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Vicodin Addiction: Side Effects, Symptoms & Withdrawal

Chronic pain afflicts 50 million Americans, which is larger than the population of Spain. 20 million of these sufferers have “high impact pain,” which is so severe that it limits their ability to work or engage in life activities. The quest to diminish pain has partially fueled the U.S. opioid crisis.

Vicodin is one of the key players in this crisis, as it’s one of the most widely prescribed and abused drugs in the country. When used recreationally, overused, or used longer than necessary, the hydrocodone and acetaminophen in Vicodin present themselves as twin dangers in a single drug, even when taken as prescribed. Simply put, Vicodin abuse can trigger addiction and even death.

What Is Vicodin?

The first medical use of acetaminophen occurred in 1893. Almost 30 years after that, a German pharmaceutical company named Knoll synthesized hydrocodone. Then in in 1978, Knoll introduced Vicodin to the U.S, and a generic version of the drug hit the market five years later. Norco and Lortab are other well-known drugs with the same ingredients.

Vicodin is available as a tablet, capsule, or liquid, and it packs a potency that rivals morphine. It reduces the experience of pain and replaces it with feelings of pleasure. The latter effect causes  users to get addicted to it. The amount of acetaminophen Vicodin contains is also concerning, as it can damage your liver.

In 2009, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel suggested that the regulatory bodyban medications like Vicodin, due to the risk of overdose and severe liver injury. Two years later, the FDA asked pharmaceutical companies to limit the amount of acetaminophen in its products.

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In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassified Vicodin and other hydrocodone-based drugs from Schedule III to Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act, which restricted access to the drug.

Nevertheless, these controls haven’t stopped users from obtaining Vicodin “via bogus call-in prescriptions, altered prescriptions, theft, and illicit purchases from Internet sources,” according to the DEA.

Unfortunately, these efforts haven’t stemmed the tide in the opiate epidemic either, as Americans keep taking prescription opioidsat a greater rate than any other population in the world.

What Are the Signs of Vicodin Addiction?

Someone can become addicted to opioids, even when they take the medication as prescribed. Like fentanyl, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone, Vicodin carries a high potential for abuse. A user can build up a tolerance to the drug inas little as two weeks.  At this point, a Vicodin dependency is established. What’s more, Vicodin withdrawal symptoms can reveal themselves within a few weeks as well.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)defines drug dependence as the point in which “the body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect (tolerance) and eliciting drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased (withdrawal).”

Withdrawal symptoms are usually a clear indicator of the onset of addiction.

If you suspect that you or your loved one has a Vicodin addiction, then you should watch for these symptoms:  

  • Restlessness
  • Tearing
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Pinpoint pupils

Other withdrawal signs and symptoms include irritability, anxiety, backache, joint pain, weakness, abdominal cramps, insomnia, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased blood pressure.

Compulsively seeking a drug is the mark of addiction. According to the NIDA, addiction is “characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance, and withdrawal.”

When addiction is fully developed, any of these behaviors could manifest themselves:

  • Isolation
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Strong cravings
  • Constantly thinking about Vicodin
  • Using the drug, despite the negative consequences
  • Hiding Vicodin use
  • Going to great lengths to obtain it
  • Not taking the drug as prescribed
  • Taking Vicodin to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling unable to stop using it, despite repeated attempts

What’s Involved in Treatment for Vicodin Addiction?

Opioids can greatly alter your brain chemistry. Treatment addresses the physical and mental imbalances that result from substance abuse. On your road to recovery, the critical first step ismedical detoxification. A detox will rid the body of Vicodin and any related toxins, in order to restore your natural brain chemistry and physical wellbeing.

In this phase, you’ll receive round-the-clock medical care, and you’ll be monitored for any potentially dangerous medical issues. You’ll also be treated for any unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Due to the risks involved with an addiction to Vicodin, the medical staff will wean you off it, in order to alleviate your worst symptoms.

The keywords for any professionally managed detox are safety and comfort, neither of which usually occur if you quit “cold turkey” on your own. If you’ve engaged in polydrug use, you’ll be medically treated for multiple withdrawal symptoms.

The next phase of recovery isresidential treatment, which is one of the most important stages in thecontinuum of care. This treatment can ultimately determine whether your recovery will be successful.Experts say that the longer you stay in residential care, the more likely you’ll be to stay sober.   

In residential treatment, you’ll receive comprehensive therapy to help you get to the root of your addiction. A staff of specialists will tailor your treatment and relapse-prevention plan to your specific needs.  

Here are the most commonly used therapy models:     

  • Group therapy sessions provide you the support you need to know you’re not alone in your addiction recovery journey.
  • You’ll receive personalized treatment to address the emotional issues that contribute to addiction.
  • With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), you’ll receive treatment that addresses the negative thoughts and actions associated with addiction. In this stage, you’ll learn practical strategies and skills to combat old habits.
  • Through dialectical behavioral therapy, you’ll learn about the triggers that lead to substance abuse.
  • In motivational interviewing, you’ll identify key issues, learn how to think positively, and embrace changes that can improve your life.
  • You’ll learn how to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your daily life.
  • Sinceaddiction is often described as a family disease, family therapy will help you heal some of those wounds.
  • In order to ensure your post-treatment success, you’ll go through aftercare planning, which helps prevent relapse.

How Dangerous Is Vicodin?

The overdose symptoms of Vicodin include loss of consciousness, respiratory depression, seizures, comas, and liver failure.

Other signs of an acetaminophen overdose include the following:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Irritability
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Yellowed skin

When used with benzodiazepines or other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, the results are profound sedation, respiratory depression, comas, and death. And snorting or injecting the drug can heighten the prospect of overdose.

Vicodin Abuse Statistics  

An estimated25.3 million adults (11.2 percent) have experienced pain every day for the past three months, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In 2017, 83.6 million prescriptions for drugs containing hydrocodone were dispensed in the U.S.

Start Addiction Recovery Today

Is your loved one struggling with Vicodin abuse or addiction? Are you? If so, it’s important for you to treat it with the seriousness it requires and get help before it’s too late.

For a free and confidential consultation with a specialist at California Highlands, call (855) 935-0303 or contact us online now. These professionals are available around the clock to help you navigate your treatment options, verify your insurance, and answer any questions you might have.

Call Now (951) 402-2075


New York Magazine. (n.d.). Life Without Vicodin? Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic. (2018, October 01). Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names. Retrieved from (n.d.). Vicodin Side Effects in Detail. Retrieved from

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