(844) 739-2005

Hydrocodone: Side Effects, Addiction Risk, & Withdrawal

an image of pills representing hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid medication often prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain.  

Ongoing use of hydrocodone may lead to the development of physical dependence. Dependence means that the body requires opioids to function normally, and discontinuing use triggers the presentation of withdrawal symptoms. Supervised detoxification and ongoing rehabilitation provide the smoothest path to recovery from hydrocodone addiction. Read on to learn how you can achieve this.

What Is Hydrocodone?

What is hydrocodone used for? This semi-synthetic opioid is frequently combined with other medications like acetaminophen for the treatment of moderate to moderately severe pain. It is formulated for both immediate and extended release and comes in various formulations, including liquid solutions, capsules, and tablets.

Hydrocodone is also used in combination with chlorpheniramine or homatropine in some medications to address coughs and symptoms associated with upper respiratory tract infections.

The medication is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for misuse and addiction. Misusing opioids like hydrocodone can significantly increase the risk of developing severe dependence and may even lead to a fatal hydrocodone overdose.

Hydrocodone Side Effects

Hydrocodone is prescribed for its ability to alleviate pain and suppress coughs, but it also produces a range of short-term side effects. Immediate hydrocodone effects include:

  • Sedation or drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Itching of the skin
  • Respiratory depression

Beyond this, the use of hydrocodone may result in long-term adverse outcomes that include the manifestation of opioid withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation and the risk of developing an addiction (opioid use disorder).

Unlike medications that contain only opioids, combinations of hydrocodone and acetaminophen carry the  risk of acute liver injury. This risk increases when excessive amounts are consumed, whether due to frequent dosing, misuse, or overdose – acetaminophen can accumulate to toxic levels and cause severe liver damage.

Combining hydrocodone with alcohol or other substances that depress the CNS (central nervous system) also increases the danger significantly. Polysubstance abuse can produce effects that are more unpredictable and potentially more harmful than those of using either substance on its own.

Both opioids and alcohol reduce respiratory function. When taken together, they can lead to critical respiratory issues, including breathing difficulties or complete cessation of breathing, which can be fatal. Additionally, the simultaneous use of two CNS depressants can damage the brain, heart, and other vital organs.

Is Hydrocodone Addictive?

Hydrocodone, like other opioids, binds to pain receptors in the brain known as mu opioid receptors. This binding process not only diminishes pain signals, but also triggers the release of euphoric sensations, contributing to the drug’s potential for misuse. These feelings of euphoria can motivate people to continue using the drug in order to replicate those positive sensations.

Repeated use of hydrocodone affects the brain’s frontal cortex, impairing a person’s decision-making capabilities and mood regulation. This is particularly evident when individuals attempt to reduce their intake or stop using hydrocodone altogether, with the body’s dependence on the medication provoking the presentation of withdrawal symptoms.

Abuse of hydrocodone can involve altering its intended mode of administration, such as crushing pills to snort or inject the resulting powder, which significantly increases addiction risk and potential harm.

Many cases of hydrocodone addiction start with a legitimate prescription, which can make it challenging to identify the transition from therapeutic use to dependence. Misuse may include taking the medication more frequently than prescribed, continuing its use beyond the recommended period, or consuming it in a manner not intended by the prescribing physician – snorting or injecting, for instance.

Addiction to hydrocodone is diagnosed from mild to severe based on various behavioral criteria. Indications of an addiction include consuming the drug in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended and prioritizing drug use over personal, social, or professional responsibilities. As tolerance to hydrocodone’s effects develops, many people find themselves needing increasingly higher doses to achieve the same level of pain relief or to prevent withdrawal symptoms, further fueling the cycle of dependence and addiction.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

The experience of withdrawal from hydrocodone can differ significantly depending on variables including how long the drug was used, the frequency of dosing, and the amount consumed. Despite these variations, withdrawal from opioids typically features a consistent set of symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased reflex reactions
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain in muscles and bones

Treatment for Hydrocodone Withdrawal

While opioid withdrawal symptoms are generally not life-threatening, they can be highly uncomfortable and may lead to complications such as dehydration. The apprehension surrounding withdrawal symptoms, or the belief that they are intolerable, may cause some people to continue using hydrocodone or other opioids, or revert to using the medication after discontinuation. To address this, medical management of withdrawal, also known as medically assisted hydrocodone detox, offers a safe and supportive setting in which people can undergo the withdrawal process as safely and comfortably as possible.

Detox centers are equipped to provide a secure environment and compassionate care, streamlining the management of withdrawal symptoms through physical and emotional support, pain relief strategies, and proper nutrition. They also offer medications to treat opioid withdrawal and opioid use disorder, tailored to individual circumstances.

Detoxification is seldom enough to help someone achieve long-term sobriety, though. Detox should be followed by some form of ongoing inpatient or outpatient treatment to address the psychological aspects of addiction to opioids.

To manage the range and intensity of opioid withdrawal symptoms, treatment centers might use medications such as:

  • Clonidine: Alleviates physical withdrawal symptoms like sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, anxiety, and insomnia.
  • Buprenorphine: Helps reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Lofexidine: Eases opioid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Methadone: Helps in curbing cravings and symptom management – methadone distribution is regulated to certain healthcare facilities and physicians approved by FDA and DEA).

Two medications, buprenorphine and methadone, can be initiated as withdrawal symptoms emerge, mitigating or reducing the severity of hydrocodone detox. These medications may also be used in the long term, beyond detox and formal rehabilitation, to lower the risk of opioid overdose, relapse, and return to illicit opioid use.

Get Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction at Drug Rehabs Centers

If you need treatment for alcohol and opioid addiction but you have no idea where to turn, reach out to Drug Rehabs Centers for support and guidance.

Both alcohol and opioid withdrawal can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening if unsupervised. We can help you find medical detox centers throughout California, enabling you to kickstart your recovery safely and comfortably.

We can also refer you to support groups, residential rehabs, and outpatient treatment programs offering evidence-based addiction treatment.

Call (844) 739-2005 for confidential assistance and help finding addiction treatment in Southern California.

Joe Gilmore
Author: Joe Gilmore


About Author:

Leave Your Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *