Hydrocodone – also sold under the brand names Lortab, Norco, Vicodin and Verdrocet – is a prescription opioid, or narcotic, pain medication that is prescribed in combination with a non-narcotic painkiller (acetaminophen) to treat moderate to severe pain after a surgical procedure or injury. These opioids can be injected, taken orally in the form of tablets, capsules and syrups, or crushed and snorted.
Some of the common factors that increase the risk of hydrocodone abuse are:
- Low income
- Medicaid enrolled recipients
- Living in a non-metropolitan area
- 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. These can also induce euphoria because they affect the reward system of the brain.
Based on the duration of its abuse, hydrocodone abuse can pose serious side effects on its user such as overdoses, physical dependence, addiction and death. The longer the duration of abuse, the more severe its effects are.
Some of the common short-term effects of hydrocodone abuse include:
- Respiratory depression
- Itching and sweating
- Rapid heart rate
Its prolonged use can cease the production of endorphins, natural pain defenses in the human body and can also degenerate the nerve cells. As the nerve cells begin to die, people abusing hydrocodone begin to require more of the drug to prevent the onset of debilitating withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the other long-term effects of using this drug include:
- Low levels of testosterone
- Hyperalgesia (increased pain sensitivity)
- Physical dependence
- Collapsed veins
- Clogged blood vessels
- Weakened immune system