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Vicodin is a commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drug, an analgesic or pain reliever, with the primary active ingredients being the synthetic opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen (commonly known as Tylenol). This combination of ingredients comes in a variety of different brand names such as Lortab and Norco, and Vicodin is just one of the many available. Vicodin is prescribed and used for the treatment or acute moderate to severe pain, like following a serious injury or surgical procedure. It is not meant for long-term use due to the acetaminophen component of the drug, which can cause liver damage after long-term use. The acetaminophen is added as an additional pain relieving agent, but also to help avoid the possibility of long term abuse of the drug.
The way that opioid pain relievers such as Vicodin work is that they cause certain chemical reactions in the brain and central nervous system which ultimately blocks the user's perception of pain. These same effects take place when an individual uses heroin for example, and this is why Vicodin can be abused. If using Vicodin to get high, individuals who are either prescribed the drug legitimately or have acquired it illicitly will take the drug in a high enough dose to produce a high that is similar to one that the individual would experience if they had taken heroin or another form of opiate. Due to these narcotic-like effects, individuals can begin abusing the drug even if they have been prescribed Vicodin under legitimate circumstances. This is why it is also common for individuals who abuse drugs such as heroin and other opiates to abuse Vicodin, as it produces such similar effects. And because prescription opioids are less stigmatized than illicit street drugs such as heroin, drugs like Vicodin are abused by a wide array of people of all different ages and backgrounds.
Individuals who use Vicodin, both legitimately and illicitly, will ultimately become physically dependent to the drug because of the chemical changes that occur when they take it. Even a week of continuous use of Vicodin can result in dependence. Unfortunately, legitimate users are often the most common victims of Vicodin abuse and addiction, as many doctors hand the stuff out like candy and patients don't realize the risks involved. So when a legitimate user runs out of their Vicodin prescription, their body sends them messages to get more or else, and individuals will go through Vicodin withdrawal. Along with the uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms of withdrawal comes intense cravings, and individuals will seek out and use more Vicodin to make themselves feel better and achieve the high they got out of using the drug if in fact they were abusing it.
It is no longer a problem that can be swept under the rug, and addiction to prescription drugs is a problem which affects millions of people worldwide. Just in the U.S. alone an estimated 16 million people report having abused prescription drugs in the past year. Around 7 million reported doing so within the past month, 5.1 million of which reported abuse of narcotic pain relievers specifically such as Vicodin. This is not just a problem among adults, and is affecting the youth of the nation which in turn will affect future generations. A very recent study of high school students found that 8.0% of high school seniors had abused Vicodin at least once in the past year.
Individuals who are addicted to Vicodin will obtain the drug by any means necessary and possible, even if it means lying, stealing and becoming involved in serious crime. A common practice for individuals who wish to keep a prescription drug habit going is to "doctor shop", which basically means suckering different doctors into believing one is suffering from this or that ailment until they write a prescription. This type of activity eventually leads to other criminal activity such as writing bad checks, insurance fraud, etc. Some Vicodin addicts will go so far as to commit pharmacy robberies and shoplifting, and addicted individuals will go to any length to obtain the drug.
Because individuals who are abusing Vicodin are obviously not using the drug as prescribed, overdoses are a fairly common occurrence. An overdose can occur for a variety of reasons, but most often because the individuals has taken too much of the drug which can cause respiratory depression, seizures, cardiac arrest and a myriad of other symptoms all of which can be life threatening. A Vicodin overdose is especially likely if the individual is taking the drug along with other drugs or alcohol, which is often the case. Most individuals who overdose on prescription opiates such as Vicodin have anywhere from 2-4 different drugs in their system at the time of death. Most individuals who abuse Vicodin may try and consume amphetamines, cocaine, other prescription medications and alcohol to achieve a better high, which can very easily lead to a fatal overdose.
The above are overdose risks associated with the hydrocodone component of Vicodin, but the acetaminophen component all alone can also put users at risk of overdose. According to the Food and Drug Administration, over half of acetaminophen overdoses are a result of the individual mixing prescription pain relievers such as Vicodin with other over-the-counter products which also include acetaminophen. Because the acetaminophen component of the drug is metabolized solely by the liver, individuals who take too much are at risk of fatal overdose due to severe liver damage. Then add alcohol to the mixture, which is also metabolized by the liver and other vital organs, and the chances of a fatal Vicodin overdose are even higher.
Individuals who abuse Vicodin run the risk of permanently damaging their bodies and lives, or even losing their lives at any moment. For most, the only way to end this struggle is to get help and seek the treatment they need. There are drug rehab programs available which treat prescription drug addiction, where professional drug treatment counselors understand the challenges that individuals who are addicted to Vicodin will face. Get help before it is too late and get professional help through the Vicodin withdrawal process and the process of overcoming Vicodin addiction.
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