Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid agonist similar to codeine, and it is one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the U.S. Coming in a variety of forms, hydrocodone is often used in combination with other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen; its primary use is to change the way we perceive pain. However, hydrocodone’s ability to change the function of the brain may lead to a variety of problems including physical dependence, level of drug tolerance, and even hydrocodone addiction.
More here on medical and recreational uses of hydrocodone, with a section at the end for your individual questions or comments.
Medical use of hydrocodone
Hydrocodone is used orally as a narcotic analgesic to treat moderate to severe pain or as an antitussive to treat cough. Moreover, it is only available in combination with other ingredients such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. In fact, different hydrocodone combination products are prescribed for different medical use.
Similar to other opioids, hydrocodone too has the ability to change the functions of the brain by affecting different nerve receptor sites. For instance, it relieves pain by changing the central nervous system’s receptors response to pain, and relieves cough by lowering activity in the part of the brain that causes coughing. It can also cause euphoric effect as an expected side effect. How and why do people get in trouble with hydrocodone? Usually, by taking it to get high.
Hydrocodone recreational use
The core reason for using hydrocodone recreationally is to get high; euphoria triggers a sense of satisfaction and a warm or pleasant numbing sensation through the body. Note here that the Controlled Substance Act has classified hydrocodone as a Schedule II class drug that is marketed in multi-ingredient Schedule III products. USING HYDROCODONE OTHER THAN PRESCRIBED IS ILLEGAL.
Depending on the different modes of administration, hydrocodone’s effect start about 30-60 minutes after intake, and its euphoric feeling lasts for about 4-6 hours. But, it takes a day or two for hydrocodone to leave the human system. Moreover, this opioid is available as a capsule, a tablet, syrup, clear liquid (solution), long-acting capsule, and long-acting solution.
Coming in various forms, hydrocodone is abused in different ways which bring many risks to you, but the biggest one is definitely overdose. Hydrocodone has been used recreationally in the following ways:
By mouth (chewing, crushing, and drinking) – This is the most common way of hydrocodone use, and usually it is abused with combination of other prescribed drugs. Administrating it this way, however, can cause mouth problems that lead to tooth decay and gum damage.
By nose – Snorting hydrocodone allows the drug to enter the bloodstream quicker than taking it orally, but the risks are higher. Taking it this way, hydrocodone is far more concentrated, and gives instant “hit” to the brain. Regular use can lead to nasal necrosis and perforation.
Under the skin – Injection is rare in cases of hydrocodone intake. Intravenous injection of hydrocodone triggers an almost immediate action, allowing hydrocodone to cross the blood-brain barrier quickly.
NOTE: In any case of suspected hydrocodone overdose you should immediately call 911 or the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222).
Long term hydrocodone use
In medicine, ‘long term’ or ‘chronic’ is defined as drug use of up to 6 months or more. While long-term use of hydrocodone is considered a relatively safe and effective therapy when used as prescribed by a doctor, taking hydrocodone for years can affect the body and brain. First, long-term hydrocodone use may lead to hydrocodone dependence and increased tolerance to opioids. Those who become physically dependent and go through hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms when doses are stopped or lowered abruptly.
Some of the more common side effects of long-term hydrocodone use:
- Anxiety or mood disorders
- Excessive sweating
- Fatigue and body weakness
- Impaired coordination
- Impaired mental alertness
- Sleeping troubles
- Urinary retention
Prolonged use of hydrocodone
Consistent, regular use of hydrocodone for a period of time can cause dependency and potentially harsh withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking it. The prolonged use of hydrocodone may lead to developing a level of drug tolerance in the system. At this point, hydrocodone users usually start to take a bigger dose to trigger the wanted euphoric effect.
When you cut down on hydrocodone dose after you are dependent on it, the brain and the body have adapted to its presence. Because hydrocodone is a central nervous system depressant, the brain “speeds up” some processes to achieve homeostasis and function normally. So, when you stop taking hydrocodone, withdrawal symptoms are actually these processes “slowing down” again until hydrocodone completely leaves the system. For hydrocodone, these symptoms often mimic a bad flu.
Usually, hydrocodone withdrawal starts a few hours after a missed dose, peak about 72 hours after the last intake, and can take more than a week before physical symptoms start to fade away. Some of the most commonly reported hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Chills, goose bumps
- Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
- Mood disorders
- Muscle pain and aches
- Runny nose or tearing of the eyes
Hydrocodone use questions
RX drugs like hydrocodone must be taken as the doctor recommends. So, be very careful when you are using hydrocodone because it is a strong narcotic and you may require hydrocodone addiction treatment if you’ve been using or abusing it for a longer period of time. Furthermore, if you still have any concerns about hydrocodone use, please do not hesitate to ask. Your questions and comments are welcomed in the section below.