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Over the past few years, Vicodin has gained some
notoriety as one of the most abused of painkillers. Affordable and easily
accessible, the rate at which this medication is abused almost doubled in the
past 10 years. Today, estimates put the number of Americans suffering from
Vicodin addiction at over 2 million.
Further, prescription drug use, abuse, dependence, and
addiction have been increasing among all age groups with Vicodin among the most
abused. While some use the drug recreationally, others become addicts
accidentally while using it following a prescription from their doctor.
Further, since the original use was authorized by a
medical practitioner and the drug is so widely available, it is not surprising
that many addicts are in denial - which is why few seek treatment for Vicodin
Read on to learn more:
A blend containing acetaminophen (an analgesic) and
hydrocodone (a synthetic narcotic), Vicodin is commonly prescribed for treating
moderate-to-severe pain. The hydrocodone component contains a strong opioid
painkiller while acetaminophen is comprised of a milder non-steroid painkiller.
Whereas hydrocodone is the more addictive of the two,
acetaminophen is responsible for most of the dangers associated with Vicodin addiction.
More specifically, taking more of this medication might cause liver damage on
account of the acetaminophen component.
Vicodin combines hydrocodone and acetaminophen in
different portions to provide relief from severe pain resulting from injury or
surgery. This combination of ingredients packs greater pain killing power, but
might also be dangerous than either component taken on its own.
That said, Vicodin has been designed to work in two ways.
First, it effectively blocks the neurological pathways which lead to pain
sensations. Second, it will enhance the action of the primary neurotransmitter
in the body (dopamine), which trigger the pleasure receptors of the brain and
Unfortunately, Vicodin is quite similar in chemical
composition to heroin. Similarly, it is such an addictive drug that many users
are likely to become dependent on it in as little as a couple of days.
As is the case with most prescription drugs, Vicodin
addicts include those who use it recreationally and those who become addicted
accidentally while using the drug for the purpose their doctor prescribed.
Accidental addiction includes those who received a
Vicodin prescription to treat severe pain such as from surgery. However, they
continued using the drug to relieve chronic, albeit less severe pain, from such
conditions as back pain and migraines.
That said, Vicodin is quite effective because it both
blocks the pain receptors inside the pain while also inducing euphoria.
However, this also means that it is also quite addictive and many users have a
hard time quitting.
As a strong opiate painkiller, Vicodin is quite popular
in the US. For instance, 112 million doses of the drug were prescribed in 2006.
This number grew to 131 million by 2011, making the medication highly over
prescribed. This means that people might not need such a strong painkiller or
they have been getting it for far longer than they ought to.
Despite the fact that there are many dangers of
addiction, close to 1 out of every 5 high school teens have tried Vicodin at
one point or the other. Some of these teenagers eventually become addicted to
the drug. This might be attributed to the fact that the medication isn't as
heavily regulated as other prescription drugs, which eventually contributes to
its wide availability and extensive distribution.
That said, Vicodin is now associated with a wide range of
negative effects. These include the ordinary short term symptoms of regular use
as well as long term effects, such as mental decline, withdrawal symptoms, and
Consider the following:
When you take Vicodin over the short term, you are highly
likely to experience the following:
If you take too much of this medication, you might also
suffer from seizures and convulsions, and eventually slip into a coma.
When you continue taking and abusing the medication in
the long term, you are likely to suffer another set of effects. The most
predominant of these is the addiction, which will eventually set other changes
For instance, the drug might change you from a honest,
loving, trustworthy, and reliable person into someone even you won't be able to
recognize. Your addiction may compel you to cheat and steal, neglect your
family and work, and commit petty crimes such as doctor shopping and stealing
Vicodin from a pharmacy or an acquaintance.
It won't take much for you to start feeling the effects
of normal Vicodin use. Even among those who have been following a prescription
or taking the drug casually, the following side effects are likely to crop up:
If you continue taking Vicodin for a long time, it might
also cause medical and health issues, including:
Since Vicodin depresses the central nervous system to
block pain receptors, it also naturally decreases heart rate and respirations.
This is particularly so if you take it in large doses.
With time, taking this medication on a daily basis might
lead to increased dosage. Prolonged use may cause you to need more of the
hydrocodone component in your system as you long to recreate the original
effects of euphoria.
Although doctors are yet to understand the reasons behind
tolerance to Vicodin, this might be a signal that you are increasingly
dependent on the medication. Although chemical dependence and increased
tolerance do not characterize full addiction, might coincide. Further, there
might be indicators that you are becoming addicted to the drug.
