Hydrocodone Addiction

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Hydrocodone is a powerful opioid painkiller and hydrocodone addiction can develop rapidly in the form of OUD (opioid use disorder).

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies fraudulently marketed opioids as non-addictive medications for alleviating chronic pain. The over prescription of opioids for this purpose became problematic due to the fiercely addictive nature of these medications

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SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) publishes data annually from NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health). Although the number of U.S. adults with opioid use disorder dropped from 1.9 million to 1.5 between 2018 and 2019, by 2020 – the most current available data – 2.6 million over-18s reported opioid addiction in that year. 

Not only are opioids like hydrocodone highly addictive, but they are also implicated in 75% of all drug overdose deaths in the United States, according to CDC data. 

Fortunately, while hydrocodone can be highly addictive, OUD usually responds favorably to MAT (medication-assisted treatment) delivered in combination with behavioral interventions like counseling and psychotherapy. 

What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid-based prescription painkiller used to treat moderate and severe pain. 

The medication is only prescribed for those expected to require around-the-clock pain relief for severe pain where other medications or treatment would be ineffective. 

Hydrocodone belongs to a class of medications known as narcotic opiate analgesics or opioid analgesics. 

The most common application for hydrocodone is for alleviating post-operative pain. 

Like all medications in this class, hydrocodone has a strong profile for misuse, abuse, and addiction. 

Hydrocodone is available in extended-release capsule or tablets. If prescribed this medication, you will typically take one tablet or capsule every four or six hours throughout the day. Many people who develop hydrocodone addiction consume far higher doses, increasing the risk of fatal overdose.

Many hydrocodone products – Vicodin and Percocet, for instance – also contain acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). Researchers discovered that large doses of acetaminophen can cause severe allergic reactions and liver damage. Resultantly, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) changed their guidelines pertaining to acetaminophen products in 2011. The adjusted guidelines limit acetaminophen content to 325mg when used in painkillers like Percocet and Vicodin.

Brand Name Vicodin

Vicodin is a branded hydrocodone combination product developed for the treatment of moderate and severe pain. 

Each Vicodin tablet contains these active ingredients: 

  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is the active ingredient used in Tylenol, an over-the-counter painkiller. Each Vicodin tablet contains between 300mg and 325mg of acetaminophen.
  • Hydrocodone: Hydrocodone is a powerful synthetic opioid. The medication activates the same neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) as heroin and other opiate narcotics. Each Vicodin tablet contains 5mg, 7.5mg, or 10mg of hydrocodone.

Vicodin was once classified under schedule III of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act). In 2011, at the height of the opioid epidemic, over 130 million U.S. adults were prescribed Vicodin, often in excessive doses and strengths. By 2014, all products containing hydrocodone were reclassified as schedule II controlled substances. Like all medications in this class, hydrocodone has the potential for abuse and addiction, despite having some medical applications. 

Although Vicodin can be a highly effective painkiller, the medication also triggers a variety of potentially unpleasant side effects.

The most common of these adverse side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Anxiety
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Dry throat
  • Clouded thoughts
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pinprick pupils

If you experience any of these symptoms severely, or if symptoms persist, consult your physician. 

When prescribed Vicodin for pain relief, you should never suddenly discontinue use without close medical supervision. 

Seek immediate medical guidance if any of the following side effects present when using Vicodin tablets or capsules: 

  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Chest tightness
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Appetite loss
  • Weakness
  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Slow or irregular breathing

Vicodin, as with all combination medications containing hydrocodone, may trigger additional side effects. 

Is hydrocodone addictive in all forms, then?

An image of a woman who is experiencing the effects of a hydrocodone addiction

Can You Get Addicted to Hydrocodone?

Like all opioids, using hydrocodone in any form carries the risk of both abuse and addiction. 

The primary reason for the reclassification of hydrocodone as a schedule II controlled substance is the powerful abuse potential of this semi-synthetic opioid. Any use of hydrocodone without a supporting prescription, and any use of hydrocodone other than as prescribed is considered hydrocodone abuse. 

Why are medications like hydrocodone and Vicodin so addictive, then?

Is Vicodin Addictive?

Vicodin is highly addictive due to the way tolerance rapidly forms. As tolerance develops, you will need more Vicodin to achieve the same effects, or you will need to use the medication more frequently. 

Triggering a vicious cycle, continuing to use Vicodin is likely to cause physical dependence. When this occurs, you will need the medication simply to stave off withdrawal symptoms and to feel normal. Tolerance and withdrawal are both symptoms of opioid use disorder. Physical dependence on opioids often but not always accompanies opioid addiction. 

