Lortab is a highly addictive type of prescription pain reliever. Any purported benefits of abusing Lortab are not worth the risks, which can include death. Contrary to popular belief, prescription drugs are not safe just because they are legal. Although prescription drugs are federally regulated, abusing these drugs outside of a medically supervised pain treatment program is taking as great of a gamble as using a street drug.
Lortab is a brand name pain reliever composed of the generic medications hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is an opioid (i.e., a synthetic narcotic formulation that replicates opiates derived from the opium in the poppy plant). Acetaminophen is a less intense pain reliever that boosts the effects of hydrocodone. Lortab is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Additional brands names for drugs containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen include:
Lortab comes in liquid, tablet, and capsule form, in varying dosages. Lawfully prescribed Lortab users are always advised to take this drug in complete compliance with the prescribing doctor’s orders.
Lortab is one of several drugs involved in the prescription drug abuse epidemic, which means that non-prescribed users who take this drug are exposing themselves to a host of possible complications, and even the risk of overdose and death.
Understanding Addiction and Side Effects
As Lortab includes hydrocodone in its formulation, it is addiction-forming. “Addiction” is a term commonly used, though often not entirely understood. When typical Americans imagine an addict, they are more than likely to focus on the outward signs of addiction, such as an unkempt appearance. At a biological level, drug dependence has two phases: physical and mental. Many Americans, including lawful and unlawful users alike, are physically dependent on prescription drugs. Tolerance is a sign of physical dependence; with continued use of an addiction-forming drug, the body will build a resistance and require more of the drug to achieve the desired effect of using the drug.
Physical and mental dependence are part of the same continuum; there is never an absolute line dividing physical and mental dependence. With mental addiction, a substance abuser makes drug use a priority and usually displays acute drug-seeking behavior. Actions indicative of mental dependence include the user dedicating a disproportionate amount of resources to acquiring the drug, and failing to meet important obligations to focus time and energy on using. According to research, some Americans may possess an “addiction gene,” which means that continued use of a drug will trigger the otherwise latent expression of this gene and make the addiction all the more difficult to quit. However, even those without an “addiction gene” are at risk of addiction.
Side effects after drug use are evidence of the body’s way of managing the presence of non-naturally occurring chemicals in its system. One of the grave dangers of non-prescribed users abusing prescription drugs is that a doctor is not supervising the use. The more the body builds a tolerance to a drug, and thereby cues consumption of more of the drug, the greater the risks of side effects. Whether a Lortab user is a lawfully or unlawfully prescribed user, it is critical to be aware of the full range of side effects that can occur.
Understanding Lortab side effects is one of the best ways to use this drug as safely as possible. The most common side effects of Lortab include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confused thinking
In addition to the common side effects, some Lortab users may experience the following side effects, which are generally considered to be mild:
- Dry mouth
- Ringing in ears
- Mood swings
- Blurred vision
Lortab may cause an allergic reaction in some users. Emergency medical help should immediately be sought if any of the following allergic reactions occur while taking Lortab:
- Trouble breathing
- Facial and/or lip swelling
- Swelling of the tongue or throat
Serious side effects of Lortab will warrant seeking emergency medical help, and include but are not limited to:
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Urination problems or dark urine
- Reduced appetite
- Unusual thoughts or behavior
- Shallow breathing or slow heartbeat
- Upper stomach pain
- Jaundice (yellowed eyes or skin)
In light of the fact that continued use of Lortab will likely lead to physical and possibly mental dependence, discontinuing use of this drug, or reducing the regular dosage, can trigger withdrawal symptoms. As hydrocodone is the active ingredient in Lortab, an understanding of the withdrawal symptoms associated with hydrocodone is useful. Drug cravings are to be expected, and additional withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Severe drowsiness
- Yawning or sneezing too often
- Mood changes
- Goose bumps or sweating
- Involuntary leg movements
- Muscle and/or bone pain
Lortab Overdose and Treatment
A Lortab overdose occurs when the levels of hydrocodone and acetaminophen reach a toxic level in the body (i.e., there is a higher level of these drugs than the organs responsible for detoxification can safely remove). It is important to know that an overdose of Lortab can lead to cardiac arrest and even prove fatal. To understand the signs of a Lortab overdose, it is necessary to consider what typically happens when a person consumes too much hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Signs of a hydrocodone overdose include but are not limited to:
- Depressed respiratory functioning
- Such extreme fatigue that a person falls into a stupor or coma
- Limp muscles
- Cold and clammy skin
- Bradycardia (very slow heart rate)
- Hypotension (very low blood pressure)
Even a quick glance at any over-the-counter pain reliever including acetaminophen will make clear that an overdose of this drug can be harmful to the liver (hepatotoxic). Early signs of the liver experiencing an acetaminophen overdose include:
- A general feeling of malaise
- Extreme sweating (diaphoresis)
Serious effects of an acetaminophen overdose include but are not limited to:
- Liver failure (hepatic necrosis)
- Acute kidney disorder (renal tubular necrosis)
- Diabetic coma
- Low blood platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
As a Lortab overdose can prove fatal, it is necessary that emergency treatment be administered as promptly as possible. Treating doctors will likely take measures to avoid further absorption of Lortab into the body, inducing vomiting in the overdosed patient. Efforts to rid the drug from the patient’s system may also include the use of activated charcoal and laxatives. These emergency measures, which are dedicated to ridding excess drugs from the system, shed a light on how dangerous it can be to consume too much Lortab.
