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Vicodin Addiction


What is Vicodin?

Vicodin pills are used to relieve the user of pain. It consists of Hydrocodone, an opioid which helps relieve pain, and Acetaminophen, which helps increase the effects of Hydrocodone. Vicodin is an addictive medicine, and it can get dangerous when abused because excess of Hydrocodone can slow or stop breathing and excess of Acetaminophen causes damage to liver.

Vicodin is not to be ingested if allergies to Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Hydrocodone exists. Consumption of alcohol, sedatives, tranquilizers or other narcotic medicines before consuming Vicodin is harmful. The doctor should be aware of the existence of the following conditions before prescription of Vicodin – liver disease, cirrhosis, alcoholism or drug addiction, diarrhea, constipation, kidney disease, low blood pressure, dehydration, history of head injury or stroke, asthma and other breathing disorders. Breast-feeding women should not take Vicodin as it has the potential to pass into the breast milk and harm the baby. Since Vicodin is a need based medicine, skipping a dose is not harmful. Making up for skipped doses by consuming more pills can lead to overdose.

What are the various signs and symptoms of Vicodin abuse?

Vicodin is very effective in pain management, however our bodies can develop tolerance for the drug, making it addictive. Vicodin dependence occurs when higher doses of drug is needed to achieve the same effect. However if there comes a need to consume more to help the pain, it is always advisable to consult the doctor before changing or increasing the dose.

Some of the signs and symptoms of Vicodin abuse are slurred speech, memory problems, concentration problem, drowsiness, impaired judgment, lack of coordination, impaired social functioning, mood swings and difficulty in sexual functioning.

Vicodin and Alcohol

Alcohol and Vicodin are often consumed together. This is potentially harmful as the individual abuse of both damages the liver. Alcohol works as a hepatotoxic agent, it lowers the threshold of the body being poisoned by Acetaminophen. That means Acetaminophen can harm the body faster. Liver toxicity is the major problem, with diseases like hepatic cancer, cirrhosis and fatty liver. There can also be cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, stroke or cardiac arrest. Breast, mouth, throat cancer is also a possibility with a long term abuse. Other than these, there could be breathing difficulties, bone fractures, hormone disturbance and impaired decision making.

Vicodin Addiction

Most of Vicodin addiction comes with the abusers intentionally consuming the drug recreationally. However some users who start Vicodin as a prescription drug for their pain, start abusing it by increasing the frequency or dose of intake. The fact that Vicodin is readily available as a legal prescription medicine makes abuse easier. Vicodin addiction comes with behavioral and physical signs of addiction.

  • Behavioral: The major sign is intake of the drug after the cause has stopped. This also includes using the drug for minor pains such as headaches or back pains. If the tolerance towards the drug has increased, that is if a higher dosage of drug is needed to rid the body of the pain, it hints towards addiction. Addicted users often go to multiple doctors or other illegal sources to obtain Vicodin. The abuser often is in a constant state of denial and has rational reasons for their abuse of Vicodin. Mood swings, difficulty in concentration and focus, and withdrawal from social activities and relationships are also signs of addiction.
  • Physical: Since the drug works by reducing pain, increase in pain is one sign of the body increasing its tolerance towards the drug. Long-term effects of Vicodin addiction are liver damage, heart problems, impaired brain function and cognitive difficulties (trouble concentrating or learning). Short-term symptoms of withdrawal are nausea, irregular heartbeat, dizziness and insomnia.

Teen Abuse

The common perception that teenagers have about prescription drugs like Vicodin is that it is not as harmful as the illegal drugs. This leads to development of addiction towards Vicodin. Teenagers also abuse Vicodin along with alcohol, mixing it with the drink to increase the recreational feeling it gives. That is potentially harmful to the teenagers.

Vicodin Abuse Treatment and Dealing with Withdrawal

Withdrawal from Vicodin use may result in several withdrawal symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive sweating, agitation, body and stomach pain, loss of appetite, fever, insomnia, nervousness and even depression.

Treatment for drug abuse happens in two ways: inpatient and outpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment requires the patient to stay at the rehab facility for the length of the treatment. This warrants intensive treatment for the problem. Outpatient treatment requires the patient to check in with the doctors every day of the week, except for weekends and holidays. In the inpatient treatment chances of relapsing are very low due to lack of access to drugs within the facility. Further the distractions of day-to-day life are lesser in the facility. 24/7 care is provided in the inpatient treatment, which could help long term users.

Since the withdrawal symptoms of Vicodin can be hard to deal with, an inpatient treatment is a better option. There are medications to help reduce some of the withdrawal symptoms, like Clonidine is used to treat agitation, sweating and muscle aches. Naltrexoneand Buprenorphine (blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system) are used to treat addiction to Vicodin. However just medication will not help get rid of Vicodin addiction, additional methods are:

  • Behavioral therapies: Behavioral therapy maps out ways to help end the use of Vicodin, reach a recovery period, and outlines ways to avoid future dependence on it. One form it takes is the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a psychotherapy treatment that aims at changing patterns of thinking or behavior that underlie the habit or addiction. Sometimes Motivational Interventions are used to improve the user’s motivation towards change, i.e., away from dependency of drug. Another kind is the Contingency Management which works with conditioning (the user to change), using stimuli (to establish the change) and finally consequences (that deals with the user having to adapt to change).
  • Counseling
  • Education: For the user, their friends and family to notice and help with addiction signs and symptoms, and help them not relapse back to using the drug.
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