What Is Vicodin?
Vicodin is simply the combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain reliever commonly sold under Tylenol's brand name. It can deliver powerful relief due to its drug/drug combination. Each dose contains acetaminophen, which is made to dull a signal of pain. Vicodin relieves pain for up to six hours, and medical professionals often prescribe this pain reliever for patients after surgery. The medication is accompanied by a kick of hydrocodone, which is an opiate that boosts a signal of pleasure in the brain.
Like any opioid pain medication, Vicodin can be very addictive, and some patients build a tolerance to it. This means that the abuser takes larger doses of Vicodin or does so compulsively without stopping. Physical dependence means that individuals will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication. Unlike other opioid pain relievers, Vicodin can be significantly dangerous for the liver. Large doses of acetaminophen were found to cause severe allergic reactions and liver damage in many people. Several people who took over 325 mg of acetaminophen consistently often ended up in the emergency room due to overdose complications. The limit to what a patient can take was formerly set at 325 mg, but individuals taking these painkillers should also be wary of acetaminophen in over-the-counter cold and flu medications to prevent overdose.
Progression to Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it's hard to know how many people move from pain control to addiction, as estimates vary from about three percent to about 40 percent. Similarly, it's hard to make appropriate generalizations about why people abuse their medications, as most people have individualized reasons for their drug abuse habits. But many people who do develop an addiction follow a predictable set of steps. In the beginning, people take the drug for the relief from pain that it brings, and they follow the instructions for those drugs to the letter. However, in time, they find that they crave the medication, even when they're not in pain. When they feel low, they want the drug.
When they're dealing with a shock, they want the drug. When they're heading to a party, they want the cure. People often begin to take liberties with their prescriptions by:
• Taking doses at random times
• Taking pills one right after the other
• Chewing or crushing the pills
• Asking for more drugs when they run out
Abusing Vicodin in this manner is very dangerous, as the liver must process the acetaminophen in each tablet. People who take in a large amount of the drug regularly can do a significant amount of damage to that organ in no time at all, and sometimes that damage is impossible to recover from. Similarly, a study in the journal Pain Medicine suggests that many patients who lean on prescription painkillers like Vicodin develop depression or have depression caused by chronic pain. Their drug use augments that depression and increases the risk of suicide. That's a severe problem, as people who feel low and sad and who take Vicodin might use those prescription pills to attempt their own lives. Some do, and they don't survive the episode. Also, experts quoted by The New York Times suggest that long-term treatment of pain with prescription drugs like Vicodin can lead to a slew of other problems, including sleep apnea, lethargy, and a reduction in hormone production. These additional health ills could drive a person back to Vicodin abuse, as the substance may be the only thing that brings a person joy.
Vicodin Withdrawal Effects And Treatment
The following are the criteria pointing you that you're addicted to Vicodin :
• Taking Vicodin in significant amounts or for more extended periods than you're meant to
• Wanting to cut down or stop using Vicodin but not managing to
• Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of Vicodin
• Cravings and urges to use Vicodin
• Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of Vicodin use
• Financial problems – such as running up credit card bills to purchase Vicodin from illicit internet-based pharmacies.
• Continuing to use Vicodin, even when it causes problems in your relationships
• Not showing up for significant social, occupational, or recreational activities because of Vicodin use
• Using Vicodin often, even when it puts you in danger
• Continuing to use Vicodin, even when you know you have physical or psychological issues that could have been caused or made worse by Vicodin
• When your tolerance for Vicodin keep increasing
• Reckless behavior – such as driving while under the influence of Vicodin
• Development of withdrawal effects, which can be relieved by taking more Vicodin
Vicodin withdrawal effects are similar to those of other opioid pain drugs. Typical withdrawal effects include:
• Psychological changes, like irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and confusion
• Loss of appetite, like an increased craving for the drug and reduced sensation of hunger
• Physical effects, like tremors, enlarged pupils, nausea and vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, salivation, shivering or goosebumps, fast breathing, and muscle aches or cramps
• Sleep disorders, like restlessness, insomnia, or exhaustion
• Symptoms of a cold, like a runny nose, fever, sweating, chills, and nasal congestion
Other people experience a syndrome called PAWS, or post-acute withdrawal syndrome. This condition can last for weeks or months, during which the patient suffers other withdrawal symptoms. This problematic condition makes detoxification psychologically challenging to bear, and it isn't easy to estimate when it will stop. Those who experience PAWS are best served in inpatient addiction treatment where 24-hour medical supervision and support aid in relapse prevention. The length of time a person experiences these withdrawals depends on factors like length of use, prescribed dosage, addiction, method of quitting use, etc.
