Vicodin is commonly prescribed for pain related to injuries, surgery, severe illnesses, general/chronic pain, debilitating migraines, and other medical complaints. But because the drug is very similar in structure and effects to morphine and heroin, Vicodin dependency and addiction can become a very serious issue for those who abuse the drug or take it for extended periods of time.
What is Vicodin?
Vicodin is the brand name for a prescription pill containing a powerful pain-suppressing mixture of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Acetaminophen is a common pain reliever, and is a main ingredient in some over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol. It has mild pain suppression properties, and it works in conjunction with other drugs such as hydrocodone, the active ingredient in Vicodin.
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthesized compound made from the dried sap of a poppy plant. The plant naturally produces chemicals in the opiate family such as codeine and thebaine: the two primary substances used to create hydrocodone. Drugs derived from the poppy plant are known as opiates or opioids.
Once ingested or injected, opioids work by binding with pain receptors in the brain and other areas of the central nervous system, thereby muting the effect of the pain sensation. This effect makes Vicodin very useful as a treatment for moderate to moderately severe pain.
There are more and more reports each year from health care providers, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies detailing Vicodin addiction problems in cities and towns across the nation. Physical and psychological dependency on Vicodin has been shown to
- Disrupt families
- Destroy relationships
- End careers
- Deteriorate physical health
- Diminish mental health
- Result in legal issues from laws governing the use of this potent painkiller.
America is currently experiencing an epidemic of Vicodin abuse and addiction. According to the National Institutes of Health, a 2010 study showed that 8.0 % of 12th graders in America had abused Vicodin at some point.
Because Vicodin must be prescribed by a doctor, however, many deny that it is a problem. The legal availability of it means that there is no shortage of supply for those who wish to use it illicitly.
Addiction to this drug is so prevalent that treatment is widely available and can be offered even to those with no health insurance or financial resources.
To get help for you or someone you know suffering from Vicodin addiction, it’s vital to understand the addiction process and subsequent treatment.
Symptoms of Vicodin abuse and addiction
Misuse of hydrocodone products and Vicodin addiction can result in serious physical consequences and can even lead to death. In large doses, Vicodin suppresses the pulmonary and respiratory systems, which can lead to asphyxiation. Side effects and additional consequences of Vicodin abuse include:
- Severe constipation
- Withdrawal syndrome
Stages of Vicodin dependency and addiction
The human body is so complex, each person may experience some or all of these effects even if not a full-blown addict. This is because over time, patients will build up a tolerance to Vicodin which will result in higher and more frequent doses needed to achieve the same level of pain relief. Drug tolerance is a natural reaction and is common whenever pain medications are taken for extended periods.
The condition following tolerance is a state of physical dependency. Once the bloodstream has been consistently introduced to hydrocodone products, the central nervous system begins to adapt: essentially, the body becomes accustomed to the drug.
As a result, individuals who become physically dependent on Vicodin will experience significant withdrawal symptoms if the medication is suddenly stopped or reduced. These symptoms can be severe and completely debilitating. They can also be fatal. For this reason, detoxification should always occur in a professional setting.
It should be noted that dependency is not the same as addiction, and behaviors exhibited by one condition can mimic the other. This is especially important to consider, as some patients will develop drug-seeking behaviors if their pain management system is not working due to inadequate medication or no treatment at all.
Full-blown Vicodin addiction is characterized by a progression of behaviors that most people cannot stop without help. Signs of addiction usually begin when the person is no longer able to control the drug. Vicodin addicts might take too much of the drug and have serious side effects, or might forget when they last took it and how much.
Drug-seeking behaviors often accompany a loss of control, as the person begins to lie and become deceptive in their efforts to obtain more of the drug. At this stage, an individual suffering from Vicodin addiction may claim that their prescription was lost, damaged, or stolen, or they may request an increase in dose strength and frequency even when the original issue has been partly or completely resolved.
Vicodin addiction often results in serious issues for the afflicted person. True addiction manifests itself when a person continues using the drug despite negative consequences like
- Relationship or family issues
- Financial trouble
- Legal problems
- Physical and emotional health problems.
Often, a person may recognize these problems and understand that their addiction is the root cause, but still be unable to discontinue using the drug.
One nearly sure sign of serious Vicodin addiction is obsessesing over the drug. Their life may be consumed by constant efforts to obtain, use, and recover from the drug, as well as thinking and talking about it constantly.
Treatment options for Vicodin addiction
Treatment for Vicodin addiction begins with understanding. Today, most health care practitioners recognize that Vicodin addiction can happen to anyone: lawyers, doctors, housewives, teachers, construction workers, etc. Anyone who is experiencing pain and needs to take the drug for extended periods of time can develop tolerance, dependence, and eventually addiction.
Since dependency and addiction are widespread issues, there are treatment centers and treatment professionals available that specialize in helping people to break this particular cycle of addiction. Treatment for Vicodin addiction usually includes:
Because withdrawal from Vicodin addiction can be fatal, there are centers nationwide that offer clean, relaxed, professional environments where a person can safely be weaned off the drug.
Withdrawal symptoms can include
- Involuntary muscle movements
- Severe intestinal cramping
- Crying, depression, and anxiety
- Severe drug cravings.
These symptoms occur in stages over several days, but in general, detoxification is usually complete after 7 days.
Vicodin treatment centers and drug rehabilitation
Thousands of Vicodin addiction treatment centers nationwide are dedicated to helping people break free from addiction. These are safe havens where a person can be removed from the struggles and environments that caused them to begin abusing the drug in the first place. Most structured inpatient treatment centers provide a 3-4 week program before reintegration into society.
Therapy and ongoing support
During detoxification and inpatient treatment, therapy will play a major role to help maintain independence from Vicodin addiction. This can include group, individual, and family therapy. The best therapy treatment includes family and loved ones, who will help to build a strong support system that the patient can rely upon to help process issues and remain chemical-free.
Vicodin addiction is a treatable, manageable condition that sadly affects thousands of Americans. Once the addiction cycle has been broken, however, recovering addicts should make lifestyle changes to help stay in recovery, such as:
- Disassociating from friends, acquaintances, and even family members who abuse drugs or alcohol.
- Avoiding places where drug use once occurred.
- Adjusting thought patterns to maintain a positive outlook.
- Understanding which triggers might cause them to use drugs again.
Relapsing into Vicodin addiction is always a threat: Individuals and their families must remain supportive and vigilant.
There’s help on the difficult road to recovery from Vicodin addiction. Our trained counselors can guide you: Call now.