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Is Vicodin Addictive?

Vicodin is a pain-relieving drug prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain. Vicodin is a synthetic opioid that contains two drugs: hydrocodone and acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). Vicodin activates the same neurotransmitters in the brain as other opiate drugs like heroin. Vicodin is considered a controlled substance because the abuse potential for Vicodin (and other drugs containing hydrocodone) is so high. Unfortunately, many people do not understand how Vicodin works and therefore do not understand its addiction potential before taking it. Like many prescription pain medications, people often believe because a medical provider prescribes Vicodin, it is safe. When taken as prescribed and for the duration prescribed, this is true; however, when misused, Vicodin addiction’s potential is high. 

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Vicodin Abuse in the United States

Is Vicodin Addictive?

Hydrocodone, the main ingredient in Vicodin, is an opioid. Opioids are naturally produced by the brain-altering how neurons communicate with one another. When produced naturally, this effect is safe and healthy. However, man-made opioids like morphine and heroin can also bind to opioid receptors throughout the body. Chemically manufactured to mimic the effects of naturally occurring opioids, these drugs produce a much stronger impact than naturally occurring chemicals. When hydrocodone (also an opioid) binds to receptors in the body, it alters how the user perceives and feels pain. This is why the terms “prescription opioids” and “painkillers” are frequently used interchangeably. Along with pain relief, opioid-based drugs bring about feelings of euphoria. Users often require increasing and more frequent doses over time to achieve the same level of pain relief and euphoric sensation. 


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Understanding Addiction

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Vicodin Addiction?

Like other opioid drugs, Vicodin works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. These are the areas of the brain that control pain and emotion. After ongoing use, the brain begins to adapt to the drug, which reduces its effectiveness at mitigating pain. It also reduces the level of pleasure felt from a “normal” (prescribed) dose or from traditional ways of feeling pleasure, resulting in increasing and recurring doses over time. When someone takes an opioid drug like Vicodin for an extended duration (either by prescription or illegally), they struggle to feel pleasure and euphoria from everyday activities. They crave drugs to achieve these pleasurable feelings. 

Vicodin abuse will also produce various physical, emotional, and behavioral effects. The severity of these will depend on how the drug is used. It can be challenging to recognize a true addiction to Vicodin. This is because some people develop a dependence on their prescription and do not realize it until they try to stop using it.  Dependence can lead to addiction due to the withdrawal symptoms that often accompany a reduction in or stopping use. Common behavioral symptoms associated with Vicodin addiction are similar to those of other drugs. For example:

  • Taking larger doses or taking the drug for longer than prescribed
  • Wanting to cut down on use but not being able to
  • New or worsening cravings and urges to use
  • Inability to attend to work, school, or home obligations without using
  • Continuing to use despite known harmful consequences
  • Drug-seeking behavior or doctor shopping to get new or “replacement” prescriptions
  • Developing a tolerance
  • Development of withdrawal symptoms

Ongoing use of Vicodin can also result in physical and mental health symptoms. Common physical symptoms may include fatigue, dizziness, gastric upset, slowed breathing, slowed heart rate, muscle aches and cramps, and intense feelings of euphoria and calm. Users may also experience new or worsening mental health symptoms related to anxiety and depression. These are often intensified when they try to reduce or stop taking the drug if they have developed a dependence on it. 

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Vicodin Withdrawal & the Need for Detox

Once someone develops a physical or emotional dependence on Vicodin, addiction becomes more likely. Withdrawing from Vicodin can produce intense and painful symptoms. In some cases, people will do whatever is necessary to avoid these symptoms. This can include illegally obtaining Vicodin, requesting prescriptions for longer than necessary from their doctors, or doctor shopping to get new prescriptions in an effort to avoid detoxing or stopping use entirely. Once an addiction to Vicodin has developed, professional addiction treatment and medically assisted detox are the most successful ways to defeat an addiction and achieve sobriety. Medically assisted detox offers support and therapy in a setting designed to ease discomfort and stress associated with detox.  Without comprehensive support, many users who try to “cold turkey” withdraw from Vicodin will experience relapse as symptoms become overwhelming and too difficult to manage. 

In a medically supervised detox setting, highly trained addiction treatment professionals can help you manage your symptoms and progress through detox successfully. The intensity and severity of the symptoms you will experience during detox will depend significantly on your unique addiction. Those who have struggled with an addiction to Vicodin for an extended time will likely experience more significant symptoms than those who took Vicodin as prescribed for a short duration. During medically assisted detox, medical providers will monitor your vitals and ensure your health and safety throughout. Most people experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as 24 hours after taking their last dose. Again, depending on your addiction’s severity, withdrawal symptoms will last for a few days to a few weeks. In an inpatient treatment setting, medical providers may utilize specific medications approved to help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and make the detox process more comfortable. Once you have completed detox, transitioning to an addiction treatment program designed to specifically manage Vicodin addiction provides the best opportunities for continued sobriety.

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How to Find a Vicodin Treatment Program Near You

Addiction is unique to the individual, and therefore it is essential treatment be individualized. Although there are several thousand addiction treatment centers across the nation, not all of them provide the same treatment level or specialize in all addiction treatment areas. Therefore, if you have decided it’s time to seek treatment for a Vicodin addiction, it is essential to find an inpatient rehab that will meet your unique treatment needs and goals. At My Recovery Source, we have researched the best rehabs across the nation and can help guide you in the right direction to begin your addiction treatment journey. If it’s time to get clean from a Vicodin addiction, reach out to the team at My Recovery Source today. Let our caring and compassionate professionals help you find a Vicodin treatment program near you. 

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