In cases of opioid overdose that results in coma or depressed breathing function, emergency doctors may use the opioid antagonist Naloxone. Naloxone, which is a narcotic, has been proven to be rapidly effective in the emergency treatment of an overdose of opiate/opioid drugs, such as heroin and prescription painkillers like Lortab. Some states allow non-medical persons to obtain a prescription for Naloxone, in an effort to save the lives of opioid abusers.
Primary Treatment for Lortab Abuse
Most rehab programs necessarily start with detoxification. Depending on the specific drug treatment facility, and the type of drugs of abuse involved, the detoxification process may be assisted with prescription medications, as in the case of opioid addiction. While not all rehab programs will utilize such medications during detox, many of these programs will help the recovering substance abuser to ease symptoms of withdrawal with over-the-counter pain relievers, vitamins, and proper nutrition. The safety entailed in a supervised detox is one of the greatest benefits of this method as compared to the riskier approach of “going cold turkey” (also called at-home detox).
After detox, a primary care program should be tailored to the specific needs of the recovering patient. Similar to the detox phase, some programs for the treatment of opioid addiction may utilize prescription medications as part of ongoing treatment. Some programs will decline to offer medications, as a matter of treatment philosophy, or because they lack the necessary medical staff members to administer such medications.
Most all treatment programs rely on behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and group recovery meetings to support recovery. It is well established in the addiction treatment community that addressing the physical dimension of addiction alone is never sufficient. In therapy and during recovery group meetings, recovering substance abusers are guided to address the root causes of their addiction.
Complementary therapies are intended to be supportive of the traditional methodologies and include holistic practices such as yoga, massage, and acupuncture. These services vary widely depending on the specific offerings of the treatment program.
An effective aftercare program is essential to any treatment plan. Maintaining abstinence in the controlled environment of an intensive inpatient or outpatient program is one thing, and doing so in the outside world is another. An aftercare program is an integral part of abstinence maintenance. Often, the addiction team or counselor that was responsible for the recovering person’s inpatient or outpatient stay will conduct an in-depth exit-type interview and discuss important aftercare options. A main factor in the type of aftercare program is the level of success in the treatment program and personal circumstances of the recovering substance abuser. For instance, when safe housing with family members may not be available, the recovering substance abuser may opt for residence in a privately run sober living facility. Additional aftercare measures including ongoing attendance at Narcotics Anonymous and/or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, periodic meetings with a drug addiction treatment counselor, and ongoing drug testing.
One of the realities of substance abuse treatment is a high rate of relapse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the rate of relapse among drug addicts ranges from 40 to 60 percent. As NIDA reports, its key finding in relation to this relapse statistic was that drug relapse resembles the relapse rate for other chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension. As a result, NIDA advises the medical community to treat drug addiction as other chronic diseases, and specifically to interpret a relapse as a sign that a new intervention is necessary. As research into addiction science continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly apparent and accepted that substance abuse is far less of an involuntary process, or a simple matter of choice, than it was once considered.
At Axis, one of the hallmarks of our rehab services is that they are always tailored to the individual client’s needs. We are staffed with a compassionate team of exceptionally qualified addiction treatment specialists who can guide you through prescription drug abuse to a new level of self-awareness and optimal health. Call now.