Hydrocodone addiction is a chronic condition that can ultimately lead to both chemical and structural changes in the brain. To be classified as an addiction, a person’s hydrocodone abuse must involve drug-seeking behaviors and compulsive use that continues regardless of negative consequences 1.
Hydrocodone is an opioid painkiller that can produce a sense of euphoria and relaxation when abused. While not as potent as other opioids, such as heroin and oxycodone, it is the most frequently prescribed and abused opioid 2. Long-term hydrocodone abuse can quickly progress to addiction and significantly impair a user’s life. Users may find it especially difficult to quit hydrocodone due to several uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms associated with cessation of use 2,3.
This article includes the following information regarding hydrocodone addiction:
- Recognizing hydrocodone addiction.
- How to treat hydrocodone addiction.
- Financing addiction treatment.
- Risk factors for addiction.
- Long-term effects of hydrocodone addiction.
- Get help today.
Recognizing Hydrocodone Addiction
Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid that provides relief for moderate to severe pain. Brand name drugs, such as Vicodin and Lortab, contain a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Although hydrocodone can be therapeutic when taken as directed, it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for abuse 2.
People many abuse hydrocodone by taking the medication in a way other than prescribed, such as taking more pills than directed or using them for a longer period of time than intended. Others may crush the tablets to then snort or dissolve in solution and inject hydrocodone in an attempt to enhance the euphoria associated with opioid use.
Recognizing the need for treatment
Behavioral addiction treatment can be complicated because no illicit substance is involved.
Long-term hydrocodone use can lead to the development of tolerance, wherein a tolerant individual requires increasingly higher doses to achieve the desired effects. Prolonged use and increasing tolerance can lead to physical dependence, which means that the body will feel and function at suboptimal levels without hydrocodone present. The presence of physical dependence and tolerance don’t always signal the presence of an addiction (or substance use disorder), but they often drive hydrocodone abusers in that direction.
There are many different signs and symptoms of hydrocodone addiction; some are physical, whereas others are more psychological or behavioral. Below are common signs and symptoms of hydrocodone addiction, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) 4:
- Inability to control hydrocodone use despite efforts to do so.
- Tolerance, or a need for higher doses to achieve desired effects.
- Withdrawal symptoms that occur if use is suddenly stopped or decreased.
- A significant amount of time is spent obtaining and using hydrocodone, as well as in recovering from its effects.
- Inability to uphold professional and personal responsibilities as a result of hydrocodone use.
- Strong cravings for hydrocodone.
- Hydrocodone is taken in higher doses or for a longer period of time than originally intended.
- Continued use regardless of interpersonal, physical or mental health problems caused or exacerbated by hydrocodone use.
- Repeated hydrocodone use in dangerous situations, such as before or while driving.
- Important recreational activities are neglected in favor of hydrocodone use.
Additional symptoms and signs of hydrocodone addiction include 2,3,4:
- Periods of euphoria followed by apathy.
- Mood swings.
- Memory problems.
- Impaired judgment.
- Slowed movements and thoughts.
- Slurred speech.
- Unkempt appearance.
- Secretive behavior.
- Lack of interest in hobbies.
- Inattention to the environment.
- Appetite changes.
- Pinpoint pupils.
- Empty pill bottles or crushed pill residue on clothing.
- “Doctor shopping” to obtain numerous prescriptions.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a hydrocodone addiction, there is hope for recovery. Contact our addiction treatment hotline at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? for more information about your treatment options.
How to Treat Hydrocodone Addiction
Hydrocodone addiction is a treatable condition and many people fully recover and go on to live happy, sober lives after treatment is completed. Although it is certainly possible to quit using hydrocodone on your own, there are many beneficial components to professional addiction treatment. Some of these benefits include:
- Medical monitoring: Medical monitoring throughout your treatment can help stabilize and improve your health during the recovery process, especially while detoxing. Medically-assisted detox can help patients slowly taper off of hydrocodone and minimize the pain and discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms.
- Medication-assisted treatment: There are FDA-approved medications for treating prescription opioid dependence. These include methadone and buprenorphine, both of which can help alleviate cravings, ease withdrawal symptoms, and reduce the risk of relapse 5.
