Hydrocodone Addiction: Definition, Common Signs & Options For Help


You probably already know that hydrocodone is part of the opioid family and a narcotic analgesic pain medicine. But did you know that hydrocodone works on the central nervous system to deliver pain relief?

It’s a popular pain relief medication that physicians prescribe for long-term use. It’s not recommended for short-term pain intervention or as a recreational drug.

Are you struggling with hydrocodone addiction? It is not unusual. Many factors that lead to addiction can affect anyone, including you and me.

Luckily, many treatments can help you gain the tools to fight against hydrocodone dependence successfully.

Here’s an overview of hydrocodone addiction to get you on the road to recovery.

What Is Hydrocodone Addiction?

Patients can develop physical and mental dependency through no fault of their own. Hydrocodone and acetaminophen combinations are popular treatment regimes.

Doctors use varying strengths for patients requiring a long-term pain solution. That makes hydrocodone an effective long-term pain relief medication, but it can become habit-forming.

Hydrocodone prescriptions work when you take them as recommended by a physician for patients who typically need continuing pain treatment. These patients are unlikely to develop a mental addiction.

If you stop the treatment regime abruptly, physical dependence kicks in. It may trigger an unpleasant withdrawal. Gradually reducing the dose is paramount. Working with your physicians and REMS makes hydrocodone therapy work.

That doesn’t mean you can’t become addicted to hydrocodone in other situations. Always be careful, as genetics play a role in addiction patterns.

Hydrocodone brands like Zohydro ER and Hysingla ER work on extended-release formats. They deliver around-the-clock relief for debilitating severe pain, and patients come to rely on the relief.

Hydrocodone works by tripping the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. This interruption affects your pain signals and your emotional response to pain.

In some patients, the euphoric highs become part of the relief they seek. They might take more of the medication or for longer than prescribed. They build a tolerance that makes them crave an even larger dose.

Addiction signs include:

  • Slow heartbeat
  • Slowed breathing
  • Seizures
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded and confused
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Unusual fear and depression
  • Tinnitus and blurred vision
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Clammy skin, cold to the touch
  • Sleepiness
  • Behavioral issues
  • A strong urge to increase the dosage as the tolerance affects the opioid reactors in the brain
  • Physical symptoms like body pains and aches
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sleep issues like insomnia
  • Unusual tremors and skin crawling
  • Pounding pulse and heart rate
  • Restlessness and agitation

Don’t ignore these symptoms. As hydrocodone affects our brains, we’re likely to make irrational choices. Be strong.

Opioid withdrawal peaks on the second and third days. After five to seven days after use, you’ll start to shake the symptoms and improve. But be aware of the post-acute-withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Do Hydrocodone Urges Go Away?

The key to using hydrocodone is to follow the recommended dose and a hydrocodone escape plan. Most patients who take hydrocodone taper the medication based on REMS.

Working with addiction treatment centers is the most effective way to fight urges and detoxify the body. Addiction centers help you overcome physical and mental addiction. They know what signs to look for and how to help you overcome them.

If you work toward overcoming hydrocodone, your symptoms can be mild or very pronounced. It depends on several factors like how long and how much you took. Quitting hydrocodone takes time and the withdrawal is challenging.

Look for these symptoms of withdrawal:

  • Flu-like malaise
  • Psychological discomfort
  • Chills
  • Cramps and diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Sweats
  • General agitation

Forms of Hydrocodone Addiction

Anyone can develop a habit or addiction to hydrocodone.

1. Closet and Functioning Addicts

As a closet and functioning addict, you might have developed a hydrocodone addiction for different reasons. Legit prescription meds or illicit drug abuse can be problematic.

Closet and functioning addicts learn to hide their addiction. Functioning addicts are driven by their egos.

They don’t want to look weak in the eyes of their family and colleagues. On the other hand, closet addicts cave to their addiction and withdraw. Do you recognize your behavior?

2. Doctor-prescribed Addicts

Doctor-prescribed addicts hide behind an underlying problem. Since they use hydrocodone with the doctor’s blessing, they may abuse the frequency and dosage, feeling secure in their addiction.

These addicts convince themselves they don’t have a problem. Is this you?

3. Relapsed Addicts

Relapsed addicts get trapped in a cycle. They commit to recovery but abuse the medication again for ‘whatever’ reason.

