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The semi-synthetic drug, hydrocodone is produced from codeine, a drug found in the poppy plant. Hydrocodone belongs to the family of narcotic analgesics or painkillers. Hydrocodone usually comes in the liquid form. Doctors prescribed the drug to alleviate pain, treat and prevents a cough. The drug is marketed under the brand name of Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab.

Hydrocodone affects the central nervous system and used to treat mild to severe pain. The drug shows effects that are more effective than codeine but more lethal than morphine in treating cough.

History of Hydrocodone

Helene Lowenheim and Carl Mannich first develop hydrocodone in 1920 in Germany. On March 23, 1943, the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug.  Canada’s health agency, Health Canada also passed the drug under the brand name, hycodan.

Why is It Made of?

Lowenheim and Mannich added oxygen to codeine to resolve stomach upset and high toxicity, the usual side effects of codeine. In February of 1924, Knoll first marketed hydrocodone under the brand name Dicodid. Afterward, several drugs followed to market hydrocodone as Dilaudid, Dihydrin, Dinarkon and Dimorphan.

Reports of the hydrocodone addiction did not surface more than 30 years in 1961 since it first came out in the market.

How is It Abused?

Hydrocodone affects thousands of opioid receptors on the body. However, it does not address the pain directly; it only changes the patient’s experience of the pain. For this exact reason, it makes the users seek the sensation and turn it into a habit. Some of the addictive properties of the drug include numbness, sleepiness, reduced stress and increased value of one’s self.

The drug is prescribed mostly in the US, according to a study of the International Narcotics Control Board. The study shows that in 2007, the US consumed about 99% of hydrocodone supply in the international market.  Based on a report from the National Institute of Health (NIH), 20% Americans take drugs like Vicodin for non-medical purposes. Also, 24 million over 21 years old use hydrocodone for no valid reasons.

Hydrocodone is widely available and makes it easier to abuse. The DEA claimed that 136 prescriptions of the drug were made in 2013. Over the years, 20 million prescriptions were dispensed since 2006.

In 2011, the drug caused an approximate 100,000 abuse-related hospital emergency in the US. To solve the problem, the US government implemented stricter regulation for the drug prescription in 2014.

Signs and symptoms

The dependence for hydrocodone usually starts with a prescription. With the substance dependence, it increases the necessity to take more despite its harmful side effects. The effects of hydrocodone can cause deadly effects like morphine and heroin.

Also, hydrocodone affects the reward system of the brain which strengthens the dependence for it. Hydrocodone abuse can result in both short and long term injury in the physical and mental well-being.

Mild Side Effects of the Drug

Patients consuming hydrocodone may feel several mild effects and eventually wears off. Symptoms may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Weakened muscles
  • Hives
  • Insomnia

Severe Side Effects of of the Drug

Prolonged use of the drug can result in permanent damage. Hydrocodone can affect the brain’s reward system, resulting in decreased sensation for pleasure in most activities.

The drug contains depressant property and can lead to severe side effects. Also, hydrocodone can slow the heart’s rate causing it to stop beating. It is necessary to contact or seek medical attention once these symptoms become clear.

  • Trouble urinating
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • difficulty in breathing
  • bowel obstruction
  • severe itching, hives or swelling
  • vomiting

Treatment for hydrocodone addiction


Detoxification is a medical process of removing traces of the drug in the blood stream. Since hydrocodone is an opiate, it requires several days to complete a detox process. Patients may experience withdrawal symptoms undergoing detoxification. The length of time that the patient uses the drug and the dosage intake makes a difference on the duration of the withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms of the drug usually start 6 to 12 hours from the last intake. It is important to have medical support during this time. One should consider going to an inpatient facility for care and safety.  Specialists may prescribe medication to shorten the withdrawal symptoms and ease the discomfort. Some of the withdrawal symptoms of hydrocodone include:

  • Muscle pains
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Severe shaking
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

For hydrocodone, the longer it was consumed, the more the brain is hooked into it. As an opiate, sudden stop use hydrocodone proved dangerous. A medical professional can control how the body flushes the drug in the system. This makes the withdrawal system controllable.


After completing the detox process, rehabilitation takes place. It involves any individual or group sessions or both. A therapist can help with the relapse, makes the patient involved in activities while addressing the source of the addiction. The treatment seems impossible but doable.

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