Friday, June 21st, 2024

Hydrocodone Use

Hydrocodone Use

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opiate. It is the active ingredient in a number of prescription painkillers like Vicodin, Hydrococet, Symtan; Anexsia, Biocodone, Damason-P; Dicodid, Hycodan, Hycomine; Hycet, Lorcet, Lortab; Norco, Novahistex, Hydrovo; Duodin, Kolikodol, Orthoxycol; Panacet, Zydone, Mercodinone; Synkonin, Norgan, Xodol and Hydrokon. Usually, it is combined with non-opioid painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen to discourage recreational use and to increase the painkilling effects.  Hydrocodone is also a cough suppressant, so it is used in many prescription cough medications.

Like other opioids, hydrocodone works by binding with opioid receptors in the brain. It binds to the same receptors that the bodies’ natural painkillers bind to. After prolonged opiate use, the body stops producing natural painkillers, resulting in opiate dependency. Opiates are such powerful narcotics that the body can become dependent on them even when they prescribed by a physician for the treatment of pain and are taken in the prescribed dosage.

Hydrocodone use sometimes leads to dependence. It is one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the United States. Because it is a schedule 3 narcotic (oxycodone is a schedule 2) it is less highly regulated than other prescription narcotics, and thus more easily obtained. Those who engage in recreational hydrocodone use experience a strong feeling of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy extremities.

The most commonly reported adverse effects of hydrocodone use are memory loss, constipation, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, lightheadedness, dry mouth, itching, and heavy sweating. In high doses, hydrocodone suppresses respiration, which could lead to coma and death.

When the body becomes dependent on hydrocodone and then hydrocodone use is stopped or significantly reduced, they experience withdrawal. Withdrawal from opiates like hydrocodone is very painful, though it is not life threatening. Signs of hydrocodone withdrawal are similar to flu symptoms and include: sweating, goose bumps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramping.

While additives such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are added to hydrocodone products in part to discourage illicit use, the danger is that people who do abuse hydrocodone products may not be aware that they are taking high levels of ibuprofen or acetaminophen. This can be very dangerous, and in many cases, long term hydrocodone abuse can cause liver problems because these drugs are toxic in high doses, and can even be fatal.

Another reason that hydrocodone is less likely to be abused than drugs like pure oxycodone, is that the metabolism of hydrocodone prevents it from alternate routes of administration like snorting and injection. This is because the main painkilling effect of hydrocodone use comes from its conversion to the much stronger opioid hydromorphone in the liver. When the drug is snorted or injected, it bypasses this metabolic process, so it actually results in a less strong effect. Also, because hydrocodone users must separate the hydrocodone from the ibuprofen or acetaminophen additives before injecting it, some of the hydrocodone is lost in the process. Hydrocodone is also only about half as strong as oral oxycodone.