Norco Abuse and Withdrawal

Girl feeling a withdrawal
Norco is a prescription medication designed to soothe pain with a combination of narcotics and analgesics.

The prescription label is designed to make the drug safe for the average user. After all, the prescription designation ensures that people won’t be able to get the drug unless they have the approval of and the supervision of a physician. Unfortunately, Norco has been known to trigger addictions in users. When that happens, those users may not talk to a doctor at all, and they may face very serious consequences, unless they get help.

The Need for Relief

coupleAn analysis by PBS suggests that enough painkillers were authorized by physicians in 2010 to medicate every single American adult for four hours each and every month. Statistics like that seem to suggest that Americans are awash in a sea of pain pills, and that’s happening, in part, because of very serious medical problems.

As people live longer, they deal with more medical conditions that can cause a great deal of pain. Eroding teeth, grinding bones, growing tumors, and stretching skin can all cause very deep and anguishing signals of pain for the brain, and when that happens, people become unable to do even simple tasks like working, walking, or cleaning. Every move they make causes pain.

Drugs like Norco work because they attack pain from two angles. The analgesic ingredient (acetaminophen) helps to tamp down the pain signal at the source, while the narcotic ingredient (hydrocodone) helps to boost a signal of pleasure, so the pain signal that remains is easier to ignore.

Often, when people are in intense pain that disrupts their day-to-day life, combination drugs like this provide enough relief and soothing help to allow these people to recover. For example, in a study of cancer pain published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics, researchers found that only 29 percent of people given a hydrocodone/acetaminophen combination medication still felt pain at the end of the study. The rest felt relief from the misery that cancer can cause. The drug helped them a great deal.

Since there’s a need for these painkillers, they’ll probably always be available. They can, and do, help a lot of people. But there are some people out there that have a unique and dangerous response to these pain medications.

One woman interviewed for an article in Live Science described her path to addiction as rapid and overwhelming. As soon as she took the very first prescription pill for pain, she felt altered and changed, and she wanted more drugs as soon as she could get them. When she got those drugs, she took them at doses that had nothing to do with pain and everything to do with euphoria. This woman wasn’t lazy, faulty, or somehow weak. She had a chemical reaction that altered her relationship to painkillers. When that happens, it’s known as an addiction.

What a Norco Addiction Looks Like

Norco addictions develop due to chemical alterations caused by the narcotic ingredient in each pill. That narcotic ingredient is made to boost a signal of euphoria and reward, so pain signals are easier to ignore. But that alteration can be overwhelmingly pleasurable. It can make people feel warm, calm, and complete.

They can have a euphoric response that’s unlike anything they’ve felt before, and deep down, the brain can undergo changes that prompt these people to seek out euphoria again, no matter the cost

Chemical alterations caused by narcotics begin with dopamine. This is a chemical signal brain cells use in order to mark and remember a pleasurable event, such as:

  • A satisfying meal
  • A sexual episode
  • An unexpected surprise
  • A stunning compliment
  • Falling in love
  • Seeing an old friend

The brain puts out a tiny bit of dopamine, so the cells take note of the event as something good that should happen again. It’s a form of brain learning. Norco uses this same signal, but the signal is huge and overwhelming, and the receptors for that signal can fry out with so much dopamine. In time, those fried signals just won’t respond to natural sources of pleasure. They need something big in order to feel it. So, in short, they need drugs.

Learn More

A person in the grips of a Norco addiction will need to keep taking the pills in order to avert an episode of crushing depression. Since the brain can’t respond to a small pleasure signal, the drugs are the only way the brain can feel pleasure at all. Those cells may cry out for more drugs, as they think they need the help.

Anyone who takes Norco can go through this addictive cycle. The drug doesn’t seem to discriminate based on age, class, or gender. Researchers aren’t quite sure what makes some people more vulnerable to addiction than others. Trauma might play a role, as might a family history of addiction. More research must be done in order to deliver definitive answers. But for now, it’s safe to say that anyone could get an addiction to this drug.

