Vicodin is the brand name of the drug hydrocodone, a potent opioid painkiller that is usually prescribed to treat moderate or severe pain. Made from a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, which is a non-narcotic, over-the-counter pain reliever, Vicodin is also very frequently abused. Most people who abuse it do so for the effects it produces. Does Vicodin get you high? Yes, in fact, using this particular medication other than as prescribed is often described as euphoric. People who abuse this drug often do so for its sedative effects.
With a startling 136 million prescriptions written for hydrocodone-containing products in 2013 alone, misuse and abuse of Vicodin is a nationwide concern. Addiction to prescription opioids has grown to epidemic proportions and touches millions, without regard to age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class. More than 24 million people abused hydrocodone at some point in their lives, according to 2013 data from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). And young people are affected as well—the DEA reported that 5.3% of 12th graders used Vicodin recreationally in the year prior to their survey.
What Kind of High Does Vicodin Give?
Millions of men and women across the country are prescribed opioid narcotics like Vicodin for chronic pain and in many cases what begins as a legitimate pharmacological treatment eventually develops into physical and psychological dependence. If you or someone you know has been abusing Vicodin, seeking professional addiction treatment is very important.
People tend to mistakenly believe that because this medication is initially prescribed by a medical professional, there is no risk of abuse and it is generally safe to use. The truth is that Vicodin addiction can ultimately lead to overdose-related death and a series of other serious health-related issues.
Vicodin Addiction & Risks
Part of the problem with Vicodin abuse is the casual attitude many doctors and patients have toward prescription painkillers. Does Vicodin get you high? It’s one of the effects of taking the medication and a major reason addiction happens swiftly.
What are the most common ways people abuse Vicodin? It’s so powerful in pill form there isn’t any reason to take it any other way. Due to the fast-acting pain relief, many people become addicted to it quickly. Also, it’s the allure of being undetected. It’s more difficult for family members, co-workers, and friends to know you’re on it unless behavioral issues become apparent. Marijuana has a distinct smell that almost anyone can distinguish. Alcohol severely impairs and is also very detectable, while Vicodin drug prescriptions are easily kept secret as long as the user doesn’t run out. The most common way to abuse Vicodin drugs is to combine them with other substances. A few beers, a joint, and the norco drug were known as a “killer cocktail” because of their extreme risk of overdose.
When Vicodin is taken as prescribed for a short time period (days) after surgery, there is typically no issue discontinuing the medication, according to Mayo Clinic. Prolonged use of opioids may create a tolerance for the drug and require partnering with your doctor to taper off it to ease withdrawal symptoms.
Can Vicodin Use Lead to Heroin Use?
Evidence suggests that any kind of opioid abuse raises the risk of eventual heroin use. Several factors contribute to this. As a user continues to misuse an opioid drug like hydrocodone (Vicodin), they become tolerant to the drug. As tolerance gets stronger and the subjective effects of Vicodin, in turn, get weaker, users may transition to heroin for a more potent high.
Opioid medications tend to be very expensive when compared to the price of heroin on the street. Users who are no longer financially able to support their addiction may switch over to heroin to get similar effects at a lower price. Preventing opioid abuse is key to ensuring Vicodin abuse doesn’t lead to heroin addiction. Heroin is often easier to get than prescription opioids, so in the absence of Vicodin, a person battling Vicodin addiction may look to heroin to get their high and relieve withdrawal. Does Vicodin get you high? Yes, but heroin is often more potent and simply easier to access.
Development of a Vicodin Dependence
Every abuser approaches their Vicodin addiction differently. It’s too irresponsible to say exactly how someone will act, but many people share common traits. They become irritable, dismissive, unresponsive, etc. In my experience, I became quiet which made it nearly impossible to tell I was under the influence of pain pills. How long does it take you to get addicted to Vicodin drugs? Sometimes it’s instantaneous. Unfortunately, it all depends on you and your tolerance and mental strength to know you’re addicted to hydrocodone and what to do next.
