How to Help a Vicodin Addict

Is your loved one dealing with a Vicodin addiction? This guide can help you reach out and help…in practical and effective ways.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Doctors prescribe Vicodin as a means of treating moderate to severe pain. But it is extremely addictive. This article explains how to help someone who’s become addicted. Then, we invite your questions at the end. 



What Addiction Really Is

Addiction is a disease. There’s is a misguided notion that addiction is a choice. However, it’s very much a mental disorder similar to anxiety or depression. When it comes to Vicodin, this can be explained in the way it affects both the mind and body.

Vicodin affects opioid receptors in the brain. It particularly affects areas of the brain responsible for creating positive emotions, such as pleasure, satisfaction, and well-being. This is what causes the euphoria people feel when high on Vicodin.

But why can’t some people quit?

Vicodin can interrupt normal function of the brain. Over time, both the brain and body begin to adapt to the drug’s main chemical – hydrocodone – as normal. In turn, the brain and body speed up some processes to counterbalance the depressant effects of the drug, a state known as homeostasis. Take away the drug, and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms occur.

Someone addicted to Vicodin relies on Vicodin as a means of feeling “normal”. And people can’t quit due to physical and psychological depedence. But what’s the difference between dependence and addiction?

Dependence or Addiction?

Vicodin is prescribed by a doctor, but it’s uncertain how people will react to the drug. Not everyone will abuse it and there will be those who know how to take it responsibly. Furthermore, not everyone who takes more than the recommended dose will end up with an addiction.

What separates addiction from dependence is craving.

To put it simply:

A drug dependence is when the body and brain have adapted to Vicodin’s as a survival function. Tolerance can develop, which means that original therapeutic doses are no longer effective. So, some people increase dosing amounts or frequency.

An addiction is compulsive use to the point of bringing harmful consequences upon self and others. People who struggle with a Vicodin addiction have the inability to stop even when negative effects are present

To assess possible risk of addiction, ask your affected loved one the following questions.

  • Are your responsibilities at school, work, family at risk due to your Vicodin use?
  • Do you take Vicodin despite it causing problem in your relationships?
  • Do you find yourself craving to use Vicodin?
  • Do you find yourself in risky behavior due to the fact that you use Vicodin?
  • Do you spend a large amount of time thinking about, obtaining, or using Vicodin?
  • Have you ever tried to quit Vicodin without success?

If your loved one answers yes to one or more of the above questions, there’s a solid chance they’re facing a Vicodin addiction. Since Vicodin is an opioid drug, this could lead to the use of harder opioid drugs, such as heroin.

Helping Address Denial

Much of the time, people facing an addiction won’t want to admit to their problem. Admittedly, they feel a sense of shame in their disease. As though it’s a failure to a responsible life. Due to this shame, people stay stuck.

It’s not expected that you’ll know all the ins and outs of drug addiction. In fact, before you address denial, it’s important you seek professional guidance – preferably, from a licensed clinical psychologist or counselor who has experience in addiction. This is important as it will teach you what you don’t know about addiction. With better knowledge, you’ll have more of the ability to help.

Getting help for yourself can teach you how to:

  • Bring up conversations about recovery at the right time.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Stay safe around a person struggling with addiction.
  • Understand addiction as a brain disorder.
  • Understand addiction as a family issue.

Your goal is to get your loved one to want to stop using Vicodin. Without this desire, there’s little you can do in order to help. Your first step should be to seek out medical help.

It’s hard to achieve long-term sobriety and avoid Vicodin relapse without the professional help of a reputable treatment program. Clinicians and scientists have developed a variety of effective treatments which aim to help those struggling how to re-learn how to live life without taking drugs.

Intervention Basics

If your efforts towards breaking denial prove futile, you’re going to have to take stronger measures. One efficient way to get the message across to your loved one is through an intervention. We receommend you reach out to a professional interventionist. Call us for a recommendation.
These professionals will guide you on the right path when it comes to handling a serious discussion about drug addiction and how to guide that conversation towards treatment. For example, it’s vital you plan out your intervention prior to having it. And, in order to do that, you’re going to want to keep some basic tips in mind:

Carefully choose who will attend.

As mentioned, people who handle a Vicodin addiction will most likely feel a sense of shame. It can be assumed you’re walking on fragile ice when trying to get a group of people together to have an open discussion about the topic. Keep in mind how sensitive this issue is and be keen on who’s present.

Get advice before you begin.

We’ve discussed the importance of seeking out professional guidance before holding your intervention. Your ultimate goal is to successfully get the person struggling into treatment. Minding the fact that this is a sensitive topic, you won’t want to make any wrong moves. You’ll want to be informed of important points to cover as well as how to handle the emotional side of your loved one’s addiction.