After the original pleasurable effects from hydrocodone
wear off, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms will take
over after you become physically dependent on the drug.
Vicodin users and abusers might suffer from both
psychological and physical dependence. It won't take long, for instance, for
you to build high tolerance for the drug, which is why doctors are likely to
refuse to prescribe it to individuals with a history of mental illness or
Although you might eventually use Vicodin recreationally,
you should keep in mind that it was designed for prescription use every 4 to 6
hours. If you consume too much of the drug within a short period, you are
likely to become dependent on it and start developing intense cravings for
As you tolerance increases, the original effects of the
medication may diminish, further intensifying your cravings. These cravings
might compel you to take more of the drug than was prescribed ending in your
becoming dependent on Vicodin, as well as being addicted to it.
Vicodin works by blocking the brain's pain receptors.
However, it also creates feelings of relaxation and euphoria, which tend to be
addictive. Over time, you might become tolerant to the drug and require more of
it to recreate the original effects you experienced when you first took it. Not
surprisingly, some addicts report to taking anywhere between 20 and 30 pills a
As a central nervous system depressant, Vicodin works by
naturally decreasing respiration and heart rate. This means that abusing the
drug is deadly since it carries a high risk of overdose, particularly when
combined with other central nervous depressants such as alcohol, or another
barbiturate, or opiate.
If you take too much of this medication, your heart rate
may slow down even to the point of death. Abusing the drug over the long term
also increases the negative side effects you are likely to experience.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, the
following are some of the symptoms of Vicodin:
Among the problems accompanying Vicodin abuse is
withdrawal, the symptoms to which might set in if you reduce your dose or try
to wait longer before taking your next dose. It is because of these withdrawal
symptoms that many users decide not to seek treatment or start a recovery
The unpleasant effects of withdrawing from this drug are
likely to set in immediately after you stop taking the medication abruptly.
These symptoms include, but are not limited to:
Using and abusing Vicodin on a regular basis is
dangerous. In fact, recent studies cite this drug as being among the top
illicit medications that are highly likely to lead to drug-related accidents
and fatalities. Further, the drug might even result in serious injury or death,
particularly if you decide to combine it with other substances.
As an opioid painkiller containing hydrocodone and
acetaminophen, Vicodin is dangerous due to its acetaminophen component. To this
end, taking more than the recommended acetaminophen might lead to liver damage
or even death in some dire cases.
The symptoms of Vicodin use, tolerance, abuse,
dependence, and addiction vary from one person to another. These signs and
symptoms will most likely depend on how long you have been abusing the drug,
and might include:
As you can see, the effects and symptoms arising from
Vicodin abuse are quite serious. More specifically, the withdrawal symptoms are
so severe that if you try to cure your addiction without medical help, the
chances are quite high that you might eventually end up in relapse.
To this need, one of the most effective options for
treating addiction to such an addiction involves checking into and receiving
treatment from a residential rehabilitation facility, where there will be teams
of medical professionals and counselors to help you deal with the problem.
At the facility, the first step might involve a
detoxification process as supervised by a medical team. Although detoxification
takes some time, it will eventually remove most of the traces of the drug from
your body and system. Detoxification will usually be used in addition to such
synthetic opiates as Suboxone, which will take over from Vicodin and alleviate
your withdrawal symptoms.
At the second stage of your treatment, your medical team
might prescribe intensive therapy lasting for a couple of weeks. Over this
period, the therapists may help you explore your predicament, those issues that
eventually led to your dependency on the drug, as well as alternative ways to
deal with and manage and manage these issues.
In case you are at risk of chronic pain, the medical team
may teach you several pain management techniques that have nothing to do with
Vicodin. These include meditation, self-hypnosis, as well as biofeedback.
However, you should remember that pain management is only
a small part of your treatment. Since you might be suffering from other
psychological and emotional issues on top of your Vicodin addiction, you may be
assigned to attending group and individual therapy sessions.
After the therapy improves your situation enough, you
might be allowed to leave the addiction treatment facility, at which point your
doctor will recommend after care as the third and, hopefully, last step.
During aftercare, you will still have to attend Narcotics
Anonymous, outpatient therapy, and continued medication use. As with any other
substance abuse and addiction, you may want to continue remaining alert, as
well as vigilant about the real possibility of relapse. Last but not least, you
need to continue with aftercare over the long haul until your doctor informs
you that you are well enough to stop attending these sessions.
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