Vicodin Abuse & Addiction

Written by Nicole LaNeve

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Editorial Policy

Last Updated - 08/10/2023

View our editorial policy
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling (719) 602-0914 now.

Updated 08/10/2023

The opioid epidemic impacting the nation has been front in center in Colorado, and one of the drugs that’s part of this battle is Vicodin. Vicodin is one of the more recognized and well-known prescription opioids combining hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

What Is Vicodin?

Vicodin is a prescription painkiller that’s classified as an opioid. It includes hydrocodone, which is the actual opioid component, as well as paracetamol, which is also known as acetaminophen. Hydrocodone changes how the person taking the drug perceives pain, and it can increase pain tolerance.

Vicodin is a controlled substance by the DEA and is a narcotic that is intended to be used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain.

When hydrocodone is taken, particularly in higher doses, it can lead to a euphoric high, which is why Vicodin is so frequently abused and used recreationally. This is why Vicodin abuse is such a big issue.

Vicodin is a particularly dangerous drug because it not only contains an opioid component, but acetaminophen is also dangerous. If you take too much acetaminophen in a 24-hour period, it can lead to liver damage, acute liver failure, or death.

Is Vicodin Addictive?

Yes, Vicodin is very addictive. Unfortunately, many people may start taking Vicodin following surgery or an accident, and they follow their doctor’s instructions, yet they still become addicted.

Vicodin use is incredibly high not only in Colorado but across the nation, and it’s particularly favored among young people.

People who abuse the drug recreationally may buy it illegally or steal it since it’s available only by prescription, or they may try to doctor shop or create false symptoms in hopes of getting a prescription. That’s why it’s become so tough for doctors and people who truly suffer from pain in states like Colorado. There is a need for the therapeutic benefits of Vicodin for some patients, but there are so many that abuse it that prescription guidelines are incredibly stringent.

People who abuse Vicodin will often crush it up and snort it or inject it in order to get a faster, more powerful high, and using the drug in this way is also more likely to lead to addiction. Abuse of Vicodin also includes taking more than what you’re prescribed or taking it more often than you’re instructed.

Why Is Vicodin So Addictive?

Vicodin and drugs like it are incredibly addictive because of the way they work on the brain. When you take Vicodin and other opioids, they bind to opioid receptors in the central nervous system.

As that happens, your brain releases dopamine, and your reward center is activated. You may feel a sense of euphoria or well-being, and then your brain is triggered to want to seek out what created that feeling. That’s how addiction to opioids begins. Your brain essentially becomes rewired, and chemical neurotransmitters are fundamentally changed to the point where your ability to control your cravings for the drug doesn’t exist anymore.

How Does Vicodin Addiction Begin?

An addiction to Vicodin can begin in any number of ways. Vicodin addiction can start when you’re prescribed it by a doctor, and you get the euphoric high from it accidentally. You can also become addicted if you experiment with Vicodin recreationally, and in some cases, people may try to substitute Vicodin for another drug, and they end up addicted to it.

To reduce the likelihood of becoming addicted to Vicodin, it’s important only to take it with a prescription, and to follow your doctor’s instructions exactly.

How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted To Vicodin?

There is no definitive answer to how long it takes to get addicted to Vicodin. Some people might take Vicodin and never become addicted, whereas others might take it for a week or two and become addicted. It’s a game of chance and is also based on individual factors such as your personal and family history of substance abuse, potential underlying mental disorders, and whether or not you’re prescribed the drug.

It could take weeks, months or not happen at all, but for most people, addiction is a very real risk when they take this drug.

Another thing to consider is the fact that using Vicodin and other opioids can lead to physical dependence, even if you’re not psychologically addicted to them. This means that if you stop using these drugs suddenly, you go through withdrawal.

Vicodin Side Effects

When someone takes Vicodin, it impacts their opioid receptors, which is how it diminishes the sensation of pain, but in this way, people may also feel high from using this prescription drug. When someone takes opioids, it slows down the functionality of their central nervous system, which is where most of the noticeable side effects of Vicodin stem from.

