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

Norco is a medication prescribed for the relief of moderate to moderately severe pain. It is combined with a non-opioid analgesic called acetaminophen (paracetamol), more commonly known as Tylenol.
Acetaminophen is linked with liver damage when taken in large doses for an extended period of time. Norco contains a maximum of 325 mg of Tylenol per dose.
The narcotic ingredient in Norco is hydrocodone, derived from codeine, which is sourced from opium. The non-narcotic ingredient is acetaminophen, also called Tylenol. Both of these elements should be used with caution as each carries a number of potential risks.

In 2014, the FDA and DEA mandated that all acetaminophen products were pared back to a maximum of 325 mg of the analgesic ingredient per dose, with other cautions for safety reasons. All previous versions of Norco containing more than 325 mg have been discontinued.¹

Taking acetaminophen in high doses or for a long period of time can result in liver impairment, renal failure and death. There are other risks involved such as severe reactions, which are outlined in more detail below in the section on “side effects”. For these reasons, the FDA and DEA made certain changes to the way Norco is manufactured and prescribed.

Hydrocodone carries a high risk for addiction and the formulation of this product has been modified so that it has been made harder to abuse recreationally.²

Even when Norco is taken as prescribed, Norco can produce health and safety concerns. Physicians have been directed to only prescribe a four-week supply at a time, requiring a patient visit before extending the prescription. Before starting or stopping a prescription of Norco, it is recommended that one try to access as much information as possible to make the best possible, informed decisions in regards to one’s health and safety.

What Is Norco Used for?

Norco is prescribed as a short term pain reliever, for moderate to moderately severe pain. Norco tablets are taken orally, several times a day. Tolerance to Norco tends to be established quickly, leading to using more than was prescribed or more often than was prescribed to reduce pain. Tolerance develops when the person feels the drug may not be working anymore, or as well as it once did.

Norco Alternative Names and Slang

Hydro is a common street name for drugs such as Norco, Percocet and others. The brand names in street vernacular are interchangeable, largely due to their similar ingredients. Sometimes Percocet pills are called Norco, or “tabs”; sometimes Lortab and Norco tablets are called “Percs”, and vice versa as these drugs are virtually identical.

Norco Side Effects

Norco has a number of serious, though rare side effects. Due to potential liver damage, one should inform their prescribing physician if any signs of liver impairment are occurring, such as darkened urine, painful or frequent urination, difficulty urinating, back pain, light colored clay-like stools, or yellowing of the eyes or skin.

If a high fever and rash occur, this can mean an anaphylactic or allergic reaction has occurred, and requires immediate medical attention.

Other rare but severe side effects include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, hands, feet or legs, seizures, hives, skin eruptions, skin peeling, loss of consciousness and rigidity of the muscles. Seek medical intervention for these as they are potentially life-threatening.

Other more common side effects are similar to heroin and other hydrocodone analgesic medications and may include:

  • Slowed heart beat
  • Slowed breathing
  • Euphoria, calm and relaxed feelings
  • Syncope (feeling faint, fainting)
  • Confusion, impaired cognitive ability
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bruising easily or unusual bleeding
  • Loss of libido, sexual dysfunction
  • Menstruation changes or irregularities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme fatigue or tiredness, weakness
  • Constipation, clay-like stools
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Mood swings
  • Hearing loss, tinnitus
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain

What Are the Signs of Norco Overdose?

If a person takes too much Norco or any product containing either hydrocodone or Tylenol, the following signs may appear and should be immediately treated:

  • Blood in urine
  • Cloudiness in urine
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Loss of consciousness, difficult to awaken
  • Respiration or heart beat slowed to a dangerous degree
  • Does not respond, comatose
  • Profuse sweating
  • Severe chest pain
  • Loss of blood pressure or pulse

Norco Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms from quitting Norco are similar to other opioid analgesics and also resemble heroin withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawals can include:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Rashes
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Tachycardia
  • Depression
  • Mood Swings

Discontinuing/Quitting Norco

Stopping a pain medication such as Norco, Percocet, or any other requires a comprehensive approach that will allow the body to rebuild its endorphin system; the body uses natural endorphins to combat pain. Yet opioid use impairs the body’s ability to function in this regard.

Addiction is often preceded by very real pain issues. It is possible to take a more pragmatic approach to addiction or dependence recovery using therapies that not only safely withdraw the person from the drugs, but also allow for healing so that sobriety is much more sustainable than trying to use willpower alone to delay relapse. This is especially pertinent where there may be chronic pain issues.

Using targeted nutritional and other therapies, we can assist the body to rebuild the neurotransmitters that can help reduce pain, naturally. Where quitting an opiate drug is extremely painful and intolerable, a short course of bridge medications can help ease the person through this difficult phase of withdrawal.

Norco FAQs

If you have other questions about Norco or other similar prescription drugs you should ask your doctor. However, you can also reach out to us and we will get you any additional information you are looking for.
More information can be found below, along with a description of our addiction program for stopping Norco and recovering health through holistic treatments.

Is Norco an Opioid?

Yes. Norco contains an opioid drug, hydrocodone and for this reason has been re-classified as a Schedule II drug. Norco is a combined hydrocodone product, also called a CHP. Norco is considered a narcotic analgesic medication. Hydrocodone has always been a Schedule II drug because it is a narcotic substance (opioid).²

Treatment for Norco Abuse and Addiction

There have been numerous studies to investigate heavy metals and other toxic accumulations in the human body, and the consequences of such accumulations. Pain has been shown as linked to toxic accumulations in the body, as has insomnia, anxiety, depression, and many other conditions.³

At the Alternative to Meds Center, as part of our addiction recovery programs, the use of lab tests demonstrates whether there is a presence of such toxic elements; and, if so, these are gently purged from the body. Typically, clients benefit from the cleanse with deeper, sounder sleep, and a reduction in a wide variety of symptoms which may include pain.

This is of interest to those persons who are seeking non-drug methods to reduce symptoms that may have led to prescription drugs in first place.

Overall, the program takes a wide angle view on reducing symptoms wherever possible, as well as a measured, pragmatic approach to Norco or other drug withdrawal.

Especially important for opioid recovery, the body’s ability to rebuild the endorphins that opioid drugs may have usurped or impaired can be significantly helped with specifically targeted nutritional therapy and supplementation to aid the body’s own ability to repair itself. Such assistance makes recovery much more tolerable and sustainable for the long run, as these initial symptoms may be helped by such therapies.

Please contact us for more information if you or a loved one is seeking a truly health-based recovery program after addiction or dependence on Norco or other medications.

  1. FDA Drug Index n.d. Accessed Oct 21, 2018 https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/daf/index.cfm?event=overview.process&ApplNo=040148
  2. Policy and Medication Publication (Thomas Sullivan) May 6, 2018, accessed Oct. 21, 2018 https://www.policymed.com/2014/09/deaheavyrestrictionsonvicodin.html
  3. “Heavy Metals and Pain in the Dysfunctional Patient” study published by NIMH Jun 18, 2014, accessed Oct. 21, 2018 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4071364/  

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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