What’s vital for hydrocodone addicts to know is that relapsing is part of the recovery. You’re on the right track, keep trying and allow someone to help. It’s imperative to understand your addiction and that medications for addiction therapy exist.

Hydrocodone Addiction Statistics

  1. Hydrocodone addiction is part of the death and overdose news that devasted families, with 12.5 million Americans having used it in 2014 alone.
  2. According to the CDC, more than 564,000 people have died from opioid overdoses in eleven years (1999 to 2022). This includes prescription or illicit drug sources–don’t be on this list.
  3. In a study, data found that 4% to 6% of prescription opioid users switch to heroin, according to NIDA.
  4. An estimated 80 percent of heroin users started with an addiction to prescription opioids. Nearly 2.7 million Americans 12 years and older had an opioid disorder in 2020–that’s scary.
  5. Synthetic opioids contributed to 82% of overdose deaths in 2020, according to CDC.

What Are the Signs of Hydrocodone Addiction?

Everyone experiences hydrocodone addiction differently.

Understanding the addiction and resources leading to rehab are vital steps to your recovery.

  • Continued Use After Prescription Treatment: If you take more than the prescribed dose or use street drugs, you have a hydrocodone dependence. There is no point in sugarcoating the severity. We can help.
  • Avoiding Doctor’s Advice: Hydrocodone addiction and withdrawal form a vicious cycle of repeated abuse. If you’re quitting without tapering the dosages first, it’s difficult to overcome. You must follow the dosage as prescribed.
  • Self-Medicate: You have a dependence if you’ve developed a tolerance and are using illegal resources. You need professional treatment.
  • Expensive Habit: Hydrocodone dependence can become a costly habit if you use street dealers. You have no idea what those street pills contain and risk your life and your finances.
  • Choosing Pills Over Family: Hydrocodone addiction consumes your life and you’re prone to poor choices. You or your loved one might have many excuses defending the use. It’s time to admit you need help. Hydrocodone users will experience a host of withdrawal symptoms. They range from mild to severe, depending on usage and other circumstances. Treatment is the best option to overcome hydrocodone use.

Types of Unhealthy Hydrocodone Behavior

Hydrocodone addiction doesn’t cure itself. Instead, it becomes all-consuming.

An abuser might display these signs:

  • Overly anxious
  • Avoids family, friends, and previously enjoyable activities
  • Stashes medications
  • Steals or builds debt to pay for the habit
  • Can’t commit to responsibility at work or home
  • Seeks companionship from other addicts
  • Learns how to circumvent the system to get more prescriptions
  • Overspends on the habit from illicit sources

Over 200 commercial products are hydrocodone derivatives. If you or someone you care about has at least two of the following symptoms, you may have an opioid use disorder.

  • You take higher doses than recommended.
  • You want to stop using but can’t.
  • You are constantly searching for a fresh supply, then need time to recover.
  • You have overpowering cravings for more.
  • You can’t stop using despite sacrificing relationships.
  • It impacts your work, school, and family.
  • You make bad choices. You’re likely driving under the influence and engaging in dangerous and promiscuous ways.
  • You use drugs despite physical and psychological problems.
  • You developed a tolerance to the prescribed dose.
  • You experience intense withdrawal symptoms when you stop.

What Is the Main Cause of Hydrocodone Addiction?

All opioids have the potential to become habit-forming. It’s the nature of their formulation. Misusing hydrocodone medication can significantly contribute to forming an abuse habit.

Opioids work well because they copy the chemicals and bond with nerve cells. These opioid receptors fight against pain and provide an escape.

They might also affect our emotion sensors.

It’s essential for you to discuss long-term use with your family doctor. Some users with the best intention become addicted and resort to illicit use.

Hydrocodone is also a favorite high for illicit drug users. It’s often combined with alcohol, heroin, fentanyl, morphine, and other dangerous drugs, leading to overdose deaths.

Support groups are a great way to combat addiction.

How Hydrocodone Addiction Affects the Brain

Hydrocodone is a cousin to fentanyl, morphine, heroin, and other opioids. Opioids work on a chemical formulation and help to relieve mental and physical pain.

The opioid compounds latch onto the opioid receptors in our brains. They’re in charge of our pain and emotional triggers.

