Hydrocodone has an elevated risk for addiction, because when you stop taking it, significant withdrawal symptoms occur, that can often lead to drug cravings and repeated use. The following will provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about hydrocodone, why the side effects and withdrawals are often harsh, vital information about recovery after addiction to hydrocodone, and many other topics.
Hydrocodone is a member of the opiate drug class and, as is the case with all opioid drugs, obstructs the way neurotransmitters perceive and respond to pain.
There are two primary neurotransmitters that control pain:
Endorphins and enkephalins are created by the body and these hormones or peptides have a powerful ability to kill pain. For example, in the unfortunate happenstance of a severe injury, the victim could feel no pain due to the increase in the levels of endorphins and enkephalins present. This is how these natural chemicals are so effective at blocking pain. However, these same hormones also produce the sensation of being “high”, a potential precursor to addiction. For instance, a person may become chemically addicted to the rush of strenuous exercise, or the rush of endorphins that can accompany compulsive self-harm, such as “cutting”.²
Opiate drugs mimic these chemicals. Hydrocodone was manufactured to take the place of these naturally produced chemicals.
When the body is exposed to these kinds of synthetics, such as hydrocodone or other synthetic drugs, the production of the natural chemicals stops which is the body’s natural response. The result is a deficit in our ability to control pain. This deficit is a primary component in the extremely painful withdrawal symptoms that occur when a person begins the process of Hydrocodone tapering or cessation.
Hydrocodone is used to control pain from moderate to severe. Many compound drugs contain hydrocodone, often compounded with other analgesics, such as Norco and Vicoden. ZOHYDRO ER is an extended release form of hydrocodone. Uses for these various medications have expanded to include certain “off-label” uses, such as for cough, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Hydrocodone and drugs containing hydrocodone have developed a significant street presence due to their addictive, euphoric effects. Some of the street or slang names include:
Hydrocodone produces pain relief and a temporary sense of joy or euphoria. These effects make the drugs high risk for abuse when used recreationally. Side effects present as:
Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms can be extremely hard to get through and are best managed in a medically-supervised facility that supports patients throughout the detox process.
Withdrawal symptoms can present within hours of the last dose taken, and can include:
Because synthetic opiates shut down the body’s ability to produce natural endorphins for pain control, one a person opts to quit the use of hydrocodone, a state of deficiency for these chemicals is created, resulting in physical pain as well as heightened emotional distress and sensitivity. This state will last until the body can normalize its production of endorphins and enkephalins.
The pain levels, both physical and emotional, can be quite severe and difficult to endure. To help offset some of the challenges, use of short-term bridge medications can ease the withdrawal process, provided and administered in a clinical setting.
Below are some other frequently searched for topics of information relating to hydrocodone and how it works in the body and brain.
The Alternative to Meds Center employs protocols which can ease the withdrawals from drugs such as hydrocodone.
Understanding more about opiates and their effect on the emotional aspects of an individual can help in the recovery process, as well as the physical effects.
Regarding the former, a person with adequate levels of natural endorphins could be described as possibly having a significant ability to withstand situations which are emotionally volatile or challenging. In contrast, where natural endorphins are lacking, such a person may almost feel “too emotional”, much like a tuning fork, now open to the uncomfortable onslaught of every emotion in the room.
It is this sort of vulnerable disposition in low-endorphin individuals that can draw them toward long term opiate use, in an attempt to blanket these uncomfortable emotional sensitivities.
Quite apart from emotional pain, physical pain can take a similar grip, especially in a low endorphin person. There are various methods to counter these problems which may benefit a person who wishes to correct such neurochemical deficiencies.
For example, diet is extremely important during the withdrawal and recovery phases of treatment that can significantly alter length of recovery time and intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
If the diet provides the necessary precursors for their corrective effects on neurochemistry, this is one factor that can aid the process considerably.
For instance, the peptides mentioned earlier, such as endorphins, are constructed from amino acids. These can be made amply available through food grade supplements as well as a diet rich in proteins from meats and dense vegetables. With our orthomolecular-based meal-planning, the needed proteins can also be derived from a vegan diet and can be provided in the program.
If desired, in addition to natural endorphin support, where needed, a short-term use of bridge medications such as Suboxone can be used to ensure the withdrawal process is as mild and tolerable as possible.
More information on the treatments at the Alternative to Meds Center for inpatient opiate recovery is given in the opiate alternatives section of this website and we encourage you to become acquainted with all the information provided there. If you would like to receive more information about the program, please contact the Alternative to Meds Center with any further questions about how our treatments and protocols may help you or a loved one become free from opiate dependence.
Dr. Michael Loes is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pain Management and Addiction Medicine. He holds a dual license in Homeopathic and Integrative Medicine. He obtained his medical doctorate at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1978. Dr. Loes performed an externship at the National Institute of Health for Psychopharmacology. Additionally, he is a well-published author including Arthritis: The Doctor’s Cure, The Aspirin Alternative, The Healing Response, and Spirit Driven Health: The Psalmist’s Guide for Recovery. He has been awarded the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s “Excellence in Research” Award.