Vicodin Addiction Signs, Symptoms, & Side Effects

Last Updated: September 22, 2023

Vicodin is a powerful pain reliever that combines hydrocodone, which is an opioid and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone binds to opioid receptor sites in the central nervous system and changes the brain’s emotional response to pain. Hydrocodone can also create a euphoric high and a reward response in the brain. This is largely because when hydrocodone binds to opioid receptor sites, it can trigger a release of the feel-good chemical dopamine. Some people abuse Vicodin to achieve the high it creates, and the increased production of dopamine causes a chemical imbalance to occur.

Symptoms of Vicodin Abuse

When someone uses a prescription medication like Vicodin outside of how it’s intended to be used, that is considered abuse. Symptoms of Vicodin abuse include:

  • Using Vicodin without a prescription (for example using a friend or family member’s Vicodin)
  • Taking Vicodin for longer than prescribed
  • Using higher doses than prescribed
  • Purchasing Vicodin illegally
  • Using Vicodin only for euphoria or relaxation
  • Taking Vicodin in any way other than how it’s meant to be used—for example, crushing it up to snort it or dissolving and injecting the drug

People can abuse Vicodin without becoming addicted. Addiction is a diagnosable, chronic disorder but abusing a prescription drug like Vicodin does increase the likelihood of an addiction forming. Vicodin addiction signs include:

  • Continuing to use Vicodin despite negative consequences or side effects
  • The use of Vicodin being a top priority
  • Compulsive Vicodin use
  • Engaging in dangerous activities while under the effects of the drug or to get more Vicodin
  • Developing a tolerance and requiring higher doses of Vicodin to get the same effects
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and commitments
  • Having at least one failed attempt to reduce Vicodin dosage or stop using the drug completely

Side Effects of Vicodin

Whether someone uses Vicodin as prescribed or they abuse it, there are possible side effects. Some Vicodin effects that may occur include:

  • Drowsiness or sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Problems urinating
  • Liver toxicity

Someone who is using Vicodin, especially high doses, will at first seem euphoric. Following that, they may seem very drowsy or uncoordinated. Small pupils and slurred speech can also be side effects of Vicodin use.

Side Effects of Long-Term Vicodin Abuse

When someone uses Vicodin for a long period of time, there can be effects on the brain, psychological well-being and physical health. One of the long-term effects of Vicodin is a reduced pain threshold. The body starts to lose its natural ability to fight pain, so things that wouldn’t have ordinarily led to significant pain can feel much more significant with long-term Vicodin abuse. This reduced tolerance for pain can lead to someone using more opioids than they previously did. Other long-term effects of Vicodin include:

  • Effects on the brain’s neurotransmitters and altering mood and emotional responses.

Along with the physical side effects of long-term Vicodin abuse, there can be effects on a person’s entire life. For example, someone who regularly abuses Vicodin may experience problems with their relationships or legal and financial problems. Long-term opioid use can make meeting obligations at school or work difficult.

Signs of a Vicodin Overdose

When someone takes a higher dose of Vicodin than their brain and body can handle, they may overdose. Overdosing on any opioid including Vicodin can be deadly and requires immediate medical attention. Possible signs of a Vicodin overdose include:

  • Slow, irregular or stopped breathing
  • Low blood pressure or heart rate
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Sweating
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Clammy or cold skin
  • Bluish fingernails and lips

Because Vicodin has acetaminophen, people may overdose on that before they show signs of overdosing on hydrocodone. Signs of an acetaminophen overdose include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Sweating
  • Convulsions

Along with taking high doses of Vicodin, other things can cause an overdose. One of the primary reasons people overdose on prescription drugs is because they mix them with other substances. The hydrocodone in Vicodin is a central nervous system depressant. When someone uses another central nervous system depressant at the same time, serious effects could occur. For example, combining Vicodin with alcohol or a benzodiazepine like Xanax can increase the chances of an overdose occurring. If it’s possible someone is overdosing on Vicodin, emergency medical help should be sought immediately.

Treatment for Vicodin addiction is available. Contact Orlando Recovery Center to learn more about addiction treatment options available to you or your loved one.

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