Colorado, including metro areas like Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder is just one of the many states in the U.S. facing an opioid abuse problem that includes prescription painkillers as well as the illicit street drug heroin. One of the drugs that’s widely abused among prescription painkillers in Colorado and nationwide is hydrocodone.
The number of opioid deaths went down somewhat in Colorado in 2016, but this was largely because of efforts made by the state to more closely monitor prescription painkillers and providing more convenient disposal options for unused medicine. Despite that, Colorado’s opioid abuse levels still remain relatively high, and this drug abuse includes hydrocodone.
What Is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is a pain medicine classified as an opioid, which means it treats pain by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors and changing how the body senses and perceives pain. Hydrocodone is a generic name, while prescription versions of hydrocodone include Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab. These brand name drugs also include not just hydrocodone but also acetaminophen. Along with being a pain reliever, hydrocodone can also be helpful as a cough suppressant.
Opioids like hydrocodone are often called narcotics, and these drugs affect the central nervous system.
Along with being a pain reliever other potential effects that can come with taking hydrocodone include having a greater sense of well-being or euphoric high, numbness, drowsiness, and a sense of relaxation or reduced anxiety.
Other potential side effects of hydrocodone can include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea and vomiting, constipation, itchiness and sleep problems. These are considered among the mild and relatively common side effects of hydrocodone. More severe side effects of hydrocodone can include breathing problems, irregular or slow heartbeat, severe allergic reactions, urine retention and bowel obstruction.
In general, many of the side effects of hydrocodone come from the fact that the drug slows down bodily functions of the user, such as the respiratory system. When someone takes too much hydrocodone, it can slow their respiration to the point that they slip into a coma or die.
Is Hydrocodone Addictive?
People in Colorado including major cities like Boulder and Denver, as well as rural areas throughout the state, suffer from an addiction to hydrocodone and other opioids. So is hydrocodone addictive? The answer is yes, it is very addictive. In fact, addiction is considered one of the most dangerous side effects of using hydrocodone.
Another risk of hydrocodone aside from a psychological addiction is a physical tolerance and dependence that can occur.
With opioids, a tolerance refers to the fact that the longer you take the drug, even when you’re prescribed to use it, your body becomes used to its presence, and you need larger amounts to achieve the same effect, whether that’s pain relief or you’re trying to achieve a high. As you develop a tolerance, you also will become physically dependent on the drug.
If you’re physically dependent on hydrocodone you may or may not have a psychological addiction by if you stop taking it suddenly, you will experience withdrawal symptoms.
Along with wondering whether or not hydrocodone is addictive, people also frequently question if you can become addicted when you take it exactly as prescribed. The answer is yes. The risk of addiction is somewhat lower if you follow your doctor’s instructions, but it is still a possibility, and even if you’re taking hydrocodone as directed you can also develop a tolerance and dependence to it.
Why Is Hydrocodone So Addictive?
Hydrocodone is an opioid, as was touched on above. This means that it impacts your central nervous system in a certain way and that’s why it’s so addictive. When you take hydrocodone it binds to opioid receptors in your central nervous system, and that relieves pain, but it can also create positive feelings, such as a sense of euphoria because your brain is flooded with dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good brain chemical, and your brain’s pleasure and reward centers are stimulated by the use of hydrocodone, particularly at higher doses.
When your brain’s pleasure and reward centers are activated, it feels like it wants to repeat whatever it was that stimulated that response, which in this case is hydrocodone. Therefore your compulsive desire to continue seeking out hydrocodone or drugs like it starts to build in your brain. While the initial choice to take hydrocodone is just that, a choice, the way your brain reacts becomes a disease where cravings for the drug are out of your control.
Many of the signs of hydrocodone addiction include an obsession or intense preoccupation with taking it and obtaining more of it, as well as withdrawing from things that you were previously interested in in your life. Again, you can become addicted to hydrocodone even when you take it as prescribed, which is why Colorado has worked on putting increasing regulations in place when it comes to how and when doctors prescribe the drug.
How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted to Hydrocodone?
A common question people have is how long does it take to get addicted to hydrocodone. There is no definite answer to this question.
For some people, they can take hydrocodone for several weeks or even months and never become addicted, whereas for other people addiction can occur after taking it for just two weeks.
There are some risk factors that can increase the chances you become addicted to hydrocodone including your personal and family history of substance abuse, whether you’re taking it with or without a prescription, and whether you take it with other substances, such as alcohol.
People who abuse hydrocodone such as crushing the pills and snorting them to achieve a faster and more powerful high are also more likely to become addicted.
For people in Colorado including in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Palmer Lake and statewide who have a problem with hydrocodone, there are resources available, but as with any opioid addiction, professional treatment is often the only option to recover. Hydrocodone addiction can be scary and extremely difficult, which is why even if you’re prescribed this drug you should exercise extreme caution in how it’s taken.