All changes associated with addiction are happening on the inside, so there are no physical outer signs to spot. But people who are going through these changes may emit signs that families may notice. According to Mayo Clinic, those signs include:

  • Stealing or selling prescriptions
  • Mood swings
  • Excessive hostility
  • Confusion
  • Poor coordination
  • Sedation
  • Increasing need (or decreasing need) for sleep

These signs can be subtle, to be sure, but families often seem to know when something is amiss. When they do, they should take action, as leaving a Norco addiction in play can be devastating.


Abuse Risks

As an addiction grows in strength and severity, users often need to take bigger and bigger hits to get the dopamine boost they think they need. Sometimes, users reach the point when they’re taking massive amounts of pills every single day. These users are attempting to take in big hits of the narcotic ingredient in Norco, but they’re also pulling in acetaminophen with each hit. That drug can be really harmful to the body.

Acetaminophen must be processed by the liver, and that liver work is taxing. Cells can become brittle and fragile after a great deal of acetaminophen exposure, and sometimes, liver cells can die out altogether. It’s a serious problem, and while medical teams can help, they can’t always undo all of the damage an addiction can cause.

For example, in a study in the journal Medical Clinics of North America, researchers say that people who endure an acetaminophen overdose have a 66 percent chance of recovery with early treatment and supportive care. That’s an incredibly low number, and it demonstrates just how serious these overdoses really are. For people who abuse Norco, they are a very real possibility.

Overdosing on acetaminophen isn’t the only risk out there, either. Norco’s narcotic ingredient can also be dangerous at high levels, as it can slow breathing rates. That means people who take a lot of Norco could slip into what outsiders might think of as a relaxing sleep, but these people might not ever wake up again. Their breathing can slow and slow until it stops.

Every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 44 people die due to prescription painkiller overdoses. It’s a common problem, and it’s a difficult problem for people to avoid when they have addictions. The need for pills overrides their need to keep their bodies safe. That can lead them to make terrible decisions that are catastrophic for health.

As an addiction progresses, too, some people find that even a large number of pills doesn’t provide enough of a narcotics boost. These people need more drugs and they need those drugs to hit the brain faster. That can lead some users to crush pills, mix the powder with water, and inject that solution into the bloodstream with a needle. It seems efficient, but Norco isn’t designed for blood contact. According to RxList, Norco contains all sorts of inactive ingredients, including cellulose, sodium, and starch. All of these ingredients could ball up in the bloodstream, causing clots that could travel to the heart, the lungs, or other vital organs. Those clots could cause tissue death or medical crises like strokes and heart attacks.

The Norco Recovery Process

While abusing Norco can lead to very serious consequences, people who abuse this drug can make a decision to change for the better. When they do, their lives could be forever altered in ways that are wonderful.

That recovery starts with a withdrawal process. It’s here that the tissues in the body process all of the remaining Norco molecules they’ve had access to, and when that happens, people can get sober and feel their normal brain function returning. The U.S. National Library of Medicine suggests that withdrawal symptoms can begin within about 12 hours of the last dose, and those symptoms can include:

  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Sore muscles
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating

Medications can soothe some of these withdrawal symptoms, as can supportive care. Using massage, acupuncture, bland meals, and cool showers can sometimes help people pass through withdrawal without feeling overwhelmed by misery. Within about a week, things do tend to get better.

Then, people with a history of addiction need to learn how to maintain that sobriety they achieved through withdrawal and detox. That’s where therapy comes in. Therapy programs are designed to help people learn more about the environments and the people that tend to pose a relapse risk. Once people know their specific dangers, they may learn to avoid them. Therapists help people to develop a complete and unique toolkit they can lean upon in order to stay safe from the urge to relapse to Norco abuse.Treatment programs may also provide medications that can help to reduce the chemical calls for Norco. According to the CDC, these sorts of programs can be a little hard to find. In a study, 38 states reported that 78 percent of their medical management programs for addiction were at 80 percent capacity or more. That could mean that there are many people who need help but just can’t find it.

If your family is looking for addiction help, consider Axis. We have a number of facilities throughout the United States that provide individualized, personalized help for addiction. We can create a program that’s just right for your family and your addiction. Whether you need residential care, outpatient care, or sober living support, we can assist. Call the number on this page to find out more.