Physical addiction to hydrocodone

What is the difference between hydrocodone dependence and addiction? Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a hydrocodone addiction here.

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Is your body or mind dependent on hydrocodone?

Physical addiction to hydrocodone occurs after chronic use. With repeated hydrocodone administration, over time your body develops tolerance to it and become physically dependent. If you abruptly stop using hydrocodone, you will experience a set of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

But, is your body only dependent on hydrocodone or you have developed addiction? How can you treat physical addiction to hydrocodone?

If you suspect that you are or might be physcially dependent on hydrocodone, have no fear. In this article we will review the common signs of the physical need for hydrocodone and the ways that you can reach for help. All of your questions are welcomed at the end.

Physical vs. psychological dependence on hydrocodone

Physical dependence to hydrocodone occurs when your body has become adapted to the presence of this drug over an extensive period of use – usually daily dosing for a period of 3-4 weeks. After regular dosing, your body functions normally in the presence of hydrocodone. If you try to lower your usual doses or come off of the drug, you are going to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Psychological dependence to hydrocodone is considered as a dependence of the mind. Contrary to physical dependence, hydrocodone addiction is defined as the condition in which you are habitually or compulsively occupied with the use of hydrocodone. This type of dependence compels the user think that he/she can not function regularly without the use of hydrocodone.

Many times, hydrocodone addicts don’t want to quit taking it, even though they are aware of the serious health risks they are facing. In other cases, they may have tried to stop hydrocodone in several occasions, but fail to succeed.

Additionally, you don’t need to be physically dependent on hydrocodone to be addicted to it. Think about the person who has gone through detox, has no drugs in their body, and returns to drug use. This type of compulsion, driven by craving, is characteristic of addiction.

Physical signs of dependence to hydrocodone

The physical symptoms of hydrocodone dependence are manifested trough withdrawal. When you are physically dependent on hydrocodone, your body has gotten used to functioning normally with this drug. In effect, some functions “speed up” to balance out the central nervous system depressant effects of the opioid drug. When you discontinue hydrocodone, your body expresses manifest withdrawal symptoms until is achieves homeostasis again. Symptoms may be present such as:

  • breathing difficulties
  • confusion
  • eating disorders and loss of appetite
  • liver damage
  • nausea
  • seizures or convulsions
  • slow heartbeat
  • stomach or gastrointestinal pain

Treating physical symptoms of addiction to hydrocodone

The “cure” for any chemical dependency is to first get your body drug free. The best way to approach a physical need for hydrocodone is to go through the process of detoxification or tapering down your doses. A primary goal of the detox process is to manage symptoms and minimize physical risk or harm when withdrawal symptoms occur. The specific interventions used during the detox process are determined by:

  • the amount of drug used
  • the history of the user’s withdrawal
  • the user’s psychological and medical needs

However, eliminating hydrocodone from your system may reveal a deeper psychological need to take hydrocodone to feel normal. In these cases, detox is just a starting point in the addiction treatment process and serves to prepare you for rehabilitation and hydrocodone recovery.

What happens during hydrocodone detox?

The following three tasks are key parts of the detox process:

1. Evaluation

During this phase you are going to make blood or urine lab tests. These tests will help the addiction experts identify the types of drugs that are present in your system. You will also be screened for medical and psychiatric conditions that may complicate withdrawal. The evaluation process helps doctors determine the level of care you require, and make a decision whether to prescribe medications that can assist withdrawal.

Additionally, the assessment will determine whether or not tapering may be best for you. In some cases, gradual lower doses of a medication may be easier on the body than a “cold turkey” hydrocodone detox. In other cases, you may be ready to face uncomfortable withdrawal simply to get the medicine out of the body. Each individual case will be assessed and evaluated.

2. Stabilization

When you reach this phase, hydrocodone has been completely eliminated from your body. Acute withdrawal symptoms have started to lessen and are managed to minimize risk and discomfort. Your goal in the stabilization stage is to achieve an initial period of abstinence.

3. Transition into treatment, if necessary

Detox in itself is insufficient treatment and very unlikely to cure any addiction problem. So, if you start to experience cravings or obsessive thinking about hydrocodone, you may need additional help. It is very important to have in mind that continued treatment is A MUST when facing a hydrocodone addiction problem.

Behavioral therapies treat the emotional and psychological root causes of hydrocodone addiction. Good treatment programs should include cognitive behavioral therapy, contigency management, motivational enhancement therapy, and 12 step facilitation therapy. The goal of entering a structured hydrocodone addiction program is to understand, monitor and control your compulsion to use hydrocodone to cope with life.

Physically addicted to hydrocodone questions

If you still have questions about the physical symptoms of hydrocodone addiction after reading this article, we encourage you to post them in the comments section below. We will do our best to answer all legitimate questions personally and promptly.

Reference sources: Medline plus: Hydrocodone Combination Products
DHHS: Controlled Substances
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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