Hydrocodone users experience pain relief supported by temporary layers of pain release. It’s a euphoric feeling of well-being. There are a host of side effects and unpleasant feelings as well. Death is likely if abused.

Hydrocodone has many physical effects, and the brain directs the body to respond with:

  • Slowed heart rate
  • Constipation
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Fever
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing

Continued use leads to tolerance. It drives the addicted person’s opioid receptors to crave more.

What Is the Personality of a Hydrocodone Addict?

If you lined up ten ordinary people, 2.3% have experienced hydrocodone use and abuse.

Hydrocodone addiction can affect anyone. It can start with a seemingly harmless prescription treatment for pain.

People with opioid use disorder are more likely to form an addictive habit. But anyone suffering from depression and anxiety can also fall victim.

Using hydrocodone as prescribed is the best way to ensure you’re not getting addicted. If you’re beyond that state, many helpful resources are available.

Is Hydrocodone Addiction a Mental Health Issue?

Yes, it is. The volume of hydrocodone overdoses suggests that it’s a mental health epidemic. Although hydrocodone use is in decline, other opioid use is increasing. The FDA is looking into alternative ways to decrease opioid use.

Opioids affect our brain function and alter our thoughts, reactions, and feelings. Asking for help or helping someone in trouble with hydrocodone is best. Talk about it today with someone you trust.

What Mental Illnesses Go Hand in Hand With Hydrocodone Addiction?

Addiction is a mental health disorder and requires treatment. People with drug use disorders might also struggle with mental health issues like:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Others

Hydrocodone and other opioid addictions don’t discriminate. Anyone might fall victim to the consequences of use.

How Do I Stop My Hydrocodone Addiction?

The best way to stop hydrocodone or any addiction is with professional help. Understanding the dangers of any drug addiction is the first step. Addiction is a disease like cancer. No one asks for it.

Overcoming hydrocodone addiction requires extra treatment medications and creating a support network. Consider entering a rehab program for the necessary help.

Some rehab centers find the 12-step program works well. It connects people in a similar predicament, and counseling combats the triggers. It has benefits for overcoming cravings and relapses.

Most importantly, you don’t have to face this alone. There is help.

Can Hydrocodone Addicts Ever Be Cured?

Hydrocodone addicts have an opioid addiction. Because opioids affect the chemical responses in our brains, treatment involves reprogramming.

The best way to achieve these results is through behavioral therapy sessions, treatment medications, or prescription tapering.

What Is the Most Common Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction?

Hydrocodone opioid addiction often requires a multi-tiered approach. Each individual deserves a tailor-made strategy.

Having a support network on the path to recovery is one of many tools. Some users get better by using a combined approach,

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Family and couples counseling
  • Hypnotherapy and Neurotherapy
  • A thorough examination of trigger points
  • A coping and motivational therapy approach
  • A 12-step program

What Can I Replace Hydrocodone With?

Discuss your options with your physicians or your drug abuse counselor. Sometimes treating the addiction with methadone or buprenorphine is the right course.

These medications use a long-acting opioid delivery to mitigate withdrawal without getting the user stoned.

Other OTC (over-the-counter) medications can help with withdrawal but always ask your doctor or pharmacist before combining them with other prescription meds:

  • Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve for pain
  • Immodium to prevent diarrhea
  • Benadryl and other antihistamines can help with sleep disturbances
  • Pepto-Bismoll, Kaopectate treat nausea
  • Herbal remedies to help with anxiety

Additional Addictions To Be Aware Of

Hydrocodone is often a partner of other drug habits. If you’re struggling with hydrocodone, you might be vulnerable to other dangerous addictions.

  • Fentanyl Addiction: Fentanyl is the most potent opioid, 100 times more powerful than morphine.
  • Tramadol Addiction: Tramadol is a recommended long-acting, extended-release pain medication. It’s weaker than other opioids.
  • Morphine Addiction: Morphine is a 200-year-old natural narcotic from the opium family. It’s highly addictive.

Wrapping Up

Hydrocodone has helped millions of pain sufferers. It’s also problematic for millions more. If you or a loved one have a hydrocodone addiction, seek help today. You are never alone in this predicament. A willing hand is waiting to guide and support you.

Speak to a qualified medical professional or treatment counselor today. If you have experience with hydrocodone addiction and treatment, let us know in the comments.


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