Vicodin is the brand name for the combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, which are the active ingredients of Vicodin.
Vicodin is a prescription pain reliever developed for the relief of moderate to severe pain. It is a prescription tablet of hydrocodone and acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). The hydrocodone in Vicodin is a synthetic opioid, which activates the same neuroreceptors as opiate drugs such as heroin.
Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid; therefore, Vicodin is considered an opioid. People taking Vicodin should always be aware of the risks of taking a prescription opioid, as they can be addictive if misused.
Each Vicodin tablet has 300 mg of acetaminophen and comes in three different dosage levels of hydrocodone—5 mg, 7.5 mg and 10 mg. Each Vicodin tablet may have 300mg to 325mg of acetaminophen. It is generally prescribed for one tablet taken every 4 to 6 hours, though addicts may take much higher doses.
Vicodin is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II substance because it contains hydrocodone, which is a Schedule II drug. The Schedule II classification means that it is highly addictive.
The DEA defines controlled substances on a scale of I to V, with I having the highest potential for abuse and V having the lowest potential for abuse. In 2014, medications containing hydrocodone were switched from Schedule III to Schedule II due to their considerable potential for abuse.
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Vicodin is currently labelled as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency after being changed from Schedule III in October of 2014. Because the abuse potential of Vicodin and other hydrocodone combination drugs is so high, the DEA voted to tighten restrictions in order to prevent fraud and protect citizens who are using Vicodin from abuse or misuse. Abuse of Vicodin is constituted by any type of use without a prescription or other than directed by a doctor.
Vicodin comes in pill or tablet form and should be taken as prescribed. It should be taken orally and ingested. In addition to pill form, hydrocodone and acetaminophen can also come as a syrup. This form is made under the brand name Lortab Elixir and the dosing for pain management is similar to that of the pill.
When used recreationally, people may use other routes of administration, including snorting or smoking Vicodin. These routes cause the drug to be absorbed into the blood more quickly, allowing the person to feel its euphoric effects faster, but also increasing the risk of an overdose. These routes are dangerous and Vicodin should never be taken in this way.
How long Vicodin stays in your system depends on the dose that you take. Once Vicodin is ingested, it will reach peak levels in the blood about 1.3 hours later. It will then start to decrease as it is broken down in the liver and eliminated by the kidneys. The rate it decreases is determined by the half-life of the drug. The half-life of Vicodin is about 3.8 hours, meaning it will reach half its maximum concentration in the blood approximately 3.8 hours after taking it.
Vicodin can be taken every four to six hours, depending on the dose. The total length of time it will stay in your system depends on how much you take and how often you take it. When testing for Vicodin during a drug test, hydrocodone can be detected in urine, saliva or hair. It is detectable in saliva for 12 to 36 hours, urine for up to four days and hair for up to 90 days following use.
One of the negative complications of Vicodin abuse is liver damage or failure caused by the acetaminophen in the drug. Typical cases of liver damage involve doses of 4,000 mg or more a day of acetaminophen.
For this reason, in March 2014, the FDA announced all manufacturers cease marketing products with more than 325 mg of acetaminophen. Previous formulations included 500 to 750 mg of acetaminophen.
Due to its high potential for abuse, Vicodin can be dangerous. Hydrocodone abuse as a whole is a serious problem in the United States, with 2.3% of the population misusing the drug in 2017.
That percentage amounts to 12% of people who use hydrocodone misusing it. It is also a serious problem in Florida, accounting for 2.6% of drug occurrences and 6.3% of opioid occurrences reported in the first half of 2017.
Due to its effects on the central nervous system and the slowing of a person's respiratory rate, it also has a great risk of overdosing. Taking too much Vicodin or taking it too often without letting it clear from the system can have serious effects, including death. Opioid overdoses, including Vicodin overdoses, accounted for 4.4% of the 63,600 drug overdose deaths in 2016. In Florida, 357 people died from a Vicodin overdose in 2017.
Vicodin is often used with other substances, which can be very dangerous. Vicodin can have negative interactions with many other types of drugs. When using more than one type of drug, it can be difficult to judge how much is too much. Of the 357 people who died from hydrocodone overdose in 2017, 308 of them had other drugs in their system at the time of death.
