Hydrocodone is the generic opioid ingredient in various drugs, such as Norco, Lortab, and Vicodin. When this potent narcotic is abused, a person will experience symptoms, and concerned onlookers will see signs of that abuse. The most commonly reported physical, psychological, and behavioral signs and symptoms of hydrocodone addiction are:
Hydrocodone is a prescription narcotic pain reliever that is found in over 200 commercial products. This analgesic is most often used for the treatment of moderate to severe pain but is also indicated for a cough as it acts as an antitussive (i.e., cough suppressant). Hydrocodone is a generic drug and a key active ingredient in different branded drugs, including Norco, Lorcet, Lortab, and Vicodin. Since hydrocodone is an opioid, it has very acute addiction potential.
It is helpful to highlight the distinction between the terms symptoms and signs. If a person uses hydrocodone and experiences a feeling, such as nausea, that’s a symptom (or side effect). If an outsider observes the person experiencing symptoms – for instance, a person vomits – that’s a sign.
Understanding the symptoms and signs of hydrocodone abuse can potentially save a life. As hydrocodone is an opioid, an overdose can prove fatal even if other substances were not used simultaneously. For an individual who experiences symptoms of hydrocodone addiction, one challenge is that the opioid has the power to delude a person. As the person’s main priority becomes abusing hydrocodone, the ability to recognize and respond to symptoms is undermined. However, concerned individuals who can recognize the signs of hydrocodone addiction can intervene and offer help.
A person must have at least two out of 11 symptoms within the same one-year timespan to even begin to be considered to have a use disorder. The continuum ranges from mild to moderate to severe, depending on the number of symptoms that are present.
Most all of these symptoms can be restated as signs, which can clue a concerned person into what’s happening. A person who suspects hydrocodone abuse may witness the following signs:
There are a host of symptoms and signs that can emerge when a person overdoses on hydrocodone. Some of the more common symptoms of a hydrocodone overdose include but are not limited to:
A person who experiences symptoms of a hydrocodone overdose is best advised to seek emergency medical help. The overdose-reversal drug Narcan, or naloxone, may be administered. Many people may have Narcan readily available, via a prescription, even at home in a medicine cabinet, because they care about a person who is known to abuse opiates such as heroin or opioids such as hydrocodone. Narcan only works to reverse the dangerous side effects of an opioid overdose. It doesn’t “cure” the overdose; further medical care must follow.
Different individuals experience different symptoms as a result of hydrocodone abuse. But all individuals who abuse hydrocodone have one thing in common: They will eventually develop an addiction. Over time, as a person takes an addiction-forming drug, physical dependence will develop. A hallmark of dependence is tolerance. The more a person takes hydrocodone, the more they will have to use to achieve the desired high.
Withdrawal is another hallmark of dependence. When a person stops using hydrocodone or significantly reduces the regular level of intake, withdrawal symptoms will emerge. The following are some of the most common early withdrawal symptoms associated with hydrocodone:
Withdrawal symptoms that occur in the later stages of this process include, but are not limited to:
Since hydrocodone withdrawal can be very uncomfortable and bring ill health effects, there is a consensus in the addiction treatment community that a person should undergo medical detox for opiate withdrawal. There are medications available to safely transition a person from a drug, such as hydrocodone, to a maintenance medication such as Suboxone (buprenorphine). The transition can prevent the onset of dangerous withdrawal symptoms as well as help to prevent a relapse.
The side effects that are known to occur with hydrocodone use may be amplified when a person abuses this narcotic.
There are different ways that hydrocodone can be abused, which means that different signs may manifest as a result of the method selected. Hydrocodone can be chewed, snorted, or injected. According to online drug use forums, it appears that while hydrocodone can be smoked, it’s not usually the preferred method of use.
There will be little if any paraphernalia associated with chewing the drug. However, individuals who snort hydrocodone will at a minimum require some sort of crushing device. In order to inject hydrocodone, a person will at least need a syringe, something to cook it in (like a spoon), a heat source (like a lighter or candle), and possibly bands or ropes to help find a vein. Some refer to these instruments as a kit. If a concerned person finds a kit, there is likely going to be little room for doubt that injection drug use is occurring.
The US is currently facing a heroin and prescription pill abuse epidemic. There is considerable crossover between the various available drugs. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse discusses, opioid pill abuse puts a person at risk for heroin abuse.
Whether a person develops a mild, moderate, or severe opioid use disorder, recovery is always possible. There are many methodologies used to treat the biological underpinnings as well as the psychological and environment impact of hydrocodone abuse. With comprehensive addiction treatment, recovery is possible.