Vicodin Side Effects and Addiction Signs

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Vicodin is a prescription opioid prescribed for the management of moderate to severe pain, but many people abuse it for its euphoric and relaxing effects. Even if you take Vicodin exactly as prescribed, you may experience unwanted side effects; however, the risk of experiencing harmful consequences increases if you misuse or abuse this opioid painkiller. Additionally, abusing Vicodin can lead to an addiction. It’s important to know the signs of a Vicodin addiction so you can get help for yourself or a loved one.

In this article: 

What is Vicodin?

Vicodin is the brand name for the combination medication containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Vicodin is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means it has a high potential for abuse, physiological dependence, and addiction.1 People who misuse or abuse Vicodin might:

  • Take more than prescribed
  • Take more frequent doses than prescribed
  • Mix Vicodin with other substances like alcohol
  • Snort Vicodin
  • Dissolve Vicodin in water and inject it

Hydrocodone is an opioid that blocks pain signals in the brain. Acetaminophen is an over-the-counter analgesic and fever-reducer. Together, they decrease the body’s ability to feel pain.2

Vicodin is a prescription opioid that comes with many warnings, potential interactions, and side effects. Even when you take it as prescribed, you must be aware of its dangers.

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Side Effects of Vicodin Use

Vicodin use may cause some unpleasant side effects. It’s important to communicate with your doctor and let them know if these side effects don’t dissipate. Some side effects associated with Vicodin use include:3

  • Back pain
  • Tight muscles
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach pain
  • Painful urination
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Swelling of the extremities
  • Uncontrollable shaking

In some cases, you may experience severe or dangerous Vicodin side effects. Misusing or abusing Vicodin increases the risk of harmful effects. These include:3

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Fever and sweating
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Swollen throat, tongue, lips, face, or eyes
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Hives

If you experience any of these severe side effects, call 911 immediately.

Vicodin Long-Term Side Effects

Chronic Vicodin use or abuse may lead to harmful consequences, such as:2,4

  • Increased risk of depression and suicide attempts
  • Severe constipation
  • Liver damage
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Enhanced sensitivity to pain
  • Tolerance, or needing more Vicodin to experience pain relief or euphoria
  • Physiological dependence, which means you need to take Vicodin to avoid withdrawal

Other long-term effects of Vicodin use depend on the method of administration. For example, people who inject Vicodin may be at risk for:4

  • Track lines
  • Puncture marks
  • Peripheral edema (swelling of hands or legs)
  • Abscesses
  • Cellulitis
  • Scars
  • Bacterial endocarditis (infection of the heart lining)
  • Contracting hepatitis or HIV
  • Tuberculosis

On the other hand, those who snort Vicodin may experience the following effects:4

  • Perforation of the nasal septum
  • Nose bleeds

If you have been taking Vicodin for a while and have tried to stop, you may notice Vicodin withdrawal symptoms, which signal you have developed a dependence on the drug. These withdrawal symptoms can be very painful and distressing.

Withdrawal Symptoms

If you abruptly stop using Vicodin or reduce your use, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as:3,4

  • Depressed mood
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating, chills, and fever
  • Profound yawning
  • Runny nose and teary eyes
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Difficulty sleeping

If you’re experiencing the side effects of Vicodin withdrawal, you may want to consider a detox program. Call (800) 407-7195(Who Answers?) to speak to a treatment support specialist about finding an opioid detox program near you.

Signs of Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin addiction, also known as an opioid use disorder, is defined as a chronic condition in which you continue to use Vicodin despite negative ramifications it may have on your life.

Knowing the signs of a Vicodin addiction is crucial. They can start to appear just weeks after the first use of the drug. Signs include the following:4,5

  • Trying and failing to stop using Vicodin
  • Experiencing powerful cravings
  • Neglecting hobbies
  • Experiencing interpersonal or social issues due to Vicodin use
  • Worsening of physical or psychiatric conditions
  • Engaging in risky behaviors like stealing
  • Using Vicodin in dangerous situations like while driving
  • Experiencing financial difficulties
  • Experiencing occupational or academic issues due to Vicodin use
  • Losing or gaining a noticeable amount of weight

It’s common for individuals with a Vicodin addiction to have a tolerance to the opioid painkiller, which means they need higher doses of the drug to feel the desired effects. This can be dangerous, as taking higher doses of Vicodin can increase the risk of overdosing.

Signs of an Opioid Overdose

Overdose refers to taking an amount of a drug that is too much for your body to handle. Since Vicodin is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, too much of it can slow or even stop your breathing. Taking too much for your body can be fatal. Some common signs of a Vicodin overdose include:7,8

  • Vomiting or making gurgling noises
  • Pale and clammy face
  • Limp body
  • Blue lips or fingernails
  • Unresponsive or unable to speak
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Heart rate slowed or stopped

If you recognize signs of an overdose in someone, call 911 immediately and stay with the person until medical personnel arrive. If you have the opioid overdose reversal medication, naloxone, on you, you can administer it (it comes in injectable or nasal spray forms). Naloxone reverses the life-threatening respiratory depression that opioids cause.8

Part of preventing an overdose involves getting treatment for your Vicodin addiction as soon as possible. It is never too early or too late to get help. Call our helpline at (800) 407-7195(Who Answers?) to find a rehab in your area.

Vicodin Addiction Treatment

Treatment for Vicodin addiction often begins with a detox program that uses medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. Detox programs at inpatient hospitals give you access to medical doctors and nurses around the clock. Once you withdraw from Vicodin, it’s important to enter a substance abuse treatment program.

While in inpatient rehab, you will learn relapse-prevention skills to help you cope with emotions appropriately, provide self-care, improve life skills, and build confidence in your ability to maintain sobriety.

Outpatient treatment is less intensive than inpatient; you live at home while attending therapy and counseling at a treatment center. You might receive up to 30 hours of therapy per week or as few as two or three. It all depends on your needs and what level of outpatient care you choose.
When you finish your initial treatment program, you have options for continuing support. Sober living homes, outpatient services, and individual counseling are just a few examples. With sober living homes, you get the opportunity to practice the skills you learned before returning home.


Resources

  1. U.S. Department of Justice. (2021). List of Controlled Substances. Diversion Control Division.
  2. Habibi, M. & Kim, P. (2020, April 30). Hydrocodone and acetaminophen. StatPearls Publishing.
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, January 15). Hydrocodone. MedlinePlus.
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Publishing.
  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2021). Signs of Opioid Abuse.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, May). Prescription Opioid DrugFacts.
  7. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020, December 24). Opioid Overdose. MedlinePlus.
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018, June). Opioid Overdose Prevention Tool Kit.
  9. Schuckit, M. (2016). Treatment of Opioid-Use Disorders. New England Journal of Medicine. 375, 357-368.

 

the Take-Away

Vicodin is a prescription opioid prescribed for the management of moderate to severe pain, but many people abuse it for its euphoric and relaxing effects. Even if you take Vicodin exactly as prescribed, you may experience unwanted side effects; however, the risk of experiencing harmful consequences increases if you misuse or abuse this opioid painkiller. …