All medications have side effects, and hydrocodone — one of the most popular prescription opiates in the United States — is no exception.
Hydrocodone is prescribed for the treatment of moderate to moderately severe pain and for cough suppression. The most common forms of hydrocodone are medications containing two ingredients, hydrocodone and acetaminophen or Tylenol, such as including Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab. Hydrocodone is also combined with expectorants and other cough medicines, as in the combination drugs EndaCof and HycoTuss (hydrocodone and guaifenesin), or TussiCaps (chlorpheniramine and hydrocodone).
Most of the side effects of hydrocodone are not dangerous or life-threatening. However, as an opioid narcotic, hydrocodone poses a risk of physical and psychological dependence, abuse, and addiction. An overdose of hydrocodone can cause unconsciousness, slow breathing, and death.
Health Risks of Hydrocodone
There are potential side effects and drug interactions involved when you take any medication containing hydrocodone. When hydrocodone is taken for nonmedical reasons, the risk of side effects increases significantly. As a semi-synthetic opiate, hydrocodone suppresses the activity of the brain, nerves, and vital organs. The most common side effects of drugs that contain hydrocodone include:
- Upset stomach
- Itching or rash
- Difficulty with urination
Hydrocodone can slow down the activities of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, posing a danger of respiratory depression and low blood pressure. Taking more than the prescribed dose of hydrocodone, or taking the drug recreationally, can cause an overdose, unconsciousness, and death. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology notes that hydrocodone is one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the country, as well as one of the most frequently prescribed pain medications. In post mortem analysis, hydrocodone is often found as a cause of death. The Los Angeles Times reports that in California alone, hydrocodone was a factor in nearly 1,000 deaths from 2006-2011 – more than any other prescription medication.
Because hydrocodone is almost always combined with other pain medications or cough suppressants, users must consider the side effects of the secondary drugs when taking these medications. The acetaminophen (trade name Tylenol) in Vicodin and Norco, for instance, can be toxic to the liver in large doses. Guaifenesin, a common expectorant found in several drugs that contain hydrocodone, can cause dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, rashes, and headaches.
Overcoming Hydrocodone Abuse
The widespread popularity of hydrocodone as a prescription analgesic has made the drug readily available to adults and teens in the US — with or without a prescription. More Americans are misusing or abusing hydrocodone than ever before, and a large percentage of them are dependent on this opiate or addicted to the drug. But quitting hydrocodone, or cutting down on your usage, can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as chills, muscle and bone pain, cold sweats, nausea, headaches, and tremors. These withdrawal symptoms, and the opiate cravings that go along with them, drive many users back to hydrocodone, no matter how much they want to quit.
The inpatient and outpatient facilities that make up Axis provide a supportive environment for recovery from opiate addiction. Our intensive, personally tailored treatment programs are designed to empower patients to create satisfying new lives in recovery. If you, or a loved one, need help with prescription opiate addiction, we’re here to offer information and support. Call our toll-free number to talk to an admissions specialist at any time.