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Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from codeine, one of the three main chemically active derivatives of the opium poppy (e.g. morphine, codeine, and thebaine). Hydrocodone is an orally active narcotic analgesic (pain reliever) and antitussive (cough suppressant). It is commonly available in tablet, capsule, and syrup form, and is usually compounded with other non-opioid compounds such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®), added both to discourage recreational use (as acetaminophen can cause potentially fatal liver toxicity at high doses), and to provide a possible synergism of analgesic effects.

Hydrocodone is a member of a class of prescription drugs (opioids) for which the addiction liability (likelihood of becoming addicted) is very high, and addiction to which is often more destructive than the original ailment for which the drug was prescribed in the first place. 

Hydrocodone Addiction – A Growing Problem

Hydrocodone is a commonly used painkiller that is prescribed for medical issues ranging from back pain to toothaches. Like morphine and heroin, hydrocodone is an opioid, meaning that it is a derivative of the opium poppy.  In the United States, it is a Schedule III controlled substance, available only by prescription. In order to lower the risk of addiction, hydrocodone is combined with other medicines, like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. It is sold under the brand names Vicodin®, Vicoprofen®, Lorcet®, and Lortab® the main differences being the non-opioid substance present and in the quantities of each drug present in the preparation. This measure was added to make it more difficult for a person to overdose on the drug.  Although, there does exist a risk that a person will overdose on the added medicines before the hydrocodone. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are relatively harmless but can cause kidney and liver damage in large enough doses.

Since hydrocodone is very commonly prescribed to people with chronic pain conditions, it is the among the most commonly abused prescription painkillers. Some cough syrups also contain hydrocodone in them, under the name of codeine. While it certainly works at soothing the cough and can kill any chest pain caused by a cough, when taken over a long term, it can cause hydrocodone addiction Although you may have a legitimate malady that requires the painkiller, drug issues become another issue about which you should be concerned.  With the increase in hydrocodone addiction, some doctors now require chronic pain patients to sign a “pain contract” stating that they will have to submit to random urine tests, can’t see other doctors for the pain issue or go to the hospital without their primary care physician’s permission.

Hydrocodone Prescription Problems

The problem doctors encounter lies in trying to get painkillers that will sufficiently dull the pain of the patient while trying to prevent hydrocodone addiction. It’s a very difficult line to walk for both doctors and patients as a hydrocodone addiction can occur in as little as 6 months of daily use.

Because hydrocodone is used legally and is a prescription medicine, it doesn’t carry the stigma that other addictions do. However, it’s still drug abuse when a person is taking more than their prescribed amount and it’s affecting their daily lives. It’s quite common for chronic pain patients to sell their pills on the street for money to other hydrocodone addicts. Still, others who are addicted resort to† obtaining them through prescription fraud. This kind of fraud consists of doctor shopping or going to more than one doctor for the chronic pain issue, requesting hydrocodone as treatment. Once they get the prescription, the addict then goes to various pharmacies to fill the prescription and reduce suspicion. Once the prescriptions are filled, the person can then either sell the extra pills or keep them all for personal use.

Hydrocodone Addition Treatment

Treatment of a hydrocodone addiction is different from that of street drug addictions because hydrocodone is prescribed to and used by legitimate chronic pain patients. While naturally, the first goal of doctors is to make sure that the addiction doesn’t happen in the first place, prescribing the lowest amount of medication possible usually doesn’t begin to address the pain issues some people face. When a chronic pain patient does start showing signs of addiction, then the first move should be to a less addicting medicine.

When the patient, doctor or family recognize that drug abuse is occurring, therapy is one of the first steps. Hydrocodone addiction often times goes hand in hand with mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorders and as such needs professional help. For those who chose to self-treat their addiction or in conjunction with counseling, many choose a 12 step program like Narcotics Anonymous. The AA/NA model has decades worth of practice and positive results. Its greatest strength lies in its use of sponsors to help the addict overcome their addictions. The sponsors themselves are recovering addicts and can help the addict fight the urge to return to their hydrocodone addiction. They are a sounding board when the addict has difficulty with life’s problems and feels the need to escape through their drugs. There is also a strong emphasis on personal responsibility, owning your mistakes and learning how to get past them as well as making amends to the past. The long-term support of a 12-step model allows the person in recovery to proceed at their own pace and continue in the program for as long as they need.

As mentioned previously, the 12-step program and therapy are both key in helping a chronic pain sufferer overcome their hydrocodone addiction. However, the initial physical problem still exists and needs to be addressed. What can the sufferer do to get rid of the pain they are encountering? One way to treat chronic pain and addiction at the same time is with replacement therapy. Replacement therapy or maintenance therapy has been used in Europe for many years and is starting to become more common in the US. Replacement therapy consists of the addict taking a different drug in place of the addicting substance. In the case of hydrocodone addiction, the replacement drug of choice is often methadone. Methadone is a more stable, less addicting painkiller that can allow the patient to continue to take it for pain with out the negative consequences of addiction. A recovering addict will have to enroll in a certified program through a clinic or doctor’s office to participate.

Hydocodone addiction, like any addiction affects more than just the addict. Addiction is an invasive illness that attacks the addicts personal and social life. Addicts frequently are cut off from their families, can’t hold jobs, and can even end up homeless. People with a hydrocodone addiction are at the same risks as those addicted to common street drugs like morphine and heroin. Society in the past exhibited a tendency to look the other way when the patient was addicted to prescribed medications. It didn’t seem as threatening or “bad” as street drugs. However, today’s increased media coverage of this problem has brought it out in the open for dissection and treatment. If you or someone you love is having a problem with hydrocodone addiction, please call now for immediate help from a qualified and caring addiction professional who can help you find the best hydrocodone addiction treatment for your needs.