Vicodin® has become one of the most commonly prescribed, and abused, opioid prescription painkillers on the market. It is a brand-name form of hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen used to treat severe pain, such as the kind sustained from traumatic injury and after surgery.
Although Vicodin has proven demonstrably effective in the treatment of various pain-related conditions, it has also directly contributed to the opioid epidemic currently consuming the United States. Over 49,000 of the 72,000 drug overdose deaths that occurred in 2017 were caused by prescription and illicit opioids, and hydrocodone was an active driver of these escalating death rates.
There are multiple factors that have contributed to the Vicodin addiction epidemic, including systemic problems in the medical community with over-prescription, patients taking it upon themselves to increase their intake while taking a legitimate supply for a pain issue, and simple curiosity and recreational use that so commonly drives other types of illicit drug use.
If you or someone you care about is battling Vicodin addiction, chances are the abuse falls into one of these categories:
Very often, Vicodin addiction and all other types of prescription drug abuse begin right at the doctor’s office. Patients start taking the drug for a legitimate issue and wind up taking it at higher doses or at more frequent intervals to experience the same level of relief and euphoria they experienced upon their first dose. Eventually, tolerance and physiological withdrawal take hold and users find themselves unable to stop.
This scenario is particularly common among elderly users, whose aging bodies render them unable to metabolize the drug so quickly. Data from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine indicates that the number of Americans over age 50 abusing prescription drugs is projected to rise to 2.7 million in 2020, representing a 190 percent increase from the 2001 figure of 910,000. Additional data from NYU reveals that adults aged 50-59 are now the largest group seeking treatment for opioid addiction.
Another situation that leads to the spread of Vicodin addiction is adolescents stealing legitimate supplies from their parents or loved ones. It has been common practice for younger people to divert their loved ones’ legitimate supply either for sale or personal use. While certain safeguards have been put in place to prevent this type of behavior, the problem still persists in many communities and has led to other types of opioid abuse.
Vicodin abusers usually take the drug orally or snort the drug – however, some users inject or smoke it for a more potent and immediate high. This more aggressive level of use creates even more strain on the heart, lungs and other major organs.
Vicodin is synthesized and distributed in many forms. There are multiple formulations of Vicodin tablets (5 mg, 7.5 mg and 10 mg). While each one of these formulations contains different amounts of hydrocodone, most will contain 300 mg of acetaminophen.
Vicodin tablets look like cylindrical white tablets that will have different codes etched into them that represent different formulations, including the 2172 pill for Vicodin (acetaminophen and hydrocodone bitartrate 325 mg / 5 mg supplied by Actavis Pharma, Inc). Yellow Vicodin represents the V 36 01 formulation (acetaminophen and hydrocodone bitartrate 325 mg / 10 mg).
Other types of pill formulations that are commonly associated with or mistaken for Vicodin include:
The generic name for Vicodin is hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen. It is highly addictive and it’s critical that patients taking the drug for legitimate medical purposes speak with their physicians first about changing their dosage in any way. Different formulations can have different effects on the brain and body.
Vicodin addiction manifests entirely through the presence of hydrocodone in the drug. Hydrocodone creates serious and potentially permanent changes in the brain’s chemistry by changing the way the body responds to pain. It binds to opioid receptors, triggering the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine to produce feelings of intense relief and euphoria. Prolonged use of Vicodin creates tolerance to the point at which the body becomes physically dependent on this drug and reacts harshly when it’s deprived of a regular dose.
This is why it’s critically important that patients only use Vicodin if they absolutely need it. The amount of time it takes to get addicted to Vicodin varies upon each user’s metabolism and body chemistry – however, tolerance can start to develop in as little as weeks or months after use and tends to increase very quickly after it starts.
For patients taking Vicodin for a legitimate medical issue, it is generally recommended that they gradually taper their use rather than stop abruptly. Healthcare providers recommend that users start by reducing their intake by ten percent during the first week and increase gradually with time. Some more aggressive regimens call for a reduction of 25 percent per week, but it’s best for patients to speak with their prescribing physician about what routine is right for them. Vicodin usually stays in the system for about four days to a week after the last cycle of use. It is detectable in urine for up to five days.
The onset of Vicodin addiction is first indicated through physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, which can include but are not limited to:
The Vicodin withdrawal period is generally divided into three phases (early, acute and protracted). Vicodin withdrawal is most effectively treated through professional and medically supervised detox, which usually lasts three to five days. Medically supervised Vicodin detox offers experienced and qualified physicians and nurses to help patients through the worst of their withdrawal symptoms, and who can intervene in the event of a medical emergency. Vicodin abusers who endeavor to detox from Vicodin on their own run a heightened risk of relapse and subsequent withdrawal. After detox, patients should enter comprehensive behavioral rehab to help them overcome the psychological and lifestyle issues that Vicodin addiction has created in their lives.
The lines between acceptable Vicodin use and abuse can often get blurred due to the legally prescribed nature of the drug. This is why it’s important that friends and loved ones of those on Vicodin monitor behavior and physical changes in users.
While each Vicodin abuser will experience different behavioral symptoms, some of the more common signs of Vicodin addiction include:
Physical symptoms of Vicodin addiction can include flu-like symptoms, extreme fluctuations in weight, skin issues, sunken eyes, pale skin and more. If you or someone you care about is displaying these or any other signs related to Vicodin use, start researching Vicodin rehab centers right away.
Vicodin rehab is the process by which patients address the behavioral and psychological impact of their addiction. It is generally administered in either an inpatient or outpatient format, during which patients undergo group therapy, one-on-one counseling and other supplemental therapy techniques based on their care needs.
Inpatient Vicodin rehab allows patients to stay at their treatment for a duration that usually spans 28-30 days (but can last longer depending on progress) so they can focus on getting better in a distraction-free environment. Many patients suffering from Vicodin addiction still suffer from the pain they were experiencing prior to taking the drug – others may have developed serious mental health issues as a result of their prolonged and untreated abuse. It is likely that in these cases dual-diagnosis treatment that addresses both conditions simultaneously will be required.
Outpatient treatment provides a less structured format that allows patients to attend multiple weekly treatment sessions (usually three to five per week) for a period of five to six weeks. Intensive outpatient treatment programs might last a few weeks longer than their regular outpatient counterparts. Very often, outpatient treatment is a step-down phase for individuals who have completed a more in-depth inpatient program. Insurance companies generally cover outpatient treatment more readily than their inpatient counterparts.
After Vicodin rehab, patients should be given customized and realistic aftercare plans that build off the progress they made in behavioral therapy while providing them referral information for local doctors who are trained in addiction medicine, therapists, and support groups in their area.
You don’t have to relinquish your life to Vicodin addiction. There are more options than ever to help you or your loved one reclaim health, independence and quality of life from this disease. Get the help you need now.
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