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While hydrocodone is prescribed relatively frequently for pain, the medication has risks. In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies drugs based on their medical uses and potential to be addictive. Hydrocodone, like many other prescription opioids, is a Schedule II drug, which means it has a high risk for abuse, addiction and physical dependence.

What Is Hydrocodone Used For?

Hydrocodone is a prescription drug used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. Hydrocodone can be prescribed either on its own or as a substance paired with others in medications.

For example, hydrocodone is paired with acetaminophen in the brand name drugs Lortab, Norco and Vicodin. Hydrocodone is classified as an opioid, a class of drugs that can change how the brain emotionally responds to pain. Opioids like hydrocodone also change how pain signals are sent and how the body feels pain.

Hydrocodone Brand Names

Several prescription drugs contain hydrocodone as an active ingredient. Examples of products with hydrocodone include:

  • Acetaminophen and hydrocodone (generic)
  • Anexsia
  • Dicodid
  • Hycodan
  • Hydrocodone (generic)
  • Hycomine
  • Hysingla ER
  • Lorcet-HD
  • Lortab
  • Norco
  • Tussionex
  • Vicodin ES
  • Vicoprofen

Hydrocodone Street Names

Hydrocodone has the following street names:

  • Fluff
  • Hydros
  • Vic
  • V-itamin
  • Vike
  • Watson-387

Hydrocodone Dosage

Since hydrocodone is used for pain, the effective dosage can vary wildly from person to person. In addition, tolerance to opioids can develop very quickly, making it necessary to continue increasing the dosage to get the same painkilling effect.

Most doses of hydrocodone contain tablets with 2.5–7.5 mg of hydrocodone. When mixed with other ingredients like acetaminophen, the dosage is limited to whatever makes up to 4000 mg of acetaminophen per day.\

The extended-release tablet has more hydrocodone than immediate-release formulations and is available in tablet sizes from 10 to 120 mg per tablet.

Is Hydrocodone Addictive?

Yes, hydrocodone can be extremely addictive. Hydrocodone activates opioid receptors located in the brain and the entire central nervous system. By interacting with these receptors, feel-good chemicals are released that trade feelings of pain for feelings of pleasure. Some people who use hydrocodone may experience a sense of relaxation, a feeling of well-being or euphoria.

When this pleasing feeling occurs with regular opioid use, a reward cycle can form. The body can rely on the drug to relieve painful feelings, and the brain can link the use of the drug to positive experiences. By forming these connections between hydrocodone and pleasurable feelings, people become addicted to the substance. Someone who is addicted to hydrocodone may continue using it despite negative consequences or side effects. When a physical dependence forms, withdrawal symptoms will occur if someone stops using the drug.

If someone is prescribed hydrocodone, they can take steps to lower the potential of becoming addicted. For example, it’s important not to use hydrocodone in any way other than what’s prescribed and instructed by a medical professional. Dosages shouldn’t exceed what was prescribed. However, even when someone follows their doctor’s orders and takes hydrocodone as prescribed, they can still become addicted.

Hydrocodone Abuse Statistics

Hydrocodone abuse facts and statistics can be troubling to read, both in Florida and nationwide. In 2016, there were 2,708 overdose deaths reported in Florida related to opioids. That’s a death rate of 14.4 deaths per 100,000 people, higher than the national death rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 people. However, these startling numbers aren’t just hydrocodone abuse statistics but rather figures for all kinds of opioids.

According to the 2017 Medical Examiners Commission Interim Drug Report, the number of drug-related deaths in Florida increased 11% in the first half of 2017, compared to the first half of 2016. Hydrocodone was the primary cause of death for 104 people in Florida during the first half of 2017 and present in the systems of 253 people who died from drug overdoses. In total, hydrocodone was believed to be involved in 357 deaths in Florida during the first part of 2017.

While the hydrocodone abuse statistics and death rates are troubling, Florida is working to make changes. For several years, Florida has been changing how prescription pain medications are given to patients. For example, the state has introduced new prescription drug monitoring programs. These monitoring programs watch for red flags around doctors or pharmacies that could be overprescribing opioids or filling large numbers of these prescriptions. There has been increased regulation of pain clinics, and the state has been working to make substance abuse programs more readily available to people.

For more information about hydrocodone abuse and addiction or treatment options available in Orlando, contact the Orlando Recovery Center.

Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone

Hydrocodone and oxycodone are different types of opioids. They work in similar ways by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system. Binding to opioid receptors helps decrease sensations of pain, but it can also lead to euphoria, which contributes to addiction.

