Vicodin is a prescription opioid and analgesic used to treat moderate pain and also acts as a CNS (central nervous system) depressant. Tablets contain a combination of the over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen and hydrocodone, a synthetic opioid that is the primary contributor to Vicodin’s painkilling effects.
Vicodin, like all opioids, comes with a high potential for abuse, dependency, addiction, and overdose. It’s psychoactive properties affect neurochemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, which induce feelings of reward and euphoria.
Vicodin is most commonly prescribed as a tablet for oral consumption. When used for recreational purposes, it can be crushed, and the residual powder is snorted into the nasal passage.
For Vicodin abusers, nasal delivery offers the added benefit of a more intense, rapid delivery and absorption into the brain. This action then results in the release of an excessive amount of dopamine into a person’s nervous system. It is essentially the catalyst for the drug’s potential for dependence and addiction.
Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction
When Vicodin is abused repeatedly, tolerance and dependence begin to develop. As tolerance increases, the person feels compelled to use higher quantities of the drug more often in an effort to achieve the sought-after “high” to which they are accustomed.
Over time, the individual’s nervous system becomes increasingly compromised and unable to function correctly without the drug. Then, user efforts to cut back on drug use or quit altogether induce highly unpleasant mental and physical effects, commonly known as withdrawal symptoms.
These symptoms can last for several days, and their number and severity are dependent upon factors related to the user’s level of addiction and frequency and duration of use. Due to the rapid delivery of an intranasal dose and its absorption into the mucous membrane, those who use this route may face a significantly higher potential for addiction and overdose.
Tolerance and dependence are often associated with full-blown addiction, but not always. Addiction is also further hallmarked by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and an inability to quit despite awareness of the adverse consequences it is causing. The substance has essentially hijacked the brains of those who are addicted, and they may do pretty much anything, no matter how unsavory, to obtain and use their drug choice.
Uncontrolled abuse of Vicodin can result in the following side effects, which can be lethal:
- Weakness and drowsiness
- Mood swings
- Rashes and itching
- Mood swings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slow and labored breathing
- Irregular menstruation
- Impotence or decreased libido
- Respiratory arrest
Of note, because Vicodin also contains acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), the risk of overdose may be higher among those who abuse hydrocodone alone. Moreover, excessive doses of acetaminophen can cause liver damage or failure and death.
In addition to dependence and an increased risk of overdose, snorting Vicodin can lead to severe infections and damage to the nasal passage, septum, and surrounding tissues. The nose consists of tiny blood vessels that are highly sensitive to foreign substances. When Vicodin is inhaled into the nose, it inflames the surrounding tissues. Cells inside the nose may become infected and die, which results in nosebleeds, possibly impairing a person’s ability to smell.
With prolonged abuse, Vicodin will continue to eat away at the nasal tissue, which may leave a hole in the palate (roof of the mouth) or the septum, which is the wall between nostrils. If this occurs, it can make it difficult for the person to eat, drink, or even breathe normally. It can also cause physical deformities, which may be challenging for surgeons to repair.
Also, because the nose is connected to the throat, it is possible that the inhaled Vicodin will trickle onto the vocal cords, leading to chronic soreness in the throat and hoarseness. Some of the drugs may reach the lungs as well, which has been linked to irritation and asthma.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Many people erroneously believe that because Vicodin is a prescription drug, it is safer to abuse than illicit drugs. Although Vicodin’s potential for addiction and overdose may indeed be lower than, say, heroin or fentanyl, it can and does occur nonetheless. Addiction to Vicodin or any hydrocodone products should be treated using a medically-assisted detox and long-term, intensive treatment in a rehab center.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offers these services, including detox, partial hospitalization, and residential programs. Our approach includes a number of evidence-based services proven to be beneficial for the recovery process, including psychotherapy, individual and group counseling, group support, aftercare planning, and much, much more.
If you or someone you love is battling an addiction to Vicodin or other opioids, we urge you to call us today to discuss treatment options! We are committed to providing those we treat with the tools and support they so direly need to achieve abstinence and foster the long-lasting, healthy lives they deserve!