Pain comes in all forms ranging from injuries to chronic soreness to illness. The body’s unique way of telling us we are in pain is a vital function. But when pain continues for longer lengths of time, it is labeled chronic.
Chronic pain affects more than 50 million people in the U.S., as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Whether it is from illness, injury, or bones and joints that are worn out and needing replacement, people want that one pill that can ease their pain.
Opioid medications have been the go-to pain medication for years. These drugs have been prescribed for decades because they are so efficient in relieving pain. Yet, their effectiveness comes with the possibility of chemical dependence, tolerance, and addiction.
Vicodin is a commonly prescribed opioid medication used to manage pain related to post-surgical uses, injuries, chronic illnesses, and chronic pain. The drug is also mixed with an analgesic drug called acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is most often found in over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol. Vicodin provides both the pain-fighting effects from the opioid and the anti-inflammatory relief of acetaminophen.
Hydrocodone is the opioid in Vicodin. It is a semi-synthetic opioid that’s derived from codeine.
Hydrocodone was created in 1920 and was approved for use, in 1943, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It was combined with acetaminophen and sold under the name Vicodin in the 1950s.
Vicodin begins working within 10 to 20 minutes after it is consumed, and it continues to work on pain from four to eight hours. Even though it is on the less potent scale of opioids, it is still powerful and has significant potential to be addictive.
Vicodin is similar to most opioids in the way it works. As an agonist, it binds to specific opioid receptors in the brain and body. Vicodin specifically activates a type of opioid receptor called the mu-opioid receptor or MOR. The MOR, which regulates nervous system excitability, produces pain relief and the feeling of sedation.
Vicodin can also cause itching, nausea, and dilated pupils. If it is taken in high doses, it can cause euphoria, which makes it a popular recreational drug. Its ability to work fast and cause feelings of euphoria make it a highly abused drug.
Drug abuse can eventually lead to chemical dependence, addiction, withdrawal, and overdose. Prescription opioid abuse may lead to using more dangerous illegal drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that 80 percent of people who use heroin started off abusing prescription opioids.
Addiction is a serious, chronic brain disease. It usually begins by signs and symptoms that let you know you’re developing a substance use disorder. If someone has been prescribed an opioid medication like Vicodin, it’s critical to recognize the signs of addiction. If you can spot the signs of a substance use disorder early on, you can avoid some of the most severe outcomes.
Opioid addiction most often follows tolerance that continues to grow and chemical dependence.
Tolerance begins when your brain starts to get used to the drug in it and begins to adapt to the drug.
Dependence develops when your brain starts to rely on the chemical to maintain regular brain function.
If you stop taking the drug after developing a chemical dependence, you will feel flu-like withdrawal symptoms and other uncomfortable symptoms. This might spur continued drug use.
Here are some observable behavioral signs which indicate an opioid-related substance use disorder:
It is essential to know that a substance use disorder becomes an addiction when someone continues to use compulsively despite serious outcomes.
Addiction is a chronic disease. However, it is treatable with the expertise and support of the right program. Addiction needs to be tailored to your individual needs to be effective. Treatment starts with an intake and assessment process that is created to place you at the right level of care for your needs.
If you have medical needs, you may be placed in a high level of care like medical detox. Medical detox can help get you through withdrawal symptoms safely. This is usually conducted at one of our affiliate treatment centers. Clients are then referred to an inpatient program, and those who graduate from the level of care move to an intensive outpatient or outpatient program.
Clients who can live on their own may enter an intensive outpatient program or outpatient program. At this level, you’ll go through a variety of therapies that are based on your needs. Your treatment plan can include individual, group, and family therapy, as well as a variety of behavioral therapies. These treatments delve into the root cause for the client’s addiction and create a plan that sets them on the road of freedom from addiction.
Vicodin is a prescription-strength opioid and comes with some inherent dangers. If it is abused or used too long, chemical dependency develops and can become an addiction. Addiction to opioid pain pills is widely known to be challenging to overcome, and more so when done cold turkey.
As previously mentioned, prescription opioid addiction can lead to illicit drugs like heroin. Prescription medication is expensive, and it is much harder to obtain that prescription than before.
People seeking pain medicine will go to different medical facilities to “doctor shop.” They will also look for doctors who will give them pain pills since one doctor may only prescribe enough for short-term therapeutic use. Vicodin is authorized for short-term periods only. Prescription refills are very difficult to obtain from the same doctor.
When tolerance for Vicodin grows, the individual will need more of the drug to obtain that euphoric high. When it becomes too difficult to get pills from doctors, the individual may try to get them illegally or switch to heroin, which is cheaper.
Heroin is the most widely available illicit drug in the United States. Both heroin and illicit pills are extremely dangerous. There is no sure way to know what is in illegally obtained pain pills or heroin.
Illegal drugs are unpredictable in strength. The dealers usually cut or mix heroin with even more dangerous substances that decrease the strength of the product.
Opioids suppress your central nervous system, and during an overdose, it can suppress it at dangerous levels. Overdose can cause someone to become unconscious, go into a coma, have clammy skin, a slow heart rate, and low blood pressure. The most common cause of a fatal overdose is respiratory depression that leads to brain damage and death.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults — United States, 2016. from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a2.htm
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Pain Research Forum. Mu and Delta Opioid Receptors: Where Are They, and Do They Interact? from https://www.painresearchforum.org/news/95826-mu-and-delta-opioid-receptors-where-are-they-and-do-they-interact
National Instiute on Drug Abuse. Prescription Opioids and Heroin. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use
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