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Drug Addiction

Vicodin Addiction: Side-Effects & How To Know If You Are Addicted

By December 15, 2021January 31st, 2022No Comments

Our country has been stuck in the grips of an epidemic for many years, and it is becoming worse than ever. It is the opioid epidemic, and it is responsible for destroying countless lives every year, both of the individuals caught in the torturous cycle of abuse as well as their friends, families, and loved ones. One of the most significant substances in the deluge of opioid prescription abuse is the well-known and often-prescribed painkiller Vicodin.

Prescription painkiller Vicodin is a commonly recommended medication used as a treatment for the pain that follows a serious injury or after surgery. This prescription is a tablet that contains Acetaminophen and Hydrocodone. Because Hydrocodone is included in the formula, Vicodin is considered a synthetic opioid. 

Labeled as a Schedule II controlled substance, the Drug Enforcement Agency in the United States recognizes the medical value, while also acknowledging that there is a high likelihood of addiction or dependency stemming from Vicodin misuse. Despite the addictiveness, this medication is still commonly prescribed for pain control following injuries and many minor surgeries. 

The opioid epidemic just gets worse as the years go on. In 1999, the United States saw 3,442 deaths from an opioid overdose. In 2017, there were 17,029 deaths. Of those deaths, many were individuals who were dealing with an addiction to opioids. If you think you may have an addiction to Vicodin, getting clean is possible, and when you know what to expect from your withdrawal experience, it could be closer than ever. 

The Side-Effects of a Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin and other opioid pain medications are best for short-term use, as using them for an extended amount of time can quickly lead to dependence or addiction. When you’ve been using Vicodin for a while and your judgment is clouded by the physical and chemical dependence, seeing your use for what it really is can be challenging.

Many individuals don’t realize that they have a dependence until they stop taking the prescription. When the withdrawal symptoms set in, reality sets in. Not every person that is dependent on their Vicodin is addicted, but dependence often does lead to addiction.

Like most drugs, Vicodin can have negative effects on a person’s health. Taking Vicodin for an extended amount of time can cause the following effects:

  • Aches and pains
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Depressed breathing rate
  • Depressed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

Additionally, Vicodin can be quite dangerous for the liver, due to the acetaminophen it contains. One of the unfortunate downsides to using acetaminophen is that doses over 325 mg regularly lead to people ending up in the emergency room due to overdose.

Signs You May Have an Addiction to Vicodin

There are many individuals that are dependent or addicted to Vicodin that have very few negative side effects. The truth is, this is incredibly rare for many reasons. For almost every person with an addiction, it has multiple negative effects on their life.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fifth edition, you must meet 2 or more of the following criteria to be diagnosed with Substance Abuse Disorder:

  • Continuing to use Vicodin regardless of how it will impact relationships
  • Cravings to use Vicodin
  • Development of withdrawal symptoms
  • Giving up important recreational, social, or occupational activities due to Vicodin use
  • Neglecting home, work, or school responsibilities because of Vicodin use
  • Needing larger amounts of Vicodin to get the same effect as before, also known as a tolerance
  • Wanting to quit but not being able to on your own

Just like with many of the drugs in the opioid family, becoming addicted or dependent on Vicodin will have a number of visible signs that may be able to be spotted in yourself or someone close to you that may have a growing problem with Vicodin. Not only will there be some significant behavioral changes that are often noticed early on, but there will be visible changes to the individual’s mood for those that know them, as well as signs that are indicative of the effects that Vicodin has on the body.

When someone has developed a problem with Vicodin, they will frequently display a euphoric mood when under the influence of the drug, whereas someone using it for legitimate pain control will only feel the reduction in pain rather than strong euphoric effects. They may also begin to display relatively severe mood swings or levels of emotional instability previously unseen, as well as displaying uncharacteristic levels of anxiety.

Some of the behavioral signs will be obvious for those close to the individual struggling with addiction. For those with a Vicodin addiction, they will become primarily focused or preoccupied with getting more Vicodin by any means they can. This may include visiting multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions, asking friends or family members to try and obtain prescriptions for them, or stealing the drugs from people with valid prescriptions.

Some of the physical signs will be the same as with any other powerful opioids, and will often give the appearance that the individual is sleepy, drunk, or otherwise in a slowed and depressed state. The user will have constricted and minimally responsive pupils, physical weakness & lack of coordination, inability to concentrate or focus on a given task, extreme & uncontrollable drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, itching, dizziness, and persistent headaches.

Withdrawing From An Addiction to Vicodin: Signs & Symptoms

The good news is, no matter how uncomfortable the Vicodin withdrawals are, the symptom is generally not life-threatening. Withdrawals begin between 6 and 12 hours following the final dose and often last 7-10 days. How severe the withdrawals are and how long they last heavily depend on the length of use and the normal dose that was being taken.

One of the biggest dangers that come with opioid addiction is that the body can quickly build up a tolerance, which leads to needing larger amounts of the drug to get the same effects. This can be especially dangerous for addicts who relapse, as this tolerance can drop back down when an individual refrains from using for a while. When an addict relapses, they may take the dose they were taking before they quit, but their time away from Vicodin has allowed their tolerance to be reduced, resulting in an overdose.

The withdrawals from Vicodin are very similar to the withdrawals from other opioids. What most people can expect when detoxing includes:

  • Appetite changes, generally a decrease in hunger
  • Psychological changes:
      • Anxiety
      • Confusion
      • Irritability
      • Mood swings
  • Physical symptoms:
      • Diarrhea
      • Enlarged pupils
      • Tremors
      • Nausea
      • Vomiting
      • Sweating
      • Goosebumps
      • Diarrhea
      • Shivering
  • Symptoms of a cold:
      • Fever
      • Sweating
      • Chills
      • Runny nose
      • Nasal congestion
  • Sleep disturbances

For people that have a more serious addiction or have been taking larger amounts of Vicodin, the timeline for their withdrawals could last much longer, even months. In addition to regular withdrawals, some individuals experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Most of the symptoms of PAWS are mood and psychologically related. The symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Inexplicable chronic pain
  • Intense cravings
  • Irritability and hostility
  • Lack of libido
  • Limited ability to think clearly or focus
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep disruption

While the end of the withdrawal and detox stage may bring the end of most of the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, they will not all fade at the same speed. Depression and anxiety are two symptoms known for persisting for years after detoxing in some cases. Additionally, even years after the detox is successfully completed, individuals that battled opioid addictions can face the sudden resurgence of cravings in the future, even after years of recovery. 

For those that may have PAWS, the best person to speak to would be a therapist, as the symptoms are mainly emotional and psychological rather than physical. The good news is, that these feelings won’t last forever and you will be able to regain your life back.

What To Do If A Vicodin Addiction Has Taken Over

Vicodin can be a great help for pain relief if you are injured or in need of surgery, but prolonged use can lead to serious complications. Not only can extended use of Vicodin lead to medical complications such as liver problems, but it can also lead to dependence and addiction.

The negative effects on your health are challenging enough, but addiction can creep in and harm other aspects of your life as well. It can put strains on your relationships with loved ones and can impact your work life, as well.

If you or a loved one have developed an addiction to Vicodin and you just can’t beat it on your own, you don’t have to tackle recovery alone. Once you have realized that you have a problem and that the only way to get through it is with help, it’s time to talk to a professional so you can get the help you need. If you are ready to tackle this addiction and get clean with the help of a team of trained professionals, reach out today.