5 Consequences of Hydrocodone Recreational Use and Abuse

Hydrocodone, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), is used to “relieve moderate-to-severe pain” and to “relieve cough.” It is a prescription drug, and therefore, should only be used as at the dosage prescribed by a doctor. Unfortunately, many people abuse hydrocodone for its pain relieving and euphoric effects that high doses can cause.

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid and, with its ability to treat both cough and pain, it can often be found in many homes. As stated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “Hydrocodone can be obtained from illicit internet sources, altered or fraudulent prescriptions, doctor shopping, drug theft, and from friends or acquaintances.” While many individuals do not consider the consequences of the recreational use and abuse of hydrocodone, they can be problematic for the abusers as well as friends and loved ones, not to mention dangerous and sometimes, even deadly.

1. Overdose

One of the common and most dangerous consequences of hydrocodone abuse is the possibility for overdose. The NLM states, “Hydrocodone overdose occurs when someone intentionally or accidentally takes too much medicine” containing this particular opioid drug. When a person overdoses on hydrocodone, there is a chance that they could experience severe respiratory depression to the point where they stop breathing altogether.

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Many people who are alone when they overdose on hydrocodone fall asleep, not able to realize that they are in need of medical help. In many cases, this can cause brain damage, coma, or even death. If someone overdoses on hydrocodone, they must be treated immediately or there is a possibility that they may not live.

If you think someone you know has overdosed on hydrocodone, look for the signs. They include:

  • Narrowed pupils
    • This is sometimes called pinpoint pupils because they look like the head of a pin. Doctors check for this sign to see if the patient is intoxicated from opioids or some other drug.
  • Shallow, slow, or no breathing
    • Respiratory depression is the deadliest aspect of hydrocodone overdose.
  • Clammy skin
  • Blue skin, fingernails, lips
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Loss of consciousness

2. Hydrocodone Withdrawal Syndrome

Hydrocodone Recreational Use

Nausea and anxiety are common hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms.

Even though the hydrocodone withdrawal syndrome is not life-threatening or as dangerous as other withdrawal syndromes are, people who have been abusing hydrocodone for weeks or longer who suddenly stop will experience intense muscle and bone pain, depression, and insomnia among other uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

This issue can often cause hydrocodone abusers to continue using the drug recreationally instead of stopping; they do not want to experience the intense symptoms associated with narcotic withdrawal so they continue to abuse the drug. This can lead to other, more dangerous consequences as a result of hydrocodone abuse.

Other withdrawal symptoms experienced by hydrocodone abusers are:

    • Restlessness
    • Runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal pain

3. Heroin Abuse

Many younger individuals who start out abusing prescription drugs that contain hydrocodone and other opioids soon become tolerant to the effects of the drug. This means that, over time, it takes much more than the original amount for them to feel the effects. Often, they will then decide to turn to another substance.

According to the NIDA, “Prescription opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin [the second of which contains hydrocodone] can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and research now suggests that abuse of these drugs may actually open the door to heroin abuse.” After a survey of younger individuals who abuse heroin was taken, it was found that nearly half of them abused prescription opioids before they started taking heroin.

There are many dangerous of prescription opioid abuse, and hydrocodone can be deadly. But heroin is extremely addictive and dangerous, and not just for the same reasons hydrocodone is. As stated by CESAR, “Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses (pus-filled infections), liver disease,” etc., as well as issues from additives in the drug itself that can clog the blood vessels.

4. Mental Disorders

When a person abuses a drug like hydrocodone, there is a possibility that, over time, it can cause even larger problems to occur, not just physically but mentally as well. The NIDA states that drug abusers are “twice as likely” to have another type of mental disorder, such as:

  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Alcoholism
  • Psychosis
  • Bipolar Disorder

We cannot always know if a co-occurring mental disorder was caused by a drug use disorder in a particular individual, but we do know that “drug abuse may bring about symptoms of another mental disorder.” If someone is vulnerable to this type of issue, drug abuse will only make it worse.

5. Addiction

Hydrocodone, like all other opioid drugs, is addictive when taken for the wrong reasons, at the wrong dosage, or without a prescription entirely. The drug is habit-forming and soon abusers begin to crave it. They will also experience tolerance to the drug’s effects which will often make them just want to take more.

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47,300* People Addicted
23,100* Getting Help
8,209* Deaths
*Statistic from 2015

Drug addiction can cause problems in every aspect of an individual’s life. If you think you may be addicted to hydrocodone, ask yourself the questions below.

  • Do you feel that your use of hydrocodone is not under your control?
  • Do you feel like you need the drug just to feel normal?
  • Do you ever abuse hydrocodone when you’re alone?
  • Have all other aspects of your life, even ones that you used to care deeply about, become less interesting to you?
  • Have you ever experienced overdose and/or withdrawal symptoms as a result of your hydrocodone abuse?
  • Are your friends and family worried about the amount of hydrocodone you abuse?
  • Has your hydrocodone abuse caused problems for you at work or in school to the point of you becoming criticized, fired, etc.?
  • Are you experiencing financial problems because you spend all of your money on hydrocodone?
  • Are you unhappy unless you are taking hydrocodone?
  • Do you only want to spend time with others who abuse hydrocodone?
  • Have you experienced legal problems as a result of your hydrocodone abuse?
  • Do you feel that you could not stop taking hydrocodone even if you wanted to?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are addicted to hydrocodone. Seeking treatment as soon as possible is necessary, as addiction can affect your entire life.

the Take-Away

Using medications like hydrocodone recreationally is highly risky, and it’s illegal. These medications are regulated in the way that they are because they can cause serious problems, such as addiction and overdose.