Lortab Abuse & Addiction June 15th, 2021 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Lortab Abuse & Addiction

Lortab Abuse & Addiction

Article Overview:

  • Lortab includes hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is an opioid narcotic, while acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol.
  • This combination drug is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and can lead to addiction. 
  • A Lortab overdose is a medical emergency and can be fatal.
Table of Contents

What Is Lortab?

Lortab is a prescription opioid used to relieve moderate to severe pain. In some cases, it may be prescribed as a cough suppressant. Lortab is a combination of the opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in Tylenol. It is a Schedule II controlled substance that is intended to only be used as prescribed by a physician.

Brand name Lortab is available as an oral elixir containing 10 mg hydrocodone and 300 mg acetaminophen per 15 mL. The tablet formulations of the drug are no longer available as a brand name product and are instead sold as generic drugs. The tablet forms are available in strengths of:

  • Hydrocodone 5 mg, acetaminophen 325 mg
  • Hydrocodone 7.5 mg, acetaminophen 325 mg
  • Hydrocodone 10 mg, acetaminophen 325 mg

When taken in larger doses, this semi-synthetic opioid acts in a way that’s similar to OxyContin and can produce a high in the user.

While Lortab does have medical applications, it’s not without potentially severe risks. In addition to the dangers involved in taking high doses of opioids, there’s also the risk of overdosing on acetaminophen. Taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage and even acute liver failure, which can be fatal. People who take Lortab must be particularly aware of both of these types of risks.

Though Lortab is a prescription drug, some people use it for non-medical reasons. They may obtain it illegally or be dishonest with their doctor in order to get a prescription; they will then take it to feel effects like euphoria, calmness, stress and anxiety relief, sleepiness and numbed emotions.

Understanding Lortab Addiction

Lortab and similar opioid painkillers are highly likely to be habit-forming. Opioids bind to certain receptors in the central nervous system to relieve pain, but they also release dopamine and stimulate your brain’s pleasure and reward systems. When this happens, your brain starts pushing you to compulsively seek out the substance that caused the dopamine release. This is how the disease of addiction begins, and it is difficult to treat once it happens.

Lortab addiction can cause physical dependence as well. When you take opioids for a prolonged period, your brain and your body become used to their presence. This means you have to take higher doses for the same desired effect. If you are physically dependent on a drug and suddenly stop using it, you will experience withdrawal symptoms.

How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted to Lortab?

There’s no way to accurately determine how long it takes to get addicted to Lortab, as it mostly depends on the individual and the situation. To minimize your risk of addiction, you should take Lortab only as prescribed. Do not take a higher dose of the drug or take it more often than prescribed.

Lortab Side Effects

All prescription drugs — whether taken as instructed by a doctor or misused for recreational purposes — have the potential for side effects. Lortab is no exception. Lortab side effects can range from mild to severe, depending on factors such as how much is taken and how often.

Common side effects of Lortab include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression or other mood changes
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Cognition and thinking problems

The long-term side effects of Lortab use can include physical dependence and addiction.

Respiratory Depression

One of the most severe potential side effects of any opioid is respiratory depression, or slowed breathing. This is because these drugs slow down the nervous system to change how you sense pain. It is effective for treating pain, but if you take a high dose, it can slow down bodily functions so much that you slip into a coma or even die. 

Behavioral Side Effects of Lortab

Someone who takes Lortab will typically experience a period of euphoria, particularly if they take a high dose or aren’t using it to treat pain. After that euphoria ends, the person may be drowsy or confused. People who use very high doses of Lortab may start to nod off after taking it or appear depressed following the period of euphoria.

Lortab Addiction Signs

Lortab, like other prescription opioids, has a high potential for abuse and can lead to addiction. Whether you take Lortab exactly as prescribed for the treatment of pain or use it recreationally, you still may become addicted.

Some of the initial signs of Lortab abuse include:

  • Taking it recreationally (to relax, for example) or using it with other substances
  • Taking a higher dose than prescribed, or taking doses more frequently than prescribed
  • Taking Lortab in a way other than how it’s intended to be used, such as crushing it up and snorting it
  • Stealing the medicine or buying it illegally from other people

While someone can abuse Lortab without necessarily being addicted, abuse often develops into addiction quickly.

Common Lortab addiction symptoms include:

  • Doctor shopping, or visiting multiple doctors to get more than one prescription. People who are doctor shopping will often create fake symptoms as well. 
  • Behavioral or lifestyle changes
  • Isolating and withdrawing from friends and family 
  • Hanging out with a new group of people
  • Being preoccupied with Lortab and obsessing over getting and using more of it 
  • Secrecy and lying
  • Declining performance or interest in school, work or other activities
  • Financial and legal problems

There are also physical symptoms of Lortab addiction you may notice. If someone is addicted to Lortab, they are likely also physically dependent. If they were to stop using it or miss a dose, they might go through withdrawal symptoms.

Lortab withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle tremors
  • Confusion
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sleep problems

Signs of a Lortab Overdose

Opioid drugs bind to opioid receptors in the brain and ultimately slow the central nervous system. When this happens, respiration and heart rate are also slowed, which is what can cause an overdose. An overdose can be fatal, so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of an overdose.

Lortab overdose symptoms can include the following:

  • Small pupils 
  • Falling asleep or losing consciousness 
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp muscles
  • Pale, blue, clammy or cold skin  

Drug overdoses can be dangerous or even fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing a Lortab overdose, administer naloxone (Narcan) if available and call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone, contact Colorado Poison Center for online assistance.

Lortab includes both hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and it is possible to overdose on both. However, acetaminophen overdose symptoms may not occur for more than 24 hours after an excessive dose of the drug has been taken. This is in contrast to a hydrocodone overdose, where signs can be evident within minutes.

Signs of an acetaminophen overdose can include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Abdominal pain

If you or someone you love is struggling with Lortab addiction in Colorado, help is available at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and recovery programs that can work well for your needs.

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  • GoodRX. “Lortab.” Accessed June 6, 2021.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Commonly Used Terms.” January 26, 2021. Accessed June 6, 2021.
  • Agrawal, Suneil; Khazaeni, Babak. “Acetaminophen Toxicity.” StatPearls, November 20, 2020. Accessed June 6, 2021.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioids.” Accessed June 6, 2021.
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.” May 25, 2021. Accessed June 6, 2021.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Preventing an Opioid Overdose.” Accessed June 6, 2021.

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.