Hydrocodone Abuse

Hydrocodone is a partially synthetic opiate drug used primarily as a painkiller and cough suppressant. There are literally hundreds of products on the market that contain hydrocodone. But the addictiveness of hydrocodone means that anything containing this ingredient is a controlled substance that can only be obtained with a doctor’s prescription.

hydrocodone bottle and pills

Some of the hydrocodone-containing products are:

  • Anoxia
  • Baltussin
  • Decoded
  • Donatussin
  • Hycet
  • Hycodan
  • Hycomine
  • Hydrococet
  • Loretta
  • Lortab
  • Norco
  • Novahistex
  • Panacet
  • Tussionex
  • Vicodin
  • Xodol
  • Zeiden

Hydrocodone took the place of many codeine prescriptions that used to be written. Now there are more than 139 million prescriptions written each year for medications that contain hydrocodone. Along with heroin and oxycodone (often sold as OxyContin), hydrocodone is one of the most popular opiates for abuse. That makes it a very common drug of addiction as well.

Millions Abuse Pain Relievers in the US

Each year in the US, an estimated five million people abuse pain relievers. Some people will abuse them once and some people will abuse them enough that cravings kick in and drive further use. On the other hand, some people will use them legitimately and then find that they like how the drugs made them feel. This will lead to overuse of the drug and eventual addiction.

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis described how she became addicted to a similar drug, morphine, in her 2009 Huffington Post blog on Michael Jackson and his death due to prescription drugs: “I too found painkillers after a routine cosmetic surgical procedure and I too became addicted; the morphine becomes the warm bath from which to escape painful reality.” This is a good description of the way that legitimate use can gently and almost imperceptibly slide over into abuse.

The Deadly Side of Hydrocodone

Overuse of opiates can easily turn deadly. Opiates like hydrocodone depress respiration, meaning they make breathing slow and shallow. If too many pills are taken or if they are taken with other drugs that also affect breathing, like alcohol or benzodiazepines, then death can result. Or if a person has built up a tolerance and so takes more hydrocodone to compensate, they may take enough to kill them.

When Anna Nicole Smith died in 2007, her doctor and caretakers were charged with overprescribing and over administering the opiates and benzodiazepines that finally killed her.

A third way that hydrocodone can kill is through the destruction of the liver. Acetaminophen was reportedly added to hydrocodone to discourage abuse since acetaminophen can damage the liver in high doses. But apparently many people do not know about this fact or choose to ignore it in favor of a preferred method of getting high.

To get around this point of acetaminophen damage, a few pharmaceutical companies are working with all-hydrocodone formulations. On one hand, this is good because there is less chance of liver damage or failure among people who have chronic pain and thus need long-term administration of a pain medication. On the other hand, this may be a terrible idea because it may play right into the hands of people who would like to get a more powerful, all-hydrocodone pill.

The new pill is described as having a hydrocodone dosage ten times stronger than the current pills on the market. Two of the three companies working on this formulation are building in anti-abuse features (such as impregnating plastic with the medication which is then absorbed by the body, leaving plastic masses behind that may pass out of the body intact). The other company, Zogenix, is not proposing to build in any defensive features.

Helping Someone Addicted to Hydrocodone

A person who is addicted to hydrocodone needs help with the cravings and with restoring the self-esteem that is destroyed by addiction. This—and much more—is offered on the Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. For almost five decades, those addicted to opiates, alcohol or other drugs have been able to go home after this program and remain sober. It’s a comprehensive program that gives recovering addicts the tools they need to make drug-free choices when they get back out in life.

Help someone you care about recover from addiction to hydrocodone


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