One of the biggest concerns surrounding Vicodin and similar hydrocodone/acetaminophen medications are the hepatotoxic
(liver damaging) effects. Acetaminophen is the leading cause of death due to liver failure.1
This is a concern because unlike taking one or two Tylenol pills, the more common OTC usage, a prescription of a combined analgesic opioid like Vicodin may entail taking large amounts daily, over an extended period of time. Even though the DEA and FDA have restricted the amount of acetaminophen per tablet to 325mg, the accumulated volume when taken over days and weeks can be a significant cause for concern.
It is highly recommended that a person thoroughly research any prescription drugs for pain relief before starting or stopping their prescription. Withdrawal from Vicodin may present some difficulty unless a person can access help with strategies and methods to reduce the intense discomforts that can accompany analgesic opiate drug withdrawal.
Information noted below is provided to help anyone interested in learning more about these and other safety and health issues related to Vicodin and similar Schedule II drugs.
What Is Vicodin Used For?
In liquid or syrup form, opioid analgesic drugs are sometimes prescribed as a cough suppressant. Their most common usage, however, is in oral pill form. Vicodin is prescribed for the relief of moderate to moderately severe pain. Examples might include after a tooth is pulled at the dentist. Another common example could be for pain relief after suffering a broken leg or other injury.
A puzzling aspect to the prevailing practice of prescribing narcotics after dental work was thoughtfully tabled in an article published by the American Dental Association. It states that no evidence can be found that opioid analgesics work any better than non-narcotic NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin.1
Yet, these drugs remain the most frequently prescribed drugs in the country and are linked to the highest death rates in the US as shown in statistics on overdose deaths and liver failure.
Vicodin Alternative Names and Slang
Vicodin has various slang names outside of clinical use such as Vikings, Vic’s, Vikes, Vicos, Hydros, Idiot pills, V’s, and similar.
Using slang names for drugs is like a code, usually intended to keep their purchase or illicit abuse private and hidden from others.
Vicodin Side Effects
Side effects for Vicodin are quite similar to those of other opioid drugs, and can include:
- Feeling “high,” euphoric effect, relaxation
- Lack of pain
- Yellowing of the eye (instead of white), yellowing of the skin
- Back pain or side pain
- Clay-like stools
- Loss of sex drive
- Tightness across chest
- Lowered respiration, slowed breathing
- Lowered pulse
Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms can be intense and hard to tolerate without assistance and a monitored, gradual taper from the drug.
Symptoms can include:
- Drug cravings
- Increased pain
- Tachycardia (racing heart beat)
- Muscle and bone pain
- Runny nose, watery eyes
- Reddened skin, flushing
- Loss of appetite
- Profuse sweating
- Itching, hives
After taking Vicodin for a period of weeks or months, the time will come to stop the prescription, or to stop taking the drug recreationally. This can be difficult to do without careful planning, and putting a strategy in place. Dehydration and low sodium levels can be avoided by ensuring adequate liquid intake, and adding foods or supplements to daily meals to compensate the loss of bodily fluids that typically occur.
Symptoms for low sodium levels are quite similar to Vicodin withdrawals, and can include weakness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, mental fog, cramps, muscle spasms, lack of energy, irritability or low mood. In extreme cases, seizure or coma can also occur. Sometimes I-V treatments are needed to safely correct low sodium levels, and this may be required in the event that sodium levels crash because of the loss of salt through frequent vomiting, diarrhea, or profuse sweating. In less severe cases, adding beverages that contain electrolytes may be adequate. Always seek medical guidance if there is concern about symptoms of salt depletion that may occur.3
Some people find that adding psyllium husk or other natural fiber to the diet, for example, mixed in a smoothie, can help reduce the pain and discomfort of constipation.
It is not necessary to suffer unduly. Seek professional help and guidance to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms, and to avoid relapse.