No one wants to deal with pain, especially if relief is available. The problem with painkillers, though, is that despite the medical benefits they provide, drugs like hydrocodone are easy to become addicted to because of their euphoric feelings. People want to melt their pain away and will do almost anything to find that relief. Using opioids like hydrocodone for pain relief is one thing, but dangerous problems can start once you begin experiencing hydrocodone addiction.

Surprisingly, even though hydrocodone was once considered the most widely dispensed medication in the nation, it has shifted down to fourth place. This change in rank can be attributed to the fact the DEA reclassified hydrocodone from Schedule III to Schedule II controlled substance, making it much harder to purchase legally.

Despite this small but powerful win, why is hydrocodone deemed so addictive? In this article, we’ll explore the nature of hydrocodone, how addiction starts, and what you can do if you or a loved one is caught in the cycle of dependence.


Hydrocodone, or dihydrocodeinone, is a powerful opioid painkiller derived from the opium poppy plant. However, it is considered semi-synthetic as it was manufactured in the late 1920s by chemically modifying the codeine molecule. Hydrocodone is one of the most frequently prescribed opioid painkillers in the United States due to its versatility—it’s more beneficial than codeine for cough suppression and as potent as morphine for pain.

Hydrocodone works by connecting to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord to interfere with pain signals traveling to the brain.

Essentially, the drug changes people’s perceptions of pain and their emotional reactions to it, a very useful tool for those who suffer from acute or chronic pain.

People also use hydrocodone recreationally for its desirable effects of euphoria, reduced worry and stress, numbness, and an increased sense of well-being. The initial dose is one tablet orally every four to six hours. However, using the drug for effects other than pain relief often results in a greater dosage or frequency than what is prescribed.

Interestingly enough, many other countries actually don’t allow hydrocodone to be prescribed for any medical reasons. As a result, the DEA has raised production quotas of the substance to meet U.S. demand. However, this increase in quantity means it is more easily accessible, which often leads to abuse. Continued long-term use and misuse can lead to acetaminophen toxicity, liver damage, and other serious medical conditions.


Even though it is used medically, hydrocodone can be habit-forming and lead to both physical and psychological dependence. It can also have some less-than-desirable side effects even outside of addiction.

Some Of The Most Common Adverse Effects Include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Anxiety
  • Abnormally happy or sad mood
  • Dry throat
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Narrow pupils
  • Slowed or irregular breathing
  • Chest tightness

People who have severe asthma, respiratory problems, or some form of gastrointestinal block should not be taking hydrocodone. Also, women who are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant should be aware that the drug can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in a newborn if taken during pregnancy.


Many times, addiction creeps up subtly, making it difficult to spot in loved ones and also in yourself. This is especially true for powerful opioids such as hydrocodone, which is strong enough that reports show even infrequent use can lead to physical dependence.

Some Common Signs And Symptoms Of Hydrocodone Addiction Include:

  • Increased tolerance
  • An obsession with acquiring hydrocodone
  • Feeling abnormal or dysfunctional without it
  • An inability to stop using
  • Taking hydrocodone in doses not prescribed
  • Lying or hiding hydrocodone use
  • Attempting to use illegal means to obtain it
  • Withdrawing from social activities

Some Physical Signs Of Hydrocodone Addiction Include:

  • Chronic drowsiness
  • Rashes
  • Constricted pupils
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Shallow breathing


Abuse of hydrocodone can be extremely dangerous, even for patients taking it as prescribed due to the fact that addiction can form even through infrequent use. Taking too much of the drug or combining it with other substances such as benzodiazepines or alcohol can significantly increase your risk of a hydrocodone overdose.

During an overdose, a person may experience the above symptoms of addiction on top of the following:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Blue lips and nails
  • Cold sweaty skin
  • Drifting in and out of consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slowed or stopped breathing

The last two results of a hydrocodone overdose can easily be fatal if not addressed immediately. If you see someone undergoing these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

To combat the opioid epidemic, several states have actually proposed policies to restrict prescribing Zohydro ER, a newer, powerful formula of hydrocodone. These prescriptions can no longer be refilled because of the rescheduling of hydrocodone-containing medications. Instead, all prescriptions are required to be given in person and cannot be called or faxed to pharmacies.


Eliminating your addiction to hydrocodone is not easy and can often be dangerous if not done correctly. Many attempts to quit hydrocodone cold turkey at home have resulted in severe hospitalizations and, if not properly treated, even death. Understanding how effective addiction treatment can be will go a long way in ensuring lasting sobriety and safety in quitting.


Detox is almost always the first step in this process. Experts recommend that people undergo a professionally-monitored medical detox to manage withdrawal symptoms and completely remove the substance from the body in a safe and secure environment and with the help of a medical professional.

If detoxing from hydrocodone is proving to be a difficult task, there are medication-assisted treatment programs that will provide you with clinical therapies while prescribing you a replacement opioid to deal with withdrawal and cravings. Some of the most common hydrocodone replacement medications include Buprenorphine, Clonidine, and Naltrexone.


Detox, of course, is only the first step in the treatment process. To truly overcome the perils of addiction, people are urged to try their best at removing themselves from the toxic environment and start anew. This is when people should consider residential treatment programs to find the source of their addiction and to battle relapse triggers wherever they might be encountered. By spending 30-90 days in a secure and drug-free environment and taking advantage of daily therapy sessions, you will be laying the groundwork for your own successful recovery.


After you are finished with your residential stay, treatment doesn’t end there. The best way to stay sober even after leaving the facility is to participate in outpatient treatment. Here, you will still be plugged into a consistent weekly group and individual therapy while having the freedom of returning home each day.


The effects of hydrocodone addiction can easily leave you feeling depressed and dejected. However, even when you’re at your loneliest, help is still available.

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