What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid (narcotic) synthesized from codeine, one of the opioid alkaloids found in the opium poppy. It is a narcotic painkiller used orally as an antitussive/cough suppressant or for the relief of moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone is used in combination with other chemicals and is available in prescription pain medications as tablets, capsules and syrups. Sales and production of this drug have increased significantly in recent years as has its illicit use. Hydrocodone is considered to be morphine-like in all respects. Its onset of action is about 10–30 minutes and duration is about four to six hours. The abuser of these drugs has been shown not to be the inner city youth but instead a famous actor, a suburban real estate agent or your next door neighbor. First-time abuse of these drugs has been surging, most commonly with the oxycodone and hydrocodone-type painkillers. The two differ slightly in their chemical makeup but have a similar effect on the body. An overdose of hydrocodone can be fatal. Every age group has been affected by the relative ease of hydrocodone availability and the perceived safety of these products by professionals. Sometimes seen as a white-collar addiction, hydrocodone abuse has increased among all ethnic and economic groups. Research suggests that the most likely hydrocodone abuser is a 20-40 yr. old, white, female who uses the drug because she is dependent or trying to commit suicide. However, hydrocodone-related deaths have been reported from every age grouping.

How Do You Take Hydrocodone?

There are over 200 products containing hydrocodone in the U.S. In its most usual product forms, hydrocodone is combined with acetaminophen (Vicodin, Lortab), but it is also combined with aspirin (Lortab ASA), ibuprofen (Vicoprofen), and antihistamines (Hycomine). Zohydro ER and Hysingla ER are extended-release forms of hydrocodone that are used for around-the-clock treatment of severe pain, not for use on an as-needed basis for pain. Hydrocodone-containing products are available in tablet, capsule, and liquid forms and can be habit-forming, even at regular doses. When abused, it is taken orally, chewed, crushed and then snorted like cocaine or crushed and then dissolved in water and injected like heroin. The major source of hydrocodone to the street has been through false call-in and forged prescriptions, professional diversion through unscrupulous pharmacists, doctors and dentists and large-scale thefts. The pills have been sold for $2 to $10 per tablet and $20 to $40 per 8-ounce bottle on the street.

What are the Effects of Hydrocodone?

Many users of hydrocodone report a sense of satisfaction (euphoria), especially at higher doses. A number of users also report a warm or pleasant numbing sensation throughout the body, one of the best-known effects of narcotics. A simultaneous warming of the stomach and rest of the body with the possible sensation of pleasant cooling in the lungs is sometimes also reported, as with opium and hydromorphone. A newborn of a mother taking opioid medications regularly prior to the baby’s birth will be physically dependent. The infant may also exhibit respiratory depression if the opioid dose was high. An epidemiological study indicated that opioid treatment during early pregnancy results in increased risk of various birth defects. You should not breast-feed while you are using this medicine. Taking hydrocodone with grapefruit juice is believed to enhance its narcotic impact. Dangerous side effects or death can occur when alcohol is combined with this medicine. Hydrocodone should not be stopped suddenly after long-term use in order to prevent unpleasant withdrawal symptoms similar to those of morphine and other opioids. Unlike a light codeine or meptazinol dependence, hydrocodone withdrawal can be expected to reach the worst categories of symptoms, resembling that of morphine or hydromorphone. In a very small number of severe cases, withdrawal can be lethal unless undertaken under medical supervision, particularly for users with cardiac or pulmonary disease or those unable to treat the dehydration and resultant acid-base and electrolyte problems.