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How Someone Becomes Addicted To Vicodin

Vicodin abuse is one the most common addictions in United States.  Vicodin is a combination of a semi-synthetic opioid called hydrocodone, mixed with acetaminophen, a non-narcotic analgesic that interferes with the brain’s ability to interpret pain signals. Derived from opioid alkaloids found in opium poppies that are also used to make codeine, hydrocodone is predominantly used in the United States with nearly 99 percent of world hydrocodone supplies consumed by U.S. citizens.

Vicodin is commonly prescribed to relieve severe and/or chronic pain attributed to osteoarthritis/rheumatological conditions, sports injuries, postoperative pain, dental procedures, back pain and various musculoskeletal disorders.

The U.S. Federal Drug Enforcement Agency has designated Vicodin as a Schedule III controlled substance with the potential for abuse, physical dependence and psychological dependence.

Why Vicodin is So Addicting

Hydrocodone, the narcotic analgesic in Vicodin, targets the same receptors in the brain targeted by heroin, morphine and other opioids. Specifically, kappa and mu receptors associated with the central nervous system readily accept hydrocodone to provide rapid and immediate pain relief, a strong sense of euphoria and drowsiness or sedation. In addition, stimulation of these receptors with Vicodin increases levels of neurotransmitters implicated in addiction, such as serotonin, endorphins and dopamine. As the brain becomes accustomed to having these “feel good” chemicals influence its functioning, Vicodin abusers will suffer withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking Vicodin.

Like other central nervous system depressants, Vicodin significantly reduces brain activity that, in turn, affects all other physiological systems. Vicodin not only induces euphoria and sedation but also suppresses breathing and heart rate, impairs coordination, causes urinary retention/edema and interferes with normal cognitive processes.

How Someone Becomes a Vicodin Addict

Tolerance for Vicodin builds quickly. Within two weeks, a Vicodin user may find they need to take two pills instead of one to feel any effects. Eventually, two pills are not enough to provide the “high” craved by addicts nor prevent withdrawal symptoms. Abusing Vicodin by taking more pills than prescribed may cause the addict to hallucinate, suffer delirium/confusion and have dangerously low heart rates. Vicodin addicts may also experience intermittent muscle rigidity, increased intracranial pressure and tachycardia (extremely rapid heartbeat).

Signs of Vicodin Addiction & Withdrawal

When Vicodin addicts cannot access their drug, withdrawal symptoms can begin within six to 12 hours. Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety/agitation/
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle/joint aches
  • Congestion
  • Fever/shivering/tremors
  • Sweating
  • Stomach cramps/nausea

Since taking Vicodin is the only thing that will relieve withdrawal symptoms, addicts often turn to the streets to purchase Vicodin or other opioids from drug dealers.

Long Term Side Effects of a Vicodin Addiction & Abuse

Unless Vicodin addicts get treatment by entering rehab, the combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen can cause the following health problems and side effects:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss
  • Acute liver failure due to excessive consumption of acetaminophen
  • Hypertension/heart disease
  • Loss of muscle and bone density
  • Cognitive issues involving memory, concentration and judgment

Treatment for a Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin addicts will need to enter a medically managed, detoxification program. Withdrawing from Vicodin without professional assistance can be dangerous due to the potential for seizures, dehydration from vomiting and shock. Completion of detox should be followed by cognitive behavioral therapy, relapse prevention counseling, psychotherapeutic interventions and use of medications as prescribed by a psychiatrist or physician for controlling cravings.
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