Hydrocodone: Abuse, Side Effects, Withdrawal, & Treatment Options

Anyone living in the US today who pays attention to the news is likely aware that the country is steeped in a prescription pill abuse epidemic. Hydrocodone is just one of many opioid painkillers that have contributed to this epidemic of opioid abuse. While it is an effective painkiller, it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. This article will cover the side effects of hydrocodone, the dangers of abuse, and how to find opioid addiction treatment.

What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid medication.  Semi-synthetic opioids are synthesized in a lab from natural opioids such as opium or morphine. Hydrocodone may be prescribed for the management of pain as well as cough.

How Addictive Is Hydrocodone?

Addiction is a primary risk of hydrocodone abuse. In fact, as Healthline notes, hydrocodone is the most abused prescription opioid in the US. The key here is to understand that the addiction risk runs with abuse and not with therapeutic use of the drug in accordance with a prescribing doctor’s orders.

Typically, a person who has a legitimate prescription for hydrocodone will not become addicted. Yet, whether or not a prescribed hydrocodone user has an abuse intention or not, the act of taking too much of this drug can lead to addiction. For recreational hydrocodone users (i.e., those who do not have a diagnosed medical condition for which this drug is indicated and prescribed), the slope is especially slippery.

What Are the Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse?

Person on sitting on ground after abusing drugs

Research shows that there are a host of physical consequences associated with opioid abuse. Some of the risks of abusing hydrocodone long term include:

  • Increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Severe constipation and risk of bowel obstruction.
  • Sleep-disordered breathing
  • Diminished functioning of the immune system (especially in individuals with HIV).
  • In women, irregular menstruation or the absence of it.
  • Lowered fertility in females.
  • Decreased sexual drive.
  • Depletion of testosterone.
  • Galactorrhea in females (i.e., an excessive production of milk).
  • Increased fracture risk in the elderly.
  • Deterioration of white matter in the brain.
  • Dependence.
  • Addiction.

When a person abuses a branded drug that includes hydrocodone and acetaminophen, there are additional risks. Long-term abuse of any drug that includes acetaminophen can lead to liver disease, which can be fatal.

Hydrocodone Treatment & Detox  

For many people who need help to stop abusing hydrocodone, the first they need help with is getting through the withdrawal process.

Individuals who use opioids such as hydrocodone for more than a few weeks will likely develop a physical dependence on the drug. When individuals stop using hydrocodone or significantly reduce their normal dose, the natural process of withdrawal will set in.

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goose bumps
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Detox from hydrocodone is not usually dangerous, but one major risk is relapse. Because withdrawal symptoms can be so intensely uncomfortable, those in detox may return to opioid use for relief. Medical detox can ease the acute withdrawal process and help to prevent relapse. In medical detox, patients receive medications to alleviate symptoms and receive recovery support from staff.

In addition to medications that target specific withdrawal symptoms, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be initiated during or after detox. MAT refers to the use of relapse prevention medications in combination with behavioral therapies. 

MAT medications include methadone, buprenorphine (e.g. Suboxone or Subutex), and naltrexone. The availability of this treatment depends on the rehab center. At Laguna Treatment Hospital, buprenorphine/Suboxone is an option for patients who are interested and for whom this treatment is appropriate.

How to Treat Hydrocodone Addiction

Private room at Laguna

Treatment for hydrocodone may involve inpatient drug rehab or outpatient therapy (or both), as well as aftercare, which refers to recovery efforts that extend beyond initial treatment. This may involve options such as weekly therapy sessions, recovery meetings, sober living, etc.

The treatment plan you need may be different from another person in recovery from opioid addiction. Often, you will have a case manager who helps you create a recovery plan that takes into account factors such as your drug use history, your home environment, the severity of your addiction, and your support network. Adjustments to your treatment plan may be made along the way as you make progress or experience setbacks.

To learn all about our treatment approach and how we can help you today, call us now at .

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We are here to help you get sober and learn how to stay that way. Laguna Treatment Hospital is located in Orange County within easy reach of the entire Los Angeles metro. We are the premier chemical dependency recovery hospital in the OC. We offer safe medical detox, mental health support, and wellness programs.