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Vicodin is a combination of the opiate painkiller hydrocodone and the medicine Acetaminophen. Vicodin is usually prescribed for moderate to severe pain, and it tends to be prescribed for short-term pain relief. Vicodin, and all other hydrocodone products, are habit-forming drugs. Vicodin addiction can develop if you take more of the drug than prescribed, take it more often than prescribed, or take it without a prescription. It is possible to become dependent on it even when taking it as prescribed, so it is extremely important to exercise caution when given a Vicodin prescription.
Vicodin Effects and Side Effects
Vicodin is a painkilling narcotic drug, which means that its essential and intended effects are sedation and pain relief. As with most medications, however, Vicodin does have some potential side effects.
MedlinePlus describes the following potential side effects:
- Fuzzy thinking
- Abnormally happy or abnormally sad mood
- Dry throat
- Difficulty urinating
Some side effects of Vicodin are dangerous. If you experience any of the following effects while under the influence of the medication it is important to call your doctor or 911 immediately:
- Slowed or irregular breathing
- Chest tightness
It is possible to overdose on Vicodin, which means taking more of the drug than your body can handle. Overdosing on opiates is very dangerous, and can cause a person’s death. In fact, opiate overdoses are becoming more common as a cause of death in the United States.
Recognizing the signs of an overdose is important, and can help to ensure you get the attention you need. If you or someone you are with experiences any of the following Vicodin overdose signs call 911 or get to a hospital right away:
- Narrowed or widened pupils
- Slow, shallow or stopped breathing
- Slowed or stopped heartbeat
- Cold, clammy or blue skin
- Excessive sleepiness
- Loss of consciousness
Signs of Vicodin Abuse and Addiction
If you are worried that someone you love is becoming addicted to or abusing Vicodin there are some signs and symptoms to look out for. Similarly, if you are taking Vicodin yourself and are unsure whether your use is becoming a problem, looking out for changes in your behavior, physical or psychological health may help you determine if so.
Someone who is abusing Vicodin may be ‘doctor shopping’ to get more prescriptions, may be finishing their prescriptions early, and may be asking friends or family members for their own painkiller prescriptions. Once a person loses control of their drug use, they may be developing an addiction.
The Semel Institute of UCLA describes certain behavioral and physical signs of Vicodin addiction. Behavioral signs of opiate addictions include:
- Taking more Vicodin than recommended or directed by a physician
- Frequently trying to cut back on drug use but failing
- Making sacrifices to obtain drugs
Physical symptoms may include:
- Physical tolerance, or needing to take larger doses in order to feel the same effects as previous
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop or decrease your use of the drug
- Impaired physical sensations
- Slowed breathing
One thing to keep in mind is that people who are engaging in Vicodin abuse will likely try to hide it. Due to the nature of addiction and substance abuse, people tend to lie about their drug use and may do their best to hide it until it goes too far. Changes in their hangouts, their performance in work or at school and their self-care may also indicate that someone is using drugs. If you suspect that a loved one is abusing Vicodin you should seek help now.
Vicodin withdrawal is a collection of symptoms that are experienced when someone who is dependent on the drug abruptly stops using it. Withdrawal symptoms from Vicodin are both physical and psychological in nature and are sometimes described similar to a terrible flu.
Vicodin withdrawal is usually accompanied by drug cravings which can make it very hard to stay abstinent. It is important to keep in mind when going through withdrawal, however, that the symptoms do pass. Most physical withdrawal symptoms, in fact, dissipate within a week. Psychological withdrawal symptoms have been known to linger longer in some people, though they will be gone within a few months at most.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, some of the symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal may include:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
- Goose bumps
Treatment for Vicodin Addiction
Vicodin addiction treatment and recovery is possible. Through the help of counseling, support groups, and medication, it is possible to successfully and effectively stop using Vicodin. Treatment may take place in a variety of settings, and it can include several different elements.
The best kinds of treatment will tailor the treatment approach to your situation, as an individualized treatment approach is most effective. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some other facets of effective treatment are the ability to address multiple needs of the individual in treatment, to provide an adequate treatment length, and to continue treatment after detox. An adequate treatment length is generally believed to be longer than 90 days to be of lasting effectiveness. Treatment should also seek to identify and treat any mental health challenges a person is struggling with.
Detox is seen as the first part of treatment, and is the process of ridding the body of Vicodin and any other drugs or alcohol. During detox, individuals experience withdrawal symptoms as their bodies are reacting to not having the drug anymore. Vicodin detox is also associated with strong cravings for the drug.
During detox treatment the focus is mainly on ensuring the patient is safe and comfortable. Medical monitoring and monitoring of the person’s emotional and psychological health is essential at this time. Medications may be prescribed at this stage to help prevent cravings and to remedy withdrawal symptoms. According to Harvard Health Publications, methadone may be prescribed during detox, starting with a high dose which is gradually reduced. Clonidine is sometimes prescribed to shorten withdrawal time and relieve physical symptoms. Detox takes about a week, after which other kinds of treatment begin.
Medications Used in Vicodin Rehab
Vicodin addiction treatment often involves medication therapy. Medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and Suboxone are prescribed to help people cope with cravings and to prevent relapse. According to Harvard Health, people who are on medication therapy are less depressed, more likely to hold a job and maintain family life, less likely to commit crimes, and less likely to contract HIV or hepatitis than those who are not on the medications.
Medication therapy usually starts while a person is in rehab and continues for at least a year after treatment. The most common medications at this time are:
- Methadone: The oldest medication for opioid dependence, methadone is prescribed in daily doses and must be obtained at special clinics.
- Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is taken three times a week and can be prescribed by general practitioners, which may make it easier to obtain.
- Suboxone: Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone which is less likely to be abused than just buprenorphine. It is also obtained from a general doctor.
Counseling and Therapy
An important component in Vicodin addiction recovery is counseling. Addiction is more than just a physical dependence on drugs. According to WebMD there are many factors, including environmental and social influences, emotional states, and mental health challenges, that lead to drug use and can cause a relapse episode. Counseling and psychotherapy helps people cope with and recognize these things in an effort to help people stay abstinent from drugs and alcohol.
Different types of therapy used in Vicodin addiction treatment may include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps people recognize ‘triggers’ that may lead to drug use, such as a certain environment or social setting. It helps people recognize patterns of thought, feeling and behavior that lead to drug use. CBT can be done in a one-on-one setting or in groups.
- Contingency Management (CM): Therapists use CM to motivate clients to remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol. CM consists of a system of vouchers or rewards which are given for meeting treatment goals.
- Family Therapy: Involving the client’s family in treatment is very important. Getting support from loved ones helps to empower and motivate people to achieve recovery and avoid relapse. It also helps family members understand how they can help their loved one achieve these goals, and helps them heal from the effects of their loved one’s addiction.
Most treatment programs will begin with detox treatment, which lasts for about a week though the timing varies depending on the individual. After detox treatment usually consists of a combination of the elements described above; counseling and medication.
Vicodin addiction treatment can take place in a variety of settings including:
- Inpatient, residential treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Partial hospitalization
- Support groups
- Sober living homes
Each of these types of programs has its pros and cons, and the program you ultimately choose will depend on your personal situation. Factors that may help you decide on a program include its cost and location, your history of drug abuse and the quality of your existing support system.
Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous are helpful to people during and after rehab, and many people in recovery from Vicodin addiction will continue to attend meetings throughout their lives.