Addiction hijacks your brain and can take control of almost everything you do. The behavior is also very dependent on the situation. This is why creating strong communication channels are imperative to notice slight differences. Spotting a significant change is easy but what about the small behavior changes of a loved one. How to handle a loved one that is an addict is never an easy situation, but necessary to help them avoid addiction. Another huge sign of dependence is seeing Vicodin withdrawal symptoms. The effect of hydrocodone is typical of the flu, but when the user uses high dosages the side effects can be much more severe. It’s not uncommon to see hallucinations or experience extreme pain for sometimes 48 hours.
Know Your Dosages
When prescribed, Vicodin dosages come in three varieties. They follow the strength chart below, but the following are the most common.
- ES 7.5mg/300mg
- HP 10mg/300mg
All of these require the patient to take a pill every four to six hours, as needed, without exceeding 6 pills per day. The 5mg pill has a higher limit of 8 times a day due to the lower dosage. Each of these pills is prescribed in either 100 to 500 pill bottles. Even following the directions sometimes leads to a Vicodin withdrawal depending on the person. Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms are not at all uncommon even after following the recommended dosage, and that’s why “as needed” is added to the label.
The Rising Overdose Prevalence
The Vicodin addiction and overdose death rate is still increasing at a dramatic rate. According to the CDC, over 200,000 people died from prescription opioids from 1999 to 2016. The really scary fact is there were five times the amount of overdoses in 2016 as there were in 1999. In 2016, over 64,000 overdoses from hydrocodone-related pills were recorded. Overdoses typically occur between the ages of 25 to 64 and 33% more prevalent among men than women in 2016. In places like Colorado, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled since 2002. With a very low tolerance, an overdose can occur at 1,000 mg if ingested in 1 day.
High tolerances can withstand 4,000 mg, but most likely not withstand the liver damage associated with that high of exposure. At 7,000 mg, death is almost inevitable. No tolerance could withstand this high of a dose. If you or a loved one is experiencing trouble breathing, dark urine, yellowing eyes, and skin, you may be in the early stages of an overdose. Unfortunately, the long-term effects of Vicodin dependence are not fully known, because of the variety of variables. Even with responsible use over time, you can expect to develop liver damage and abnormal brain activity. The user should do whatever they can to get away from long-term usage by dealing with the root cause of the pain they are experiencing. Why subject yourself to the possibility of developing a tolerance to hydrocodone if it’s not necessary.
Here’s What to Expect on a Taper Protocol
Unfortunately, there are many Vicodin tapering and painkiller recovery stories that don’t end well. The trauma your body and mind go through when abusing any form of hydrocodone is substantial. This is why abiding by the rules of a Norco dosage and using it “as needed” is vital to remain in control during the life of your prescription. Even with perfect tapering, common withdrawal symptoms are sometimes unavoidable. Creating a Vicodin withdrawal timeline is very difficult because it’s different for everyone.
Insomnia, anxiety, and depression can last indefinitely after prolonged usage. In more severe states, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, and sore and aching muscles are the body’s way of flushing out the toxins of the drug. If you can avoid relapsing, slowly tapering off of the Vicodin addiction is always best. However, creating the right environment may be difficult. This is when professional help is something you should consult, because the degree of discipline required may be overwhelming to successfully maneuver the tapering. A typical hydrocodone tapering protocol may include:
- 10mg less each week for the first 40 days and then reducing them by 5 mg decreases after 40 days
When you reach the 10mg to the 5mg range without any pain or discomfort you know that you’re close to your goal. Continue to taper to an every other day schedule and until the effects are nonexistent. Proper diet and light exercise need to be part of every tapering protocol. This aids the body in flushing out the toxins and restoring a positive routine. Consult your doctor for correct nutrition plans and exercise routines. Typically the intensity of the exercise program will increase as the dosage decreases.
Finding Help for Vicodin Addiction
AspenRidge Recovery offers a phased approach to treatment and has a highly reputable and effective program that involves a 90-day partial hospitalization program, intensive outpatient care, and an alumni support program that aids in maintaining sobriety even after program completion.
AspenRidge is a confidential recovery center located in Fort Collins and Lakewood, Colorado. AspenRidge understands the challenges that arise from opioid use. We offer access to self-assessment tools that may provide more clarity on how to address or prevent opioid abuse. These assessments are five to ten minutes in length and they connect you with a specialist who can discuss the assessment results and guide you through recovery steps.