Whether you take Vicodin because of a prescription, or you take it recreationally, you may experience certain side effects.

Common Vicodin side effects include:

  • Seeming sleepy or lethargic
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Sense of relaxation or well-being
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Weakness

There may also be more severe Vicodin side effects which include slowed breathing, feeling like you’re going to faint, altered judgment, confusion, extreme drowsiness, and loss of consciousness.

Effects of Vicodin Abuse

The Vicodin symptoms above stem from the short-term use of the drug, and they can occur whenever it’s taken, whether for pain by a legitimate prescription or recreationally. The side effects of Vicodin abuse and Vicodin side effects in the long-term are similar but include others as well.

When you abuse Vicodin or take it in the long-term, it can lead to the development of tolerance, and this can happen relatively quickly. Tolerance means that you need to take more and more Vicodin to feel the same effects. Over time, as tolerance develops the euphoric high of the drug often disappears.

Vicodin’s side effects in the long term can also include addiction. Vicodin is a powerful opioid that changes the neural pathways of the brain, and this is what fuels the chronic disease of addiction.

Since Vicodin is a combination drug that includes an opioid and acetaminophen, there are other side effects as well. Acetaminophen can be harmful to the liver in large doses, when combined with alcohol or when taken regularly. Vicodin side effects in the long-term can include jaundice, urinary problems, liver damage, or liver failure because of the acetaminophen.

Vicodin Addiction Signs

The following are some of the Vicodin addiction signs:

  • One of the initial symptoms of Vicodin addiction that become apparent is using more Vicodin than what’s prescribed or taking it more often, even when the person has a prescription
  • If someone is abusing Vicodin or addicted and has developed a tolerance, if they stop using it suddenly they will go through withdrawal symptoms
  • Symptoms of Vicodin addiction can create changes in a person’s behavior. For example, they may start isolating themselves from friends or family, or their performance at school or work might decline.
  • When someone is addicted to Vicodin, they may try to stop using it and find that they’re unsuccessful.
  • Many of the symptoms of Vicodin addiction are related to how the drug is obtained. Someone who is addicted might change prescriptions, steal, buy or trade Vicodin without a prescription, or doctor shop for multiple prescriptions.

Crushing it up and snorting it or taking it any other way than how it’s intended to be used is one of the Vicodin addiction symptoms.

Signs of a Vicodin Overdose

Vicodin is a combination drug that contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and overdose is possible because of not only the opioid component of the drug but also the acetaminophen.

When someone overdoses on an opioid drug, they may display the following symptoms:

  • Extreme drowsiness or nodding off
  • Making gurgling or snoring sounds
  • Slowed breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure
  • Bluish tint to lips or nails
  • Seeming extremely confused or disoriented
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Weak pulse
  • Seizures
  • Coma

With acetaminophen, there’s also a risk of overdose that can lead to liver toxicity. The signs of a Vicodin overdose related to acetaminophen can include dark urine or trouble urinating, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes, and ultimately it can lead to liver failure.

If you believe someone is experiencing the signs of a Vicodin overdose, it’s extremely important to contact emergency services immediately.

Drug overdose can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, 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.

Vicodin Treatment in Colorado

While addiction to any opioid including Vicodin can be frightening for the addict and their family, there are Vicodin addiction treatment options available in Colorado and around the country.

Treatment for Vicodin addiction should be holistic in terms of how it’s approached.

Depending on the severity of the addiction the person may require medically supervised detox, and then once that occurs they can begin the treatment process. Treatment for Vicodin addiction may occur on an inpatient or outpatient basis, and Vicodin addiction treatment options can also include 12-step programs and other support group participation.

Most treatment for Vicodin addiction, regardless of location or the program format includes a combination of behavioral and pharmaceutical treatment, with the focus on the behavioral.

Pharmaceutical treatments involved in treatment for Vicodin addiction can include medicines given during detox to reduce the symptoms or cravings the person experiences because of withdrawal, as well as medicines such as antidepressants to help with underlying mental health issues.

