose. Hydrocodone is available as a painkiller, mixed with acetaminophen or other non-narcotic pain medications, as well as in prescription cough syrups. Typical hydrocodone formulas and strengths follow. In general, hydrocodone detection time in urine is more likely when you are drug tested within 24 hour of use.

1. Generic pain formulas

Hydrocodone is generally taken combined with acetaminophen, to lower its potential for abuse. In combination with acetaminophen, hydrocodone available in the following strengths:

Tablets: 5mg hydrocodone, 500 mg acetaminophen, to be taken every 6 hours as needed

Oral elixir: 5 mg hydrocodone/333 mg acetaminophen, or 10 mg hydrocodone/500 mg acetaminophen, taken every 4-6 hours as needed

Oral solution: 10 mg hydrocodone/325 mg acetaminophen, or 10 mg hydrocodone/300 mg acetaminophen, every 4-6 hours as needed

2. Generic anti-tussive cough medication

For children: 20mg/day divided into 3-4 doses each day

Ages 12-adult: no more than 10 mg/dose

3. Brand name hydrocodone formulas

Probably the most well-known brand-name hydrocodone product is Vicodin, which contains 5 mg hydrocodone and 500 mg acetaminophen. There have been a variety of brand-name products over the years, many of which are now only available in the generic formulation. Other brand-name hydrocodone/acetaminophen drugs, like Lortab, have the same amount of active ingredients.

How much hydrocodone is safe?

To be honest, hydrocodone is safer than the acetaminophen it’s usually combined with – which can cause liver problems at fairly low doses. You’ll almost certainly overdose on acetaminophen before you experience problems from hydrocodone. In fact, the FDA is currently advising drug manufacturers to limit acetaminophen in hydrocodone combination products to no more than 325 mg per dose to avoid overdose. Taking more than 4 grams of acetaminophen in one day can poison you and cause permanent liver damage, even liver failure.

As for the hydrocodone itself, the safe amount of any narcotic depends on a person’s individual tolerance to opiod medications. Hydrocodone is usually started at smaller initial doses. This is a determination that needs to be made by the prescribing doctor, and may change over time as a tolerance to the effects of the hydrocodone develops.

Hydrocodone for pain

Hydrocodone is generally available in 5-10 mg, immediate release doses. If you’re taking 5 mg tablets with no more than 500 mg acetaminophen, it’s safe to take 2 tablets every six hours. More than that, and you risk an overdose from the acetaminophen contained in the medication.

Hydrocodone for cough

The dose of hydrocodone cough syrup depends on the person, and factors such as size, body mass, severity of cough, etc. No more than 10 mg (usually 15mL of cough syrup) should be taken at one time, and should not be taken more frequently than every 6 hours. Taking more hydrocodone increases risk of becoming addicted to the pain medication at higher doses.

How much hydrocodone can you take at once?

Only 10 mg of hydrocodone should be taken at one time. Higher amounts can raise the likelihood of adverse side effects or can potentially cause an overdose in an opioid naive person. Furthermore, never take more than 1000mg (1 gram) of acetaminophen at one time – higher amounts can cause liver damage which may not be immediately obvious.

How much hydrocodone to overdose?

Again, it takes 1-4 grams of acetaminophen to overdose. Hydrocodone can be fatal at 90mg, but it may be possible to overdose at lower amounts if you have not developed a tolerance for the medication. This is why it’s very important only to take hydrocodone medications as directed.

Toxic levels of hydrocodone in the system

You can overdose on hydrocodone taking any form of the medication, but it’s much more likely when combined with acetaminophen or another non-narcotic painkiller. Crushing the hydrocodone and either snorting it, or dissolving it in water and injecting it, increases your risk of overdose. Abusing hydrocodone pain medications, such as Vicodin, can result in acetaminophen overdose, especially if more than two pills are taken at a time.  Plus, if you take hydrocodone regularly over time, you can expect symptoms of withdrawal from hydrocodone when you lower or stop dosing.

How much hydrocodone is fatal?

If you’re taking a hydrocodone medication without acetaminophen, 90 mg at once is the reported lethal dose of the medication. (This will, of course, depend on the hydrocodone user – habitual abusers can have a higher tolerance for opioid medications.) However, more than 4 g of acetaminophen in combined hydrocodone medications can be fatal as well.


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How much hydrocodone should I take?

You should take the amount of hydrocodone prescribed to you by your doctor. Never take more than recommended by a medical professional, and only take this oral medication as directed.

How much hydrocodone questions

Are you struggling with Norco addiction? You can give an end to your hydrocodone (Norco) abuse and addiction problem, and learn more about what happens when you seek help in this Norco Addiction Treatment Program and Help GUIDE…and get rid of hydrocodone once and for all.

If you still have questions about hydrocodone safety? Please leave us your questions here. We are happy to respond to you with a personal, quick reply. If we are not able to answer your questions about hydrocodone, we will refer you to someone who can.

Reference sources: DEA: Hydrocodone
Medline Plus: Hydrocodone
Toxnet: Hydrocodone
FDA Safety Communication: Prescription Acetaminophen Products to be Limited to 325 mg Per Dosage Unit
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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