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Vicodin is a synthetic opioid that belongs to a class of drugs commonly known as narcotic analgesics. Narcotic analgesics are used as pain relievers for people experiencing moderate to severe levels of chronic pain. While they can be incredibly beneficial to those in need, they can also be dangerous when misused.

What is Vicodin?

Vicodin is a prescription medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. The drug is a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Acetaminophen is most commonly found in medications such as Tylenol. Hydrocodone is a synthetic opioid.

Vicodin is found in tablet form and can come in different strengths based on the amount of hydrocodone in each tablet. The United States government considers Vicodin a Schedule II substance, meaning that it is at a high risk of being abused, although it has legitimate medical uses.

When used for a short period and within the guidelines given by a medical professional, Vicodin can be a safe and beneficial drug to treat serious pain. As with all medically used opioids, Vicodin works by affecting the brain’s opiate receptors. This blocks pain signals between the brain and body, as well as causing a euphoric feeling through the release of endorphins. 

If Vicodin is used in the long term and taken either more often or in larger doses than recommended by a doctor, it can be dangerous. Like any synthetic opioid, Vicodin users will build a tolerance to the drug’s effects. If being misused, it is highly possible that Vicodin can lead to addiction.

What are the Side Effects of Vicodin Abuse?

A person misusing Vicodin will often appear to be sedated or drowsy. Vicodin can cause a slowed heart rate and lightheadedness when taken in large doses. While a common side effect of Vicodin is a euphoric feeling or a sense of calm when abused, this can quickly turn into someone appearing “out of it” much of the time.

Physical symptoms can occur, especially when the drug is being misused. Possible physical symptoms include muscle weakness, blurred vision, and a disoriented sensation. When someone has become addicted, they may experience muscle aches, nausea, or vomiting between uses.

An addiction to Vicodin can cause a variety of mental health issues as well. Someone who has developed a dependence on Vicodin will also often develop anxiety and depression as a direct result. 

Vicodin can also be the cause of serious internal issues, such as liver failure. While the opioid aspect of Vicodin causes most of its severe side effects, liver failure is caused by the acetaminophen in the drug. While not dangerous when taken in small amounts, excessive use of Vicodin causes the body to process too much acetaminophen.

Is Vicodin Addictive?

Vicodin, like all opioids, can be incredibly addictive when abused. As someone continually takes the drug, they will develop a tolerance for it. This causes the need to take it more often and in larger doses than intended in order to achieve the desired effects. The more a person misuses the drug in this way, the more of a dependence they will develop.

As a person becomes dependent on the effects of Vicodin to function properly, they will experience severe cravings to use the drug much of the time. They may be unable to ignore these urges or stop using the drug, even if they want to.

Someone addicted to Vicodin will likely experience a negative impact on their performance at work or school. They may also suffer from relationship problems, either from their inability to meet responsibilities at home or due to concern about their drug use from friends and family.

As the addiction gets worse, a person may choose to isolate themselves from others. They may spend less time with loved ones and lose interest in social activities. This is a direct result of the drug use as they will continually spend more and more time using the drug, seeking it out, or recovering from the effects.

Vicodin Addiction DSM 5

Doctors will often use the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to diagnose mental health conditions such as a substance abuse disorder. The DSM-5, as it is commonly shortened to, lists criteria to determine both the diagnosis and severity of a disorder. 

For substance abuse disorder, medical professionals will evaluate a patient based on eleven criteria. If a person has experienced at least two of the criteria within the last year, they may have a substance abuse disorder. Five criteria signify a moderate condition, with six or more suggests a severe substance abuse disorder.

The DSM-5 criteria for substance abuse disorder are

  1. Taking a substance in larger amounts or for more time than intended
  2. Being unable to stop or cut down on the use of a substance, even if you want to
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the use of a substance
  4. Experiencing cravings or urges to use the substance
  5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school as a result of the use of the substance
  6. Continuing to use the substance, even when it causes problems in relationships
  7. Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities as a result of the substance use
  8. Continuing to use the substance even when it puts you in danger
  9. Continuing to use the substance even when it has a negative effect on mental or physical health
  10. Developing a tolerance to the substance
  11. Developing withdrawal symptoms when not using the substance

Vicodin Abuse Treatment

Vicodin abuse treatment will often begin with a detox program. Withdrawal from an opioid can be a serious medical issue that can be both challenging and dangerous. A detox program can provide both the emotional and medical support needed to navigate through the withdrawal process. It is important not to try and face the seriousness of withdrawal alone.

Dual diagnosis treatment can be beneficial to those who are suffering from an addiction disorder and an underlying mental health condition. Conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, or PTSD can be directly related to substance abuse development. Dual diagnosis treatment works to treat the addiction and the mental health condition simultaneously.

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