The primary difference between hydrocodone and oxycodone is their relative potency. Potency is a measurement of the dose required to get the same effect from different medications. For example, 30 mg of hydrocodone will produce the same effect as 20 mg of oxycodone. Therefore, oxycodone is more potent because less of the drug is required for the same effect.

Hydrocodone Side Effects

The signs of hydrocodone abuse and addiction are similar to that of other opioids. Hydrocodone and other opioids slow down the functions controlled by the central nervous system. The signs of hydrocodone abuse match the effects of the drug, which include:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Small pupils
  • Upper respiratory tract infection

Hydrocodone and Alcohol

Many medications carry an increased risk for side effects and overdose if mixed with alcohol. Hydrocodone and other opioids should never be mixed with alcohol because doing so can increase the risk of serious side effects like overdose and death.

Both substances work in a similar way to slow down the central nervous system (CNS). They can slow down movement, thinking, breathing and other bodily functions. Other side effects of mixing hydrocodone and alcohol can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired motor control
  • Increased risk for overdose
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed breathing
  • Unusual behavior

Hydrocodone Overdose

Opioids can be easy to overdose on, and currently, opioid overdose is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Hydrocodone is a major contributor to the opioid epidemic.

An overdose affects many different parts of the body. Hydrocodone overdose can be fatal because it can stop a person from breathing or stop their heartbeat. Other symptoms include:

  • Bluish fingernails and lips 
  • Coma
  • Constipation
  • Difficult breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Pinpoints pupils
  • Seizures
  • Spasms
  • Vomiting
  • Weak pulse
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Hydrocodone Withdrawal

Withdrawal is a condition where a person experiences uncomfortable feelings when they try to stop taking a drug. However, for someone to experience hydrocodone withdrawal, they first need to be dependent on hydrocodone.

Physical dependence can occur even if a person takes hydrocodone exactly as prescribed by their doctor. Dependence happens when hydrocodone “rewires” the nerve cells to become used to its presence. When taking hydrocodone in high enough doses for a long enough time, the body decreases the number of opioid receptors being activated.

When hydrocodone is stopped, there are not enough opioid receptors to maintain normal bodily function, leading to hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms. Relapse is extremely common during this time because of how uncomfortable the symptoms can be.

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms for hydrocodone begin about 8–24 hours after the last use. They can last up to 4–10 days while the body is readjusting to not having the drug. Symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cold flashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Hot flashes
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Tearing and watery discharge
  • Vomiting

How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

Drugs stay in the system for about five half-lives before being cleared from the body. Since different formulations of hydrocodone have different half-lives, how long it will stay in the body varies. Immediate-release hydrocodone has a half-life of about four hours, so it will clear in about 20 hours. Extended-release hydrocodone has a half-life of 7–9 hours, so it will stay in the body for roughly 35–45 hours.

Hydrocodone can be detected in the blood for as long as it’s in the body, so anywhere from one to two days, depending on the formulation. The most common type of drug test is a urine test, where hydrocodone is detectable for one to three days.

Hydrocodone Detox

Detox is a challenging but expected part of the addiction treatment process. Before any addiction treatment can start, a person must undergo detox. Detox is the period where the drug is leaving the body. Withdrawal symptoms are common at this time, and the risk of relapse is very high.

Many people go through detox at home, but this is risky. It is recommended to enter a treatment program to give a person the highest chance for success. Detox programs have trained medical professionals that can prescribe different treatments to manage symptoms and ease the withdrawal process.

Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment

Immediately after detox, a person should consider entering addiction treatment if they are suffering from hydrocodone addiction. Addiction is when a person takes the drug even if it damages their health or social, family, financial and occupational life. Addiction treatment can be a life-saver for people unable to stop using hydrocodone on their own.

There are four main types of addiction treatment depending on the severity:

Both types of outpatient treatment usually happen in parallel to work, school or other obligations. Outpatient treatment is more convenient, but it is typically reserved for people with mild to moderate addiction.

Severe addiction should be managed in a residential treatment program. These programs usually last 30–90 days and involve the removal of all sources of drugs and potential triggers. Inpatient treatment can include individual and group therapy, support groups, medical treatment and other programs to ensure a person’s success.

If you or a loved one is experiencing hydrocodone addiction, Orlando Recovery Center can help. Contact our facility today to get started.

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Editor – Abby Doty
Abby Doty graduated from Hamline University in 2021 with a Bachelor's in English and Psychology. She has written and edited creative and literary work as well as academic pieces focused primarily on psychology and mental health. Read more
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

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National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “Florida: Opioid-Involved Deaths and Related Harms.” April 2020. Accessed February 15, 2022.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.