Hydrocodone Addiction: Symptoms, Signs & Side Effects

Last Updated: April 30, 2024

Symptoms of Hydrocodone Abuse

Hydrocodone is an opioid pain reliever, commonly used in prescription combination drugs. Hydrocodone can be used to alleviate pain that’s moderate to severe. While it does have medical uses, hydrocodone has a potential for abuse and addiction, as do other prescription opioids. When someone uses hydrocodone, it binds to opioid receptors. These receptors sites are found throughout the body, but primarily in the central nervous system. The effects of opioids can relieve pain but can also create euphoria. That euphoria is one reason opioids are addictive.

Hydrocodone abuse refers to any scenario where someone uses this medication either outside of the directed dosage or without a prescription. When someone is showing hydrocodone abuse symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re addicted. It does increase the risk of developing an addiction, however. Symptoms of hydrocodone abuse can include taking larger doses than prescribed or taking it more often than instructed. Taking someone else’s hydrocodone is also considered abuse. The more someone exposes their brain to hydrocodone, the more likely it is that their use will spiral out of control.

Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse

There are specific side effects of hydrocodone abuse that can include physical and mental symptoms. Even when someone takes hydrocodone as prescribed, side effects are possible. The higher the dose someone uses, the more apparent and intense the side effects are likely to be.

Physical Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse

The physical side effects of hydrocodone abuse reflect the fact that opioids are central nervous system depressants. For example, physical side effects of hydrocodone abuse can include drowsiness or sedation, slowed breathing and heart rate and a lack of coordination. People may experience itchiness, nausea, vomiting and constipation as well. Headaches, dizziness and symptoms similar to a cold can occur with hydrocodone abuse. If someone abuses large doses of hydrocodone, they may have slurred speech and appear agitated.

Mental Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse

Opioid abuse can affect mental health as much as physical health. When someone abuses opioids, they may appear to have changes in their mood or behavior. As their hydrocodone abuse worsens, they may have trouble making decisions and they may start abandoning their responsibilities or other interests. Changes in sleep patterns can occur, as can rapid mood changes. Someone might go from seeming euphoric to seeming depressed or irritable quickly. Motivation can decrease when someone abuses hydrocodone, and they may develop symptoms of mental health disorders like anxiety.

Side Effects of Long-Term Hydrocodone Abuse

When someone abuses hydrocodone or any opioid for a long time, they are at high risk of becoming dependent on and addicted to it. Dependence can form as someone develops an opioid tolerance. The person may need higher doses of hydrocodone to achieve the effects they seek, like a euphoric high. Over time with repeated exposure, someone who abuses hydrocodone will start to need it to feel normal, meaning they are physically or mentally dependent on hydrocodone. When someone is dependent on hydrocodone and tries to stop using it suddenly, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. Hydrocodone withdrawal can include flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches and pains, nausea, vomiting, anxiety and depression.

Addiction is separate from hydrocodone dependence. With addiction, there is a reward cycle triggered in a person’s brain. As they take hydrocodone, their brain recognizes that it is a pleasurable experience. Over time and with repeated hydrocodone use, the brain seeks out more of the pleasure-creating stimulus compulsively. Addiction can be mild, moderate or severe. Not everyone who uses hydrocodone will become addicted, but the more someone uses it, the more likely addiction is to be one of the long-term side effects of hydrocodone.

There is research looking at long-term mental effects of hydrocodone. Researchers believe there is evidence indicating long-term opioid use has an ongoing impact on how someone senses pain and deals with stress. When someone uses hydrocodone for a long time, their body’s ability to naturally fight pain may be impaired, and they may experience even more pain than they did previously. This inability to handle pain may lead them to take higher doses of opioids to cope with their lower pain threshold. In some cases, people who have mental side effects of opioid abuse see these symptoms continuing for years after they stop using the substance.

Long-Term Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse on the Body

Dependence and addiction are two long-term side effects of hydrocodone abuse, but there are others. Side effects of long-term hydrocodone abuse can be physical as well. Hydrocodone and other opioids can cause severe damage to the gastrointestinal system. Because hydrocodone slows down the GI tract, it causes chronic constipation. Chronic constipation increases the likelihood of complications like bleeding and rectal prolapse.

Other symptoms can include:

  • When someone takes large amounts of hydrocodone regularly, it can cause damage to the respiratory system.
  • Opioids cause a person to breathe in less oxygen, which can cause organ damage and damage to the lungs.
  • Long-term hydrocodone use can also wreak havoc on the body’s hormone systems. It can cause problems with fertility.
  • It can lower certain hormone levels which can cause complications including anxiety, depression and chronic fatigue.

Signs of a Hydrocodone Overdose

When hydrocodone causes a slowdown in breathing and the central nervous system, it can be deadly. If someone takes too much of an opioid like hydrocodone, their central nervous system may slow to the point where it’s life-threatening. Breathing and heart rate can slow, and a person may suffer brain damage, go into a coma or die. Some of the key signs of a hydrocodone overdose include:

  • Slow, shallow or stopped breathing
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Nodding off
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Sweating
  • Clammy skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

When someone combines hydrocodone with another opioid or another central nervous system depressant, the risks of an overdose are significantly higher. For example, combining hydrocodone with alcohol or a benzodiazepine like Xanax can make an overdose more likely to occur.

The long-term effects of hydrocodone on the body and the brain can be damaging or deadly. To get treatment for hydrocodone abuse, or to find help for someone you love, contact Orlando Recovery Center.

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