Plan communication in advance.

As we continuously mention, those who struggle with a drug addiction are very vulnerable individuals. You want to know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. You want to reach out and offer the comfort they feel they don’t have. Plan the communication in order to nail these points.

Prepare for anything.

Even with a professional on your side, you have no way of understanding how the person struggling with addiction will react. Some will understand while others will retaliate. It’s best to prepare for anything.

Suggest consequences.

Though this isn’t the case for every family struggling with addiction, there are often instances where members are feeding an individual’s addiction. For example, you might be giving your loved one money which they, in turn, use to purchase drugs. Or you might offer them a place to stay which makes them comfortable enough to continue drug use and not worry of responsibility. It’s important your loved one understands these privileges will be in consequence if drug use continues.

Provide a solution.

Your goal is for the intervention to go well and for your loved one to take the first steps towards sobriety. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to provide options for them to get better. This should include rehab.

Follow through.

The intervention is only the first step towards recovery. Make sure you follow through with your loved one and help them on the path towards sobriety. Stick to your consequences. And make a commitment to getting help for yourself. Enter family counseling, individual therapy, or make resolution for self-care. Whatever the plan, follow through.

Help During Detox

During Vicodin detox, the body takes time to adjust. Often, this can be very exhausting and uncomfortable. So, what’s the general course of detox? What does it look like and how long does it take?

Your loved one can expect to experience Vicodin withdrawal starting 4-6 hours after their last dose. The acute symptoms will then peak between 24-72 hours. Withdrawals affect everyone differently. Therefore, the only way to know what your loved one will experience is by going to a medical professional. The most common Vicodin withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Craving
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Restless leg
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Vomiting

Though withdrawal isn’t fatal, it remains dangerous. Excessive loss of liquids through diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration and a lack of appetite. Without the proper care, this can damage health. You also risk relapse if you try to treat Vicodin detox at home.

In your position, it’s important to make sure your loved one receives the proper care s/he needs. Furthermore, a detox center will have the capability of easing withdrawal symptoms to make them less intense. As your loved one goes through this, offer your support as this is one of the most difficult periods of sobriety.

Help During Treatment

After detox, treatment includes talk therapy and medications. Your loved one will be offered psychological treatment as a means of reducing cravings and changing behavioral patterns. S/He most likely experienced a behavioral change in which they used the drug as a means of avoiding life stressors and/or handling certain negative emotions. The goal of talk therapy for addiction is to help people find themselves again and adjust back into day-to-day functioning without Vicodin.

Generally, this part of treatment lasts anywhere from 3 to 6 months. However, time spent in rehab can be higher depending on the level of addiction and severity of other mental health issues. While your loved one undergoes treatment, there are a variety of things you can do to make sure he/she makes the best out of it:

  • Always be there when things get difficult.
  • Be present at family therapy session.
  • Promote healthy and natural remedies to deal with cravings and emotions.
  • Send letters and cards with encouraging wishes.

How Many People Struggle?

Vicodin is one of the most common opioid prescriptions prescribed in the U.S. Therefore, there are a lot of people who struggle with addiction. Some statistics:
  • In 2009, 16 million Americans 12 and older used Vicodin for non-medical purposes.
  • In 2010, 6% of those 18 and under had abused the drug.
  • Vicodin addiction costs the country more than $484 billion annually.
  • 99% of Vicodin consumed is done so in the United States.

Referrals to Help (Where to Find Help)

You have a variety of options at your disposal when looking for help for a loved one. These include:
  • Calling us to learn about addiction treatment
  • Addiction doctors listed on the ABAM website
  • Psychologists or counselors via the APA website
  • Psychiatrists listed on the find an ABA psychiatrist near you website
  • Social Workers via your state’s Department of Health and Social Services
  • SAMHSA’s National Hotline 1-800-622-HELP
  • Your family physician

How to Support a Friend

If you’re a friend of someone who’s addicted to Vicodin, it’s important to help them distance themselves from old contacts. Once out of treatment, relapse is always a possibility and it’s in your best interest to do all you can at preventing this. These can include:
  • Going to NA meetings or other therapies with your friend
  • Offering new hobbies as a means of distraction
  • Socializing in drug free atmospheres

Furthermore, people who have been addicted to Vicodin may have mental health issues after their addiction. You’ll want to help them cope with these emotions and find a means of relieving them without medication. Your support can make a huge difference.

Your Questions

Still have questions?
If you have any further questions pertaining to how to help a Vicodin addict, we invite you to ask them in the comments below. If you have any advice to give for people currently trying to help a Vicodin addict, we’d also love to hear from you. We try to provide a personal response to each comment and get back to you promptly.
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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