Although hydrocodone addiction can come about quite quickly, hydrocodone addiction treatment typically delivers positive outcomes. 

What should you look out for if you are prescribed Vicodin or another hydrocodone product and you’re concerned about the development of opioid use disorder?

Hydrocodone Addiction Symptoms

All hydrocodone addictions are unique, and it can be challenging to establish when abusing this semi-synthetic opioid triggers addiction. 

Hydrocodone addiction is clinically described as OUD (opioid use disorder). OUD is diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe according to the number of symptoms present. The diagnostic criteria are listed in American Psychiatric Association’s most current edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5-TR

If you are concerned about hydrocodone addiction, ask yourself the following questions based on your opioid use over the past twelve months: 

  1. Do you often take more opioids than prescribed or for a longer period than intended?
  2. Have you tried and failed to moderate or discontinue your use of hydrocodone?
  3. Are you spending lots of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of hydrocodone?
  4. Have you experienced intense cravings for hydrocodone?
  5. Is your use of hydrocodone causing you to neglect personal and professional obligations?
  6. Do you continue to use opioids even though this is causing or worsening problems in your closest relationships?
  7. Are you spending less time doing things you once enjoyed due to opioid use?
  8. Do you use hydrocodone in situations where it is dangerous to do so?
  9. Are you still using hydrocodone even though you know it is causing or inflaming a physical or mental health condition?
  10. Has tolerance to hydrocodone formed so that you need more of the opioid to achieve the same effects?
  11. Have you experienced uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when the effects of hydrocodone wear off?

The presence of two or three symptoms indicates mild OUD. If four or five symptoms present, this is diagnosed as moderate OUD. Severe OUD is characterized by the presentation of six or more of the above symptoms of hydrocodone addiction. 

If you are concerned about your use of hydrocodone, speak with your healthcare provider and request a diagnosis or referral for a diagnosis of opioid use disorder. 

When you are ready to engage with treatment, we can help you from detox to discharge and beyond here at California Detox

Image of a beach in Laguna Beach, Califonia at sunset with people doing sober activities.

Hydrocodone Rehab at California Detox

Those addicted to hydrocodone typically benefit from a supervised medical detox before engaging with Vicodin addiction treatment. Hydrocodone withdrawal involves uncomfortable symptoms that present around eight hours after the last dosage and persist for seven to ten days. 

At our licensed medical detox center here at Laguna Beach, FDA-approved medications can streamline hydrocodone withdrawal. You will also benefit from clinical and emotional care throughout detoxification. 

At California Detox, we offer hydrocodone and Vicodin addiction treatment programs at all levels of intensity, including: 

  • Virtual rehab
  • OPs (traditional outpatient programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Inpatient rehab

Whatever level of intensity you require, your treatment team will personalize your treatment plan using a combination of EBTs (evidence-based treatments) and holistic therapies. You will have access to these interventions: 

  • MAT: Medication-assisted treatment can be a vital component of a hydrocodone addiction treatment plan. Three FDA-approved medications can help make detox more comfortable and can also help inhibit further opioid use and encourage abstinence. MAT for opioid use disorder always work best when combined with psychotherapy.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is the clinical descriptor for talk therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy). You will learn how to identify your personal triggers for opioid use and a therapist will help you to create healthy coping strategies and to improve your distress tolerance.
  • Counseling: Counseling is a central part of all addiction treatment programs here at California Detox. Individual sessions allow you to work closely with a counselor or therapist, while group sessions offer powerful peer support and exposure to a wide variety of viewpoints.

For those with hydrocodone addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder, we offered coordinated and integrated dual diagnosis treatment.

When you’re ready to move beyond hydrocodone addiction and to start building a firm foundation for sustained recovery, call admissions at 949.567.8790.


Hydrocodone is the most prescribed narcotic opioid analgesic, and it is also one of the most addictive medications in this class. Hydrocodone is classified as a schedule II controlled substance for its strong potential for addiction. Physical dependence can develop after just seven days of hydrocodone use. Psychological dependence can develop almost from the onset of use.
In addition to causing tolerance and physical dependence, Vicodin is also fiercely psychologically addictive. An addiction to Vicodin causes a loss of control, meaning those addicted to hydrocodone will compulsively use the substance despite an awareness of the negative outcomes triggered. Powerful cravings for opioids prompt many people to continue using hydrocodone in the face of a developing addiction.


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