The use of Vicodin and other drugs that affect neurotransmitters in the brain, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) or tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), should be avoided. These drugs are commonly used to treat depression and other mental health issues.
Vicodin use is commonly combined with other addictive drugs when used recreationally. While some of them have no known interactions, such as Adderall and Vicodin, combining drugs without medical supervision can be dangerous. Many overdoses involve the use of more than one drug at a time.
The effects of hydrocodone are similar to those of morphine and heroin because all three opioid drugs interact with the same parts of the brain. Hydrocodone also interacts with the brain's reward system, which reinforces continued use by allowing the body to adjust to the drug's presence and, in a short time, come to depend on it.
Continued abuse of hydrocodone can cause short- and long-term damage to the user's body and mental health. Long-term addiction to hydrocodone can lead to severe health consequences. Often, chronic health problems develop because the individual cannot feel pain signals that let them know when they are experiencing illness or injury. Many times, the individual will not become aware of health issues until they detox. Some health concerns include:
Chronic constipation due to addiction to hydrocodone causes damage to the bowels. This may lead to hemorrhoids, tearing of the skin in and around the anus, fecal impaction, or even cause rectal prolapse. There is also risk of damage to the nerves around the anus, and an increased risk of ulcers. Moreover, gastrointestinal bleeding is associated with addiction to hydrocodone drugs containing acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol).
Using large amounts of hydrocodone long-term reduces an individual's breathing rate, which in turn reduces how much oxygen their body takes in. This can cause damage to various organ systems, including the brain. It can also increase the risk of sudden death for individuals who suffer from sleep apnea or lung diseases. People who crush and smoke hydrocodone can also damage their lungs by smoking the harsh chemicals.
Chronic, heavy use of hydrocodone decreases hormone levels in the body. Some of these hormones include estrogen and testosterone, which can lead to fertility damage, making it more difficult to conceive for some men and women. Low hormone levels can also result in increased risk of depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis due to loss of muscle mass, and increased risk of bone fractures. A study found that hormone levels in women who were addicted to hydrocodone were between 30 to 70% lower in estrogen levels than normal.
Individuals with hydrocodone use disorders are at high risk of damaging opioid receptors in the brain, which affect how the brain manages responses to pain. Numerous studies have reported that individuals who have a history of long-term opioid use are much more likely to experience intense pain.
After years of Opioid abuse, many people have a heightened sensitivity to pain. This results in needing longer periods of time to recover from an injury or surgery and experiencing intense cravings to use hydrocodone to relieve pain.
It can be hard to recognize a true addiction to Vicodin. Some people develop a dependence (having withdrawals and tolerance to Vicodin) to their prescription and don't realize it until they stop taking it. Dependence can lead to addiction, which is marked by the compulsive urge to use despite negative consequences.
Using hydrocodone for even 5 days can lead to physical dependence; many who take them for a month are still using them a year later. Below are the symptoms of opioid use to recognize when someone is abusing hydrocodone.
Signs of hydrocodone abuse include:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V(DSM-V) outlines certain symptoms of those with an addiction. According to the DSM-V, in order to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder, you must meet two or more of the 11 criteria within a 12-month period. If you meet two or three of the criteria, you have a mild substance use disorder. Four to five is considered moderate, and if you meet six or more criteria, you have a severe substance use disorder. The following are the criteria.
Once a physical dependence on Vicodin develops, addiction becomes more likely. Vicodin withdrawals can be intense and painful, and many people will continue using Vicodin just to avoid them.
Receiving professional treatment is the most successful way people break their addiction to Vicodin. This type of treatment offers therapy and support in a setting conducive to recovery. It also offers a detox program that helps addicts safely and successfully manage their withdrawal symptoms. These programs also offer medications that ease these symptoms and make recovery more likely. Two of the most common are:
This drug activates the same receptors in the brain as Vicodin, releasing dopamine and relieving withdrawals.
Also used for treating alcoholics, Naltrexone reduces cravings and also blocks the effects of Vicodin in the case of a relapse.
In 2012, nearly 1 million people received treatment for their addiction to prescription pain relievers. You aren't alone in your journey to recovery. There are many more people out there struggling with addiction to Vicodin, some of whom may be in far worse spots than you are in. Reach out to a treatment provider to learn more about your recovery options and breaking the cycle of Vicodin addiction.