- Psychotherapy: Most treatment programs offer a variety of individual counseling and group therapy options. Therapy can help people address any underlying psychological reasons behind their hydrocodone abuse, as well as teach appropriate coping skills for dealing with stress and triggers.
- Peer support: Peer support is another important component of drug addiction treatment programs. Support groups within a treatment program allow you to connect with others who are struggling with addiction.
- Structure: Formalized treatment programs offer a solid routine and structure that can help individuals rebuild their lives and fill their time with activities that do not involve drugs.
Addiction Treatment Options
Because each person is unique, there is no single addiction treatment setting that is better than another. It ultimately depends on the person and their needs, beliefs, and values. Some common treatment options available to those suffering from a hydrocodone addiction include:
- Detoxification: Detox programs are short-term programs that help patients to withdraw comfortably from hydrocodone by gradually tapering the patient’s dose, providing medical supervision, and/or administering medications that control and manage withdrawal symptoms. Detox is not a type of treatment, but rather a first step towards recovery. In some cases, a period of supervised detox is incorporated into an inpatient or residential substance abuse treatment program.
- Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment is ideal for those with relatively less severe addictions, with strong outside support networks, and/or for those who wish to remain active in their personal and professional lives outside of treatment. Care takes place on a part-time basis and may include a combination of the following:
- Outpatient physician visits.
- Regularly scheduled individual counseling and group therapy sessions.
- Support groups.
- 12-step programs.
- Medication maintenance.
- Inpatient treatment: Inpatient treatment centers provide similar treatment approaches to those utilized in outpatient facilities except that care takes place on a 24/7 basis while patients reside in the facility for the duration of the program. Typical program lengths are 30, 60, or 90 days, although they can last longer if needed. Inpatient treatment is ideal for people with severe addictions who could benefit from the time and space to focus exclusively on recovery and sobriety.
- 12-step programs: 12-step programs provide a linear, step-by-step process to recovery amongst the support of peers and a sponsor. Some popular 12-step programs that may be appropriate for hydrocodone addiction include Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Pills Anonymous (PA).
- Luxury rehab: There are many luxury treatment facilities around the country that provide exclusive amenities and services for an additional cost. Some of the luxury options available include:
- Gourmet meals.
- Private rooms.
- Spa treatments.
- Pools, hot tubs, and other recreation equipment.
- Oceanfront or mountain view rooms.
- Holistic treatment: Holistic treatment programs that aim to heal a person’s mind, body, and spirit can be beneficial to those struggling with hydrocodone addiction. Some holistic treatment services include the following:
- Herbal treatments.
- Exercise (hiking, biking, etc.).
- Art therapy.
- Music therapy.
- Nature therapy (horseback riding, nature hikes, animal therapy, etc.).
- Nutrition services.
- Population-specific treatment: There are many treatment centers available that cater specifically to certain populations and their unique needs. Some populations treatment centers specialize in treating may include:
- Religious background (Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, etc.).
- Gender specific.
- Adolescents and teens.
Financing Addiction Treatment
Addictions Treatment by Type
If you are suffering from one or multiple addictions, treatment options are widely available.
Just as no two addiction rehabilitation centers or the treatment plans they offer will be the same, costs of treatments also vary. The cost of addiction treatment can vary considerably depending on many different factors, such as:
- Type of treatment.
- Location of treatment facility.
- Individual insurance coverage.
- Duration of treatment program.
- Specialized amenities or services offered.
If you have insurance, contact your insurance provider to learn more about your specific plan and to what extent it covers substance abuse treatment.
If you don’t have insurance, there are still many options for financing addiction treatment. Don’t let finances become a barrier to getting the treatment you need. Remember, nothing is more important than your health and recovery. Some options you may have for covering the costs of hydrocodone addiction treatment include:
- Sliding scale/payment plan: Many treatment centers will offer sliding scale rates or payment plans for people who are struggling to cover the costs of addiction treatment.
- Personal savings: Although you may be hesitant to spend your personal savings, there is nothing more valuable you can spend your money on than your recovery. Money can always be remade and you can start saving again once you finish treatment.