Behavioral elements of treatment for Vicodin addiction will often include cognitive behavioral therapy that can help people recognize negative patterns in their life and create new coping mechanisms, particularly when dealing with triggers or stressors.

How Long Does Vicodin Rehab Last?

This depends on the person. Most rehab programs for Vicodin addiction can last anywhere from 28 to 90 days, and there are also long-term programs for people with severe addictions or other mental or physical health issues that need to be addressed.

Vicodin addiction rehab can be inpatient or outpatient, and there are also hospitalization programs, but these are typically for people with the most severe addictions.

Inpatient Vicodin Rehab

During an inpatient rehab for Vicodin such as what’s offered at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, residential meaning patients stay there for a period of time, and everyone participates in a structured program that includes a combination of individual and group therapy, as well as family therapy when possible.

Inpatient Vicodin addiction rehab tends to be optimal for people who have tried unsuccessfully to do other treatment programs in the past, for people who have severe or long-term Vicodin addictions, who are abusing multiple drugs simultaneously, or who have serious underlying and untreated mental health disorders.

In general particularly with severe Vicodin addictions, inpatient, residential rehab tends to be most effective, particularly when people commit to a longer stay.

Learn More About Our Inpatient Rehab Program >

Outpatient Vicodin Rehab

Outpatient rehab is another option available to people who are looking for Vicodin addiction rehab in Colorado. With outpatient Vicodin addiction rehab, patients still continue their normal daily lives, but they attend therapy and counseling outside of their work, school, or family schedule. For outpatient rehab to be effective, not only does the addiction to Vicodin need to be on the milder end of the spectrum usually, but it’s better if the patient has a strong, sober support system at home.

Learn More About Our Outpatient Rehab Program >

Overcoming Vicodin Addiction

Like other opioids, being addicted to Vicodin can feel overpowering and all-consuming, and that’s because addiction is a very real disease of the brain and there are also physical elements of dependence that occur as well.

People tend to wonder if it’s even possible to overcome Vicodin addiction and it is, but it requires work.

Help with Vicodin addiction should start with contacting a professional rehab center, and determining what the next steps should be. Some people try to overcome opioid addiction on their own, and for the most part, these efforts fail. Even if a person does make it beyond the detox period, they may relapse soon after, and relapse following a period of sobriety can be especially dangerous because it puts you at a higher risk of an overdose.

As you seek help with Vicodin addiction, you should be empowered by knowing that you do have options available to you, both in Colorado and around the country. There are addiction resources that you can turn to locally and nationally, whether you’re in Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, or elsewhere in Colorado and ready to make a change.

Does Insurance Cover Vicodin Rehab?

Cost is almost always a concern for people when they come to The Recovery Village for help with opioid addiction, and rehab can be expensive, but in many cases insurance will cover some or all of the costs of Vicodin rehab. This was something that was mandated by the Affordable Care Act, and our Colorado intake specialists can work with you and your insurance company to get you approved for treatment.

If you don’t have insurance, public insurance may cover the costs of opioid treatment, and there are other flexible financing options available, which our intake coordinators can talk to you about.

Cost shouldn’t be a barrier to receiving help with a Vicodin addiction.


CDC. “Opioid Basics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 16, 2021. Accessed June 9, 2021.

DEA. “Drug Scheduling.” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 2021. Accessed June 9, 2021.

MedinePlus. “Hydrocodone Combination Products.” National Institutes of Health, January 15, 2021. Accessed June 9, 2021.


Get your life back

Recovery is possible. Begin your journey today

Call Us Now Admissions Check Insurance

What To Expect

When you call our team, you will speak to a Recovery Advocate who will answer any questions and perform a pre-assessment to determine your eligibility for treatment. If eligible, we will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. If The Recovery Village is not the right fit for you or your loved one, we will help refer you to a facility that is. All calls are 100% free and confidential.

All calls are 100% free and confidential.