In 2010, one in 20 Americans over 12 years old reported using painkillers for non-medical reasons in the past year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). One of the painkillers that is being abused is Vicodin which contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is an opioid pain reliever commonly referred to as a narcotic. Acetaminophen is usually a less potent pain reliever. However, when combined with hydrocodone, it increases the effects of the hydrocodone.
Vicodin is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain for a short amount of time—typically, less than three weeks. It’s prescribed for a short time because the blend of acetaminophen and hydrocodone is quite addictive. In fact, an individual can become physically dependent on Vicodin in a few weeks after taking it every day.
Since the medication is an opioid, it not only relieves pain, but creates a pleasurable reaction in the body and brain similar to euphoria. Once the medication is used for a non-medical use, the individual becomes addicted. Addicted individuals usually try to get a quick high by injecting, inhaling or smoking crushed Vicodin. Some individuals also combine Vicodin with other drugs or alcohol to achieve a greater, faster high.
Vicodin Addiction Symptoms
People addicted to Vicodin exhibit various symptoms such as:
- Using it just to feel normal
- Using it to escape emotional problems
- Using it to medicate or stop opiate withdrawal symptoms
- Using it for non-medical reasons
- Obsessing about getting Vicodin
- Craving Vicodin
- Obtaining it illegally
Each year, over 15,000 Americans die from overdoses involving prescription painkillers, according to the CDC. Dependency on Vicodin causes someone to build a tolerance for the medication. Once addicted, they need higher and higher doses to achieve the same euphoric high they had when first beginning to take Vicodin. Vicodin overdose symptoms start with a loss of appetite, stomach pain, confusion or weakness. As the overdose progresses, symptoms include yellowing of the skin, dark urine and pain in the upper stomach. Overdose symptoms also include a weak pulse, pinpoint pupils, extreme drowsiness, shallow breathing. A person may experience a slow heart rate or no breathing at all.
Opiate Withdrawals Symptoms
Vicodin withdrawals start within six to 24 hours after a person stops taking the medication. Symptoms can last for a few days or a few weeks. However, the timeframe and the severity of the symptoms vary from person to person. Opiate withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Excessive sweating
- Watery eyes
- Goose bumps
- Runny nose
- Muscle pain
- Sense of increased pain
These symptoms aren’t life-threatening and can subside after a few weeks. However, stopping Vicodin cold turkey may not help an addiction. That’s why people who are struggling with Vicodin abuse often seek treatment.
Treatment for Vicodin Abuse
A specific Vicodin treatment plan depends on the person’s addiction. However, many effective treatments blend behavioral and medical treatments together to address emotional and chemical dependency of Vicodin.
Behavioral treatment is a board term that includes at least six types of treatments such as:
- Participating in support groups
- Engaging in talk therapy (either group or individual)
- Motivational incentives
- Participating in cognitive behavioral therapy
- Participating in contingency management interventions
- Motivational enhancement therapy
The purpose of behavioral treatment is to make the individual personally responsible for his own Vicodin abuse. For instance, motivational interviewing, talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy forces the individual to look at the reasons why he felt compelled to abuse Vicodin. Also, it gives an individual the ability to understand the emotional problem, one’s self and the addiction. Therapies also teach skills to handle stressful situations that would normally trigger the intense need for Vicodin.
Initially, individuals start taking Vicodin to relieve unbearable pain associated with a medical condition or injury. Patients are instructed to take one to two pills as needed to relieve pain. However, as people take more and more pills they move from trying to relieve pain to trying to get high. They tend to take more pills more frequently or more than the number of pills prescribed. Unfortunately, the longer they consume Vicodin, the more they need to get high. For instance, some people may need to consume at least 100 pills to get the desired effect they used to achieve with one or two Vicodin pills.
Unfortunately, the number of painkiller overdoses has quadrupled since 1999. However, the other CDC statistics are just as startling. For every one overdose that occurs, there are 10 people admitted for treatment because of opioid abuse. To minimize the possibility of becoming dependent on Vicodin or abusing it, people should only use it for medical reasons. Also, if the prescribed treatment is helping the pain, don’t self-medicate. Instead discuss concerns with the treating physician.
For anyone abusing or addicted to Vicodin, early treatment can ensure a prompt recovery. Regardless of how long a person has abused Vicodin, it’s never too late to treat the addiction.