- Personal loan or credit card: If you don’t have the cash available up front to cover treatment costs, consider taking out a bank loan or using a credit card to help cover treatment costs. Just be sure that the payment plan and interest rate are affordable for you before committing to this financing option.
- Family and friends: It may take some humility to ask for help, but it’s likely that your friends and family will be willing to lend or donate money to get you the addiction treatment you need. Many loved ones just want to see you get well and if they can help you do that, they probably will.
- Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding is one way to reach multiple friends and family members at once. You can use one of the popular Crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe or Indiegogo to help you raise money for treatment costs.
Risk Factors for Addiction
Addiction is a complex condition that has no single cause. Rather, it develops as a result of many complex biological, psychological, and social factors. Some of the factors associated with the risk of developing addiction include the following:
- Environmental risk factors: There are many environmental risk factors that increase a person’s susceptibility to drug abuse and addiction such as 6,7:
- Adverse childhood experiences (abuse, neglect, mentally ill person in the household, etc.).
- Lack of parental supervision.
- Peer or parental substance abuse.
- Academic problems.
- Genetics: There is not one, single gene that is responsible for the development of addiction. However, it is clear that genetics can play a role in one’s risk of substance abuse and addiction. For example, scientists have found that mice that lack the gene that codes for the cAMP response element binding protein – or CREB gene – are less likely to become dependent on morphine, an opiate alkaloid drug with similar chemical structure and opioid effects to that of hydrocodone 8. This type of research provides insight to certain genetic mechanisms behind addiction. However, it is important to remember that while addiction may run in families, susceptibility does not mean inevitability. In other words, just because you have a family member who suffered from drug addiction, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will too.
- Mental health: Addiction to opioids, such as hydrocodone, commonly co-occurs with other mental health disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and antisocial personality disorder 4. Further, studies published by The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reveal that individuals suffering from anxiety and other mood disorders are twice as likely to develop a drug addiction than the rest of the population 9.
- Trauma: Early childhood trauma, as well as other significant, ongoing traumas in a person’s life, are highly correlated with drug addiction and dependence. Teens who have experienced physical or sexual abuse are about three times more likely to report abusing substances than those who have no history of trauma 10. Additionally, it is estimated that approximately 59% of young people diagnosed with PTSD will end up with a substance use disorder 10.
Long-term Effects of Hydrocodone Addiction
Like other drug addictions, hydrocodone addiction is a progressive illness that, if left untreated, will worsen over time and could lead to adverse consequences, including various chronic health problems or death by overdose. Hydrocodone addiction can lead to several long-term physical and mental health problems. Some of the many long-term consequences of hydrocodone abuse include the following 1,2,3,4,10:
- Physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, such as fever, diarrhea, insomnia, anxiety, muscle aches, and vomiting.
- Brain damage due to depressed breathing.
- Deterioration of white matter in the brain, resulting in impaired decision-making. behavioral regulation, and stress-management.
- Liver damage, if hydrocodone is abused in combination with acetaminophen, as is the case with Norco, Vicodin and Lortab formulations.
- Difficulties in sexual functioning.
- Irregular menses in women.
- Collapsed veins, HIV, Hepatitis, cellulitis, and abscesses in intravenous users.
- Perforated nasal septum or sinusitis in intranasal users.
There are several other long-term consequences of hydrocodone addiction that can impact one’s social, personal, and professional life. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Financial problems.
- Relationship difficulties.
- Family issues (divorce, child neglect, family conflicts, etc.).
- Legal issues.
- Poor work or school performance.
Get Help Today
If you or a loved one suffers from a hydrocodone addiction, help is available. For more information about addiction treatment options, call our recovery support hotline at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? .
- (2014). The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics.
- Drug Enforcement Agency. Drug Fact Sheet: Hydrocodone.
- S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Hydrocodone.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Treating addiction to prescription opioids.
- Gov. Risk & Protective Factors.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2016). Adverse Childhood Experiences.
- University of Utah: Genetic Science Learning Center. Genes and Addiction: Susceptibility Does Not Mean Inevitability
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses.
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2008). Making the Connection: Trauma and Substance Abuse.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). What are the possible consequences of opioid use and abuse?