Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is an opiate painkiller, and acetaminophen is a non-opiate painkiller that is also available in over-the-counter medications. A person who uses Vicodin for any extended period of time can develop a tolerance to the painkilling effects of the opiate hydrocodone and become addicted to it. This addiction can lead to increased ingestion of Vicodin, which can deepen the opiate addiction and create toxicity problems that result from ingestion of dangerous quantities of acetaminophen.
The Effects of Vicodin Addiction
The opiate component in Vicodin blocks pain receptors in a person’s brain and generates sensations of ease and comfort. Vicodin also depresses a person’s heart rate and blood pressure, leading to feelings of relaxation and lethargy. As tolerance to the drug develops, the user will be tempted to take the drug more frequently or in greater quantities than prescribed. If his physician rejects requests for prescription refills, he might then ask friends or family members to help him get more of the drug. When that fails, the Vicodin addict may be tempted to use stronger and more dangerous forms of opiates, including heroin. As extreme as this progression might seem, it has been repeated across the country and among all socio-economic classes.
A greater hidden danger of Vicodin addiction is the significant potential for liver damage that can result from ingesting large quantities of acetaminophen. A person should not ingest more than 4,000 milligrams of acetaminophen per day. Vicodin contains 300 mg of acetaminophen per capsule. A person who takes two Vicodin capsules every six hours (which is the maximum recommended amount) will remain below the maximum recommended acetaminophen dosage, but as tolerance and addiction grow and develop, that person might take three or four tablets every six hours or less. Some Vicodin addicts have reported taking twenty to thirty pills a day, which can more than double the recommended amount of acetaminophen in their systems. At these levels acetaminophen will expose that person to a severe risk of liver failure and other metabolic system damage.
Treating Vicodin Addiction
A person who has developed an addiction to Vicodin will experience extreme physical discomfort when he stops using it, including nausea, chills or excessive sweating, depression, insomnia, gastric distress, and muscular aches and pains. These physical symptoms can last from seven days to three or four weeks. Many individuals who have succumbed to Vicodin addiction have remarked that these physical symptoms are easier to handle than the longer-term cravings for Vicodin that can continue for months or years after usage has stopped. The psychological connection to the drug is just as difficult to break as any addiction to heroin or other abused substances.
Vicodin addiction is treated with the same techniques and therapies that are used to address other addictions. Milder forms of Vicodin addiction might readily respond to one-on-one therapy sessions, while more intense Vicodin addiction may require inpatient rehab therapy and group counseling. No two Vicodin addicts or addictions will be the same, and treatment will be personalized to each addict’s circumstances.
Vicodin is a powerful and effective painkiller, and it has sound medical uses to alleviate pain associated with surgery or traumatic injuries. The drug’s use should be closely monitored by a prescribing physician to prevent the very real possibility of addiction.
If you have questions about your own use or potential addiction to Vicodin, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. We will provide a confidential assessment of your situation and make recommendations that best suit your situation.