Hydrocodone Symptoms, Signs & Side Effects

Colorado, unfortunately, is one of many U.S. states that’s highly familiar with the opioid epidemic that’s been ravaging the country for the past several years. One culprit of this epidemic is hydrocodone.

Hydrocodone is an opiate that is available by prescription, and it’s usually part of combination medications such as Norco, Lortab, and Vicodin. This drug is used in a medical setting for the treatment of moderate to severe pain, but one of the side effects of hydrocodone is addiction.

Hydrocodone is one of the most commonly abused opiates, and it’s a problem not just for people in Colorado, but throughout the country.

The following highlights some of the possible hydrocodone side effects in the short-term and the long-term, signs of hydrocodone dependence, and signs of hydrocodone addiction.

Hydrocodone Side Effects

Hydrocodone is a powerful narcotic drug, and whether you’re taking it as prescribed by your doctor, or you’re abusing the drug, there are some possible symptoms and side effects.

Side effects of hydrocodone can vary depending on the individual, how much of the drug is taken, and whether or not the person is using it for a legitimate reason.

People who are older, unwell or debilitated may experience the most pronounced side effects from hydrocodone.

Common hydrocodone symptoms can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Swelling of hands or feet
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling tired or drowsy

Possible severe hydrocodone symptoms can include shallow breathing, painful urination, confusion, extreme drowsiness, or feeling so lightheaded that you might pass out.

As with most other opioids, one of the primary hydrocodone side effects can be itching, because these drugs impact certain receptors in the central nervous system that can make your brain think it’s being attacked by an allergen. With that being said, while the hydrocodone side effect of itching is considered relatively common, it can be a sign of something more serious, so you should address it with your doctor.

In terms of mood and emotional symptoms of hydrocodone, these can include euphoria, which is the high that often leads people to become addicted to this drug, seeming oddly excited or depressed, or having anxiety.

Hydrocodone Addiction: Symptoms, Signs, & Side Effects

Hydrocodone Side Effects in the Long-Term

Hydrocodone, as with other opioids, affects the brain of the user in very significant ways. When you take an opioid like hydrocodone, it binds to the opioid receptors in your brain and changes the way your brain senses pain and sends messages. The more exposure your brain has to an opioid, the more likely there are to be long-term side effects.

Both physical dependence and addiction are two hydrocodone side effects possible with long-term use.

Physical dependence means your body has become so used to the presence of opioids that it has difficulty functioning without them. If you were to stop taking hydrocodone suddenly, you would experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. You can be physically dependent to hydrocodone with or without being addicted.

Addiction is one of the most significant and severe hydrocodone side effects in the long-term. Because of the ways your brain is changed, the longer you take hydrocodone, the more likely you are to become addicted. Addiction is a disease of the brain that compels you to continue using drugs, even when there are negative consequences.

Over time long-term side effects of hydrocodone can also lead to changes in personality, depression, hallucinations and paranoid behavior, cravings, mood swings, and memory problems.

When referring to opioids like hydrocodone, long-term usually means daily use of the drug for six months or more, although the side effects mentioned above can occur in some people much faster.

Hydrocodone Overdose Symptoms

Signs of a hydrocodone overdose are similar to signs of other opioid overdoses.

Symptoms of hydrocodone overdoses include:

  • Breathing problems such as slow breathing, breathing that seems labored, shallow breathing, or not breathing at all
  • Someone who has overdosed on opioids like hydrocodone might make snoring or gurgling sounds
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Blue tinted lips and fingernails
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures

Hydrocodone is an opioid that’s often paired with acetaminophen for brand name drugs, so it’s important for people to realize that an overdose may occur as the result of liver toxicity from the acetaminophen before an overdose from the opioid actually occurs.

Signs of Hydrocodone Dependence

Dependence to hydrocodone means that your body is physically dependent on the presence of the drug. You may or may not have a psychological addiction. With opioids like hydrocodone, many people become dependent on them even when they take them as prescribed for a short period of time.

One of the first warning signs of hydrocodone dependence often is that you build a tolerance to the drug. This means that you need higher doses to feel the same effects.

If you are building a tolerance and you are physically dependent to hydrocodone and stop taking it suddenly, you will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms can include intense cravings, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, runny nose, chills, sweating and mood disturbances.

Hydrocodone Addiction Signs

There are several different ways a hydrocodone addiction can begin. For many people in Colorado and nationwide it’s, unfortunately, the result of taking hydrocodone as prescribed by a doctor. They may become accidentally addicted to this powerful drug.

Some people may become addicted to hydrocodone because they started taking it recreationally only.

Regardless of the situation, the following are some of the hydrocodone addiction warning signs and hydrocodone addiction symptoms to look out for:

  • If someone has a prescription for hydrocodone, but they seem to be taking it more frequently than they’re supposed to, or taking larger doses, it could be one of the signs of hydrocodone abuse
  • Doctor shopping or creating fake symptoms in an attempt to get hydrocodone prescriptions is one of the major hydrocodone addiction signs
  • Changes in behavior or mood can represent hydrocodone addiction warning signs. This could mean someone seems euphoric at odd times, which alternates with periods of fatigue or depression, as an example.
  • Someone who wants to stop using hydrocodone but is unable is showing hydrocodone addiction signs.
  • Someone who spends much of their time obtaining the drug or thinking about the next time they will use it is showing one of the symptoms of hydrocodone addiction.
  • Hydrocodone addiction can lead to problems throughout a person’s life, including financially, at school, in their career, and with their relationships.
  • Someone who keeps using hydrocodone even when there are bad consequences may be addicted.

So what should you do if you recognize symptoms of hydrocodone abuse or hydrocodone addiction in yourself or a loved one?

It’s a difficult addiction, as with other opioids, so it’s important to seek professional help such as at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. There are resources in Colorado for people in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs and statewide, as well as nationwide for hydrocodone addiction treatment.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.