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Lortab (Hydrocodone) Alternatives, Side Effects, Withdrawal and FAQs

This article will discuss Lortab (hydrocodone) alternatives, side effects, withdrawal and other FAQs. Hydrocodone is a medication for moderate to severe level pain relief, combining the narcotic drug hydrocodone and a second non-opioid analgesic, acetaminophen. Another name for acetaminophen is Tylenol. Children under the age of 6 years should not be given Lortab due to risks of respiratory impairment and other severe side effects.
Lortab is one of a host of combined opioid analgesic medications that came under FDA and DEA scrutiny in 2011.

Quite apart from the addictive nature of Lortab, there was additional concern because the high content of acetaminophen was linked to liver damage, renal impairment and even liver failure. In 2014, hydrocodone products were the most prescribed drugs in America.

In a statement from the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, Sandra Kweder said:

“Overdose from prescription combination products containing acetaminophen account for nearly half of all cases of acetaminophen-related liver failure in the United States; many of which result in liver transplant or death.” ¹

All of these medications were required to be reformulated by 2014, to contain a maximum of 325 mg acetaminophen per tablet. All products containing more than 325 mg acetaminophen were either discontinued or banned and pulled from the market by July of 2014.²

As mentioned, there is another problem with hydrocodone combined products, also called HCP’s such as Lortab, Vicoden, Norco, and others, because they are very addictive. Lortab and similar products are also very expensive compared to heroin, and their effects are similar. The DEA found an enormous rise in heroin addiction from 2011 and on, and attributed the phenomena to the number of addicted users of these legal opioid drugs turning to heroin as a cheaper alternative. Heroin use doubled from 2011 to 2014.⁴

More information is provided below on other important topics that may assist you in making informed decisions regarding starting or stopping opioid medications or HCP’s such as Lortab.

What Is Lortab Used for?

Lortab is a pain reliever, for the relief of moderate to moderately severe pain. In liquid formulations it has also been used in cough suppressant products. Under new FDA regulations, Lortab should only be prescribed for a maximum of 4 weeks before a refill prescription is preceded by another in person visit to the doctor, not giving a refill over the phone. ⁴ ⁵

Lortab Alternative Names and Slang

Lortab is sometimes referred to as “hydro” or “tabs”. All hydrocodone drugs have developed a presence as a diverted product for street sale or via internet purchases on the illicit market. There has also been concern of the risk to young people using products such as Lortab or Vicoden recreationally, possibly retrieving them from the family medicine chest. Because the drug has similar euphoric effects as heroin, it is sometimes sold as an alternative to heroin.

Lortab Side Effects 

Lortab has a similar set of side effects to heroin, with the additional risk for liver impairment. Other common side effects can include:

  • Lowered respiration and heart beat
  • Stomach pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Fatigue, drowsiness, nodding off
  • Back pain
  • Stiff or tightened muscles
  • Difficult or painful urination, frequent urination
  • Swollen legs, ankles, feet
  • Insomnia
  • Shaking, tremors
  • Pain in chest
  • Sexual dysfunction, loss of interest, loss of libido
  • Tinnitus
  • Swollen eyes, lips, tongue, throat, face
  • Menstruation irregularities
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Trouble swallowing, hoarseness in throat
  • Twitching
  • Vomiting, nausea
  • Constipation
  • Irritability, agitation, mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Tachycardia
  • Shivering
  • Sweating
  • Confusion, cognitive impairment
  • Loss of coordination, weakness
  • Hallucinations
  • Diarrhea


Lortab Withdrawal Symptoms

Stopping Lortab, as is the case with virtually all prescription medications, is safest when done using a gradual tapering approach, not “cold turkey” or abruptly. Withdrawal symptoms generally start within a few hours of the last dose, and can include:

  • Drug cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Fevers
  • Profuse sweating
  • Shaking, uncontrollable tremors, restless legs
  • Chills
  • Trouble sleeping, disturbed or interrupted sleep
  • Pain in muscles and bones
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting, severe, can lead to dehydration
  • Dysphoria
  • General malaise
  • Depression
  • Tachycardia

Discontinuing/Quitting Lortab

Hydrocodone is an opiate which tends to deplete or shut down the body’s own manufacture of natural endorphins. In part, this is one of the reasons why Lortab withdrawals are difficult to endure. Pain relief is absent, until the body restores its supply of natural endorphin chemicals.
The body can be significantly assisted by providing the exact precursors and nutrients that can accelerate the process of regenerating these natural pain-relieving chemicals. Also providing a short course of bridge medications may ease the withdrawal process, so it becomes more tolerable.

It is the pain and intense discomfort of Lortab withdrawal that often leads to relapse and failure. A strategy can be planned and executed which can greatly ease these roadblocks to success. More information is given below on this topic in the section called “Treatment for Lortab Abuse and Addiction”.

Lortab FAQs

Below we have summarized information about some of the most frequently asked questions about Lortab. These are important issues in regards to Lortab and similar hydrocodone medications. Discuss any concerns or questions with your doctor before starting or stopping a prescription of pain medication. Some of the things to talk to your doctor about include any history of addiction, if you are unable to restrict alcohol consumption, if you have a history of liver or kidney disease, if you suffer from asthma, if you have ever had a head injury, and any other medical history that might be important to determine whether Lortab is the best choice for your situation.

If other questions arise or more detailed information would help, please reach out and we will assist any way we possibly can.

Is Lortab an Opioid?

Lortab contains a semi-synthetic opioid, hydrocodone which is synthesized from codeine which is derived from opium poppies. Acetaminophen is a non-opioid analgesic agent added to boost the effectiveness for pain relief. Another version, Lortab ASA is combined with acetylsalicylic acid, also called aspirin, instead of Tylenol.²

In 2014 the FDA changed the classification of hydrocodone products to Schedule II from Schedule III, to reflect the high level of risk for abuse, addiction and diversion of hydrocodone products. Hydrocodone products were the most prescribed medications in the US in 2014. (5)

Treatment for Lortab Abuse and Addiction?

The withdrawals that Lortab users experience when stopping the drug reflect the body’s built-in cleansing mechanisms, which attempt to clear the residues and poisons through the natural elimination channels of sweating, vomiting, urination and typically, diarrhea. These reactions demonstrate the body attempting to rebalance itself. This elimination process can be assisted and made significantly more tolerable through the use of sauna, adequate hydration, providing targeted nutrition to restore endorphins, physical therapies such as massage and Reiki, and many other techniques that provide comfort and relief. We understand the intense sensitivity to pain when a person is undergoing opiate withdrawal, at least until the neurochemistry can rebound once again. These re-building strategies give the person the opportunity for lasting and sustainable abstinence, instead of having to “white-knuckle” through their drug-free life.

Contact us at the Alternative to Meds Center for details on our program. Each segment is designed individually for the maximum benefits possible. Ask us for more information about how we can help you or a loved one achieve sobriety that is free from pain and suffering, for a healthy and vibrant life free from addiction.

  1. Regulatory Focus (Alexander Gaffney, RAC) 16 July 2014, accessed Oct. 19, 2018,-fda-bans-last-high-dose-aceptaminophen-products
  2. US National Library of Medicine n.d. accessed Oct. 17, 2018
  3. WebMD n.d. accessed Oct. 17, 2018
  4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). FDA drug safety communication: Prescription acetaminophen products to be limited to 325 mg per dosage unit; boxed warning will highlight potential for severe liver failure. Accessed Oct 17, 2018.  
  5. DEA Final Rule of Aug. 22, 2014, accessed Oct. 19, 2018  

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Michael Loes, M.D.

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.

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