Prescription drug abuse is an increasing problem in the U.S. and can affect all age groups, though it is more common in younger people (18 to 36 years old.)
Early identification of Vicodin (hydrocodone) abuse and early intervention can prevent the problem from turning into an addiction. Abuse of drugs can happen without a person being addicted to the drug. It is also possible for someone to become physically dependent on opioids, like Vicodin, while taking their prescription as directed.
However, if symptoms of Vicodin abuse occur, it’s likely that symptoms of an addiction will soon follow. Vicodin is a commonly prescribed pain killer. Although there are many signs of Vicodin abuse, the drug affects individuals in different ways.
There are five common signs of Vicodin abuse:
- sudden changes in mood
- insomnia that results in periods of nodding off
- inability to focus, lack of coherence
- obsession with Vicodin
- personal loss
Sudden changes in mood: Vicodin abuse affects the reward and judgment centers in the brain, especially when a person has abused the drug to the point of building a tolerance. The chemical reaction of Vicodin slowly changes the structure of the reward and judgment centers, which can increase the risk of addiction.
Chemicals that influence someone’s mood, like dopamine and serotonin, are then not produced or released properly. This causes sudden and sometimes extreme changes in mood. If someone goes from acting normal to being extremely anxious or irritated, they may be abusing Vicodin.
Insomnia: When an individual abuses opioid painkillers like Vicodin, they may experience changes in their sleep pattern. Someone abusing Vicodin may nod off or go to sleep at random times. This condition is sometimes referred to as the “narc nod off.” This sign can range from appearing drowsy to falling completely asleep, depending on the severity of abuse.
Lack of sleep caused by prescription painkillers can cause the brain to not get enough rest, and in order to compensate it will automatically shut itself down as a form of self-preservation. This can happen at anytime, such as in the middle of a sentence or while someone is driving, for example.
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Inability to focus: A common side effect of opioid abuse. Opioids are central nervous system depressants and work to slow brain function. Due to this effect, people abusing opioids may find very difficult to focus on the task at hand.
When someone is under the influence of high doses of Vicodin, they can appear high or in a confused state. This sign can also be associated with limited motor skills and slurred speech, and is most likely to happen about an hour after abusing Vicodin.
Obsession with Vicodin: There is a difference between abuse and addiction. Someone abusing a drug like Vicodin may still able to say “no” to taking more of the drug, while someone suffering from addiction continues to have a compulsive physical and mental urge to use it.
When someone is close to going from an abusive state to a state of addiction, it is common for them to become increasingly obsessed with getting more Vicodin. After someone abuses a powerful drug like Vicodin they may continue to use the drug in order to avoid any unwanted withdrawal symptoms.
Personal loss: People abusing Vicodin are likely to experience issues with their relationships. Abusing Vicodin can cause periods of time where someone ignores their personal responsibilities.
Other life aspects may be affected due to Vicodin abuse as well. When an individual is not able to perform their job and their family suffers because of it, their Vicodin abuse can quickly turn into addiction.
Effects Of Vicodin On The Mind And Body
Like other opioid painkillers, Vicodin abuse can cause some of the following physical effects:
- nausea and itching
- slowed breathing
- poor coordination
- increased pain with higher doses
The mental side effects of Vicodin may include feelings of euphoria (feeling “high), drowsiness, and confusion.
Taken over a long time period, Vicodin can become the root cause of further medical issues including liver damage and failure, which is typically identified by yellowing of the eyes or skin. Vicodin abuse can also cause urinary system issues, causing pain or inability to urinate.
When taken in large doses, Vicodin slows respiration and heart rate. If someone taking Vicodin takes too large a dose, they may experience an overdose. The likelihood of overdosing on Vicodin increases when someone mixes it with another central nervous system depressant, like alcohol.
Some symptoms of Vicodin overdose can include:
- constricted pupils
- weak pulse
- shallow or difficult breathing
- respiratory arrest
- blue tint in the lips and fingernails
- seizures or coma
Withdrawal From Vicodin
Many people who abuse Vicodin continue to do so in order to avoid experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. This increased use pattern also causes people to increase their dose amount as their tolerance to Vicodin increases. The combination of wanting to avoid withdrawal and the gradual increase of Vicodin tolerance can quickly turn Vicodin abuse into addiction.
Withdrawal symptoms of opioids like Vicodin can include:
- extreme anxiety and depression
- muscle aches
- watery eyes
- flu-like symptoms (runny nose, head and body aches)
- increased sweating
Treatment For Vicodin Abuse
Treatment for Vicodin abuse often begins with detoxification from the drug. Studies have indicated that successful opioid detox is best completed in a medically-supervised setting. Medically-supervised detox allows the addicted individual greater access to a support system while they wean off Vicodin.
Many people going through recovery can benefit from an aftercare program to continue to have access to support through support groups after leaving treatment.