Hydrocodone – also sold under the brand names Lortab, Norco, Vicodin and Verdrocet – is an opioid, or narcotic, pain medication that is combined with a non-narcotic painkiller (acetaminophen) and prescribed for moderate to severe pain after a surgical procedures or injury. Opioids can be injected, taken orally via tablets, capsules and syrups, or crushed and snorted.
Prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and oxycodone have potentially serious side effects and risks, including overdoses, physical dependence, addiction and death. Currently, prescription drug abuse, which include hydrocodone drug abuse, and opioid overdoses are an epidemic in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and should be dealt with through hydrocodone detoxification and hydrocodone addiction treatment.
The following characteristics can increase a person’s risk for prescription opioid drug abuse and overdoses, reported Len Paulozzi, M.D., at the CDC:
- Low income
- Medicaid enrolled recipients
- Living in a non-metropolitan area
- Non-Hispanic whites
- Nonmedical use of prescription opioids
- Taking high daily dosages
- History of mental health problems, including substance use disorder, depression, and others
How does hydrocodone work?
Hydrocodone is an opioid, a class of drugs that help to reduce a person’s perception of pain. Opioids work in the body by binding to and activating opioid receptors located in the brain, gastrointestinal tract and other organs, and nervous system, dull pain perception. Prescription painkillers can also induce euphoria because they affect the reward system of the brain.
Side effects become more extreme and more damaging the longer a person abuses them. Short-term effects can include some or all of the following:
- Respiratory depression
- Itching and sweating
- Rapid heart rate