Once a physical dependence on Vicodin develops, addiction becomes almost inevitable. Vicodin withdrawals can be intense and painful, and many people will continue using Vicodin to avoid them.
Receiving professional treatment is the most successful method for breaking their addiction to Vicodin. This therapy offers therapy and support in a setting conducive to recovery. It also provides a detoxification program that helps addicts safely and successfully manage their withdrawal symptoms. These procedures also offer medications that help these symptoms and make a recovery more likely. Two of the most common are: Buprenorphine, which activates the same receptors in the brain as Vicodin, releasing dopamine and relieving withdrawals, and Naltrexone, reducing cravings also blocks the effects of Vicodin in the case of a relapse.
Help for Addiction
When you observe that someone you love has developed an addiction to Vicodin based on the points listed above, they need your help. If you have identified any of the signs and symptoms above, it may be time to hold an intervention. A drug intervention is a meeting where loved ones, friends, or co-workers meet with the individual to help them see that they have a problem with Vicodin.
These drug interventions should always be done involving a professional interventionist. The professionals can be of assistance in many ways, including:
• Making sure that the intervention is held in a safe place
• Keeping the intervention “on point” in terms of tone and subject matter
• Helping get the patients from the intervention directly into a drug rehab program
A drug rehabilitation procedure is where Vicodin addicts come to heal and build strength. These programs help individuals overcome their physical and psychological addiction to Vicodin through a series of programs and processes, including:
• Vicodin detoxification. The first step towards recovery is allowing all the opiate toxins associated with Vicodin use to leave the body. This detoxification process helps the individual overcome their physical addiction to Vicodin – and makes way from the remainder of the drug rehab program.
• Vicodin addiction counseling. Group and individual counseling sessions help the individual assess the root causes of their addiction, as well as gain an understanding of the triggers that lead them to use Vicodin. Vicodin addiction has a vital psychological component, and counseling is addressed.
• Vicodin addiction aftercare. When individuals re-enter the real world after drug rehab, they face several challenges. How do they avoid temptation? What should they do if they relapse? Answers to these questions can be in aftercare programs such as Narcotics Anonymous or follow-up counseling. It is here that the recovering addict can get a “tune-up” and the support they need to continue the process they made during rehab.
People who are addicted to Vicodin often need help with the recovery process, as the early days of recovery come with a slew of flu-like symptoms, including:
• Muscle pain
At the same time, these people may face an intense craving for Vicodin, and that feeling of need may persist for weeks or months depending on a lot of factors.
Therapy can help people understand their cravings and develop tools to prevent a relapse from taking hold. Still, that therapy must begin in the immediate aftermath of withdrawal, so people don't get sober only to get high minutes later.
Pain Control in Recovery
While people need to leave Vicodin behind to get an addiction under control (there's no natural way to pair sobriety with continued drug use), this doesn't amount to people who must live with their pain without getting any relief. The opposite is the case. Experts want to provide adequate pain control to people in recovery simply because people who aren't in pain have one less trigger that can lead them to drug use. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids suggests that a multidisciplinary approach tends to work best in people who have chronic pain.
When a person tries to quit any opioid medication, such as Vicodin, cold turkey without help, the person will likely experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. Medical detoxification is recommended to make the process more comfortable. In some instances, replacement medications like buprenorphine or methadone may be used to aid the withdrawal process on a longer-term basis. The use of any drug is determined on an individual basis. Additionally, psychological support from therapists, nurses, and other staff members, can radically assist clients during the detoxification process.
People who have chronic pain and addictions to Vicodin can get better. But they need to ask for help to get the process started. Please call us, and our admissions coordinators can tell you more about how recovery works and why one of our treatment centers at Foundations Recovery Network might be the best choice for you.
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.