Most of us have taken Vicodin for some reason or another, whether to control painful dental infections, sustaining an injury, or following surgery. Vicodin is the most highly prescribed opioid in the U.S., with 136 million prescriptions filled in 2013, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. But just as with other prescription pain medications, the long term effects of Vicodin use are now under the spotlight. Opioid abuse and addiction has become a national emergency, and Vicodin is among this category of drugs.
When we are handed a prescription for Vicodin following, say, oral surgery, most of us don’t hesitate to fill it. No one enjoys pain. However, in light of the dramatic exposure in the past five to ten years, opioid addiction is now on people’s radar. Now, taking those pills prescribed by a doctor may not seem like such a good idea after all. Increasing awareness of the long term effects of Vicodin use are giving pause, and rightly so.
Vicodin is the brand name of a potent analgesic composed of hydrocodone and aceteminophin. Vicodin was recently bumped up from a Schedule III controlled substance to a Schedule II controlled substance due to its potential for abuse and addictive features. This change signifies an attempt to rein in the number of prescriptions written for the drug, as well as to impose stiff penalties for individuals possessing and distributing the drug illicitly.
Vicodin’s hydrocodone provides pain-relieving effect similar to morphine, and the acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) is added to manage fever and boost the pain reducing effects. Other brand names associated with this drug combination include Lorcet, Lortab, and Norco. The drug works by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract, producing feelings of relaxation, reduced perception of pain, and feelings of euphoria. Vicodin can also suppress the cough reflex.
How Vicodin Addiction Develops
With continued use of the Vicodin, the body will begin to increase tolerance to its effects. This equates to needing more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. As the frequency of dosing increases, physical dependence and addiction can result. This happens when the individual comes to believe they still need the drug lest they suffer from pain, even if they would likely not need that level of pain management by this point. But the reflex to reach for the drug is now entrenched in the brain.
Once the addiction takes root, an attempt to quit the drug is met with highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle cramping
- Bone pain
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive yawning
- Drug cravings
These symptoms can be so uncomfortable that the individual returns immediately to the drug to arrest the withdrawal symptoms.
What are the Long Term Effects of Vicodin Use?
While the short-term effects of Vicodin use might include lightheadedness, drowsiness, constipation, and nausea, the long term effects of Vicodin use are much more serious. As with other opioids, Vicodin interferes with lung functioning, increasing the risk for pneumonia or other respiratory distress. Once addicted to Vicodin other long-term effects might include:
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Narcotic bowel syndrome, including vomiting, distention, chronic constipation, and nausea
In addition to the long-term effects of abusing Vicodin, an increased risk of overdose is a threat when an individual takes Vicodin with alcohol, or has increased dosage to dangerous levels. Loss of consciousness, coma and death can occur with respiratory failure.
Detoxification and Withdrawal from Vicodin
Going through the detox process on one’s own is never suggested, as the withdrawal symptoms (listed above) can become so difficult to bear that the individual resorts back to using the drug. To ensure safety and a much better chance of making it through detox and into treatment, a medically monitored detox process is recommended. These detox specialists provide ongoing supervision and will offer various interventions throughout the detox to manage the withdrawal symptoms.
In some cases, a drug such as buprenorphine or Suboxone is used to ease the withdrawal symptoms as well as assist in the early months of recovery. This medically assisted treatment acts as a step down from the Vicodin, slowly training the brain to no longer desire or crave the drug.
Treatment for Vicodin Addiction
Following the detoxification process, the individual will now be in a much better place to enter into active treatment for the addiction. Detox without addiction treatment is likely to result in nearly immediate relapse, so treatment should always be the goal when initiating the recovery process. Addiction treatment programs use assorted therapies and activities that work in tandem to help break the addict reflex behaviors.
Treatment elements in Vicodin recovery include:
- Individual psychotherapy sessions. During these one-on-one sessions the therapist will help the client identify underlying factors that might be driving the dependence on Vicodin, such as using it to self-medicate a mood disorder or a difficult emotional event or trauma
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT shows clients how their disordered negative thoughts led to the maladaptive use of Vicodin, and then helps them replace those distorted thought and behavior patterns with healthy ones
- Group counseling sessions. Group therapy provides the social support so helpful when battling addiction. Members of the group, under the facilitation of a therapist, share their own experiences, offer their suggestions, and bond together with the common goal of overcoming the addiction.
Complimentary therapies, such as family therapy, couples therapy, anger management, mindfulness training, yoga, and art therapy can enhance treatment results and improve recovery success rates.
Capo By the Sea Provides Comprehensive Treatment for Vicodin Addiction
Capo By the Sea is Southern California’s premier treatment program for individuals struggling with the long term effects of Vicodin use and addiction. At Capo By the Sea, clients are surrounded with compassionate support and the finest accommodations while they receive an individualized treatment strategy for overcoming a Vicodin problem. Addictive reflexive behaviors are addressed in therapy, and then reshaped by changing the maladaptive thought and behavior patterns so common in Vicodin addiction. A beautiful seaside locale enhances the treatment experience, as do the spa-like amenities offered by Capo By the Sea. For more information about the program, please contact us today at 888-529-2114