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Hydrocodone Addiction and Rehab

Hydrocodone pills and prescription bottle

Published: August 16, 2023

Occurring when someone becomes reliant on hydrocodone to complete day-to-day activities, hydrocodone addiction is a serious issue that can be life-threatening.

Many Americans develop opioid addictions. Substance use disorders (SUD) like hydrocodone addiction can completely derail your life and affect your relationships, success, and, of course, your health.

Thankfully, treatment for hydrocodone addiction comes in many forms and can be successful in helping you achieve long-term recovery.

Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of hydrocodone addiction and addiction treatment.

Why Does Hydrocodone Lead to Addiction?

Hydrocodone is a narcotic analgesic (pain reliever) used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is also an antitussive (cough reliever). Opioid medications, like hydrocodone, codeine, and oxycodone are known for their high risk of abuse and addiction.

Classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, hydrocodone comes under brand names like Norco, Lorcet, and Lortab. It is also often used in combination products like Vicodin, which is hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

Opioids are associated with a higher risk of addiction because of the way they work in your body. When you take hydrocodone, it binds to opioid receptors in your brain to block pain signals sent from it and your central nervous system (CNS).

On top of this, opioids release endorphins when you take them. Endorphins can cause a euphoric or pleasurable feeling that people find addicting. After extended use, people may feel as though they need these endorphins to feel normal.

Hydrocodone Abuse vs. Hydrocodone Addiction

There is a difference between hydrocodone abuse and hydrocodone addiction, and it’s important to know what sets these two apart.

Because hydrocodone is a prescription drug, it can be used in a safe way that is not considered abuse.

Any misuse of hydrocodone is considered to be abuse. Misuse can occur in a number of different ways including using it more frequently than usual, taking higher doses than prescribed, or taking it without a proper prescription. Though hydrocodone abuse is not addiction, it can often develop into addiction.

On the other hand, hydrocodone addiction causes individuals to mentally rely on the drug to function. They may feel as though they cannot get through their day without taking hydrocodone.

Does Hydrocodone Cause Dependence?

Yes, use of hydrocodone does cause dependence. Much like other opioids, hydrocodone is known to cause physical dependence.

When you use hydrocodone, the drug has effects on your brain, by blocking pain and releasing endorphins. The longer you take an opioid, the more your body will build up a tolerance to its pain relief, leading you to take stronger doses.

When your body starts to rely on hydrocodone to properly function, you develop a physical dependence.

Trying to stop opioid use with opioid dependence can cause withdrawal symptoms. Opioid misuse as well as prolonged use are more frequently linked with physical dependence, though it can happen to anyone taking hydrocodone.

Signs of a Hydrocodone Addiction

There are many signs and symptoms that can indicate a hydrocodone addiction. This can be very helpful in identifying addiction in yourself or even in your friends or family.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Urinary retention
  • Respiratory depression
  • Euphoria
  • Anxiety
  • Pupil constriction
  • Vomiting
  • Social withdrawal
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Heavy hydrocodone use
  • Taking higher doses of hydrocodone to get the same effects
  • Inability to stop thinking about hydrocodone
  • Financial problems such as borrowing money from others
  • Impaired cognition

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can make it very difficult to quit hydrocodone use and occur once you’ve developed a physical dependence on the drug. This is very common with opioids.

Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Goosebumps
  • Shaking
  • Depression
  • Increased pain
  • High temperature

Side Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse

With hydrocodone abuse comes many side effects, some pleasant and others not so much. Among side effects there are two categories – short-term effects and long-term effects. The former occur immediately after use and the latter occur with prolonged, extended use.

Short-term effects of hydrocodone abuse include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • UTI
  • Abdominal pain
  • Respiratory depression
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Clammy skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sedation
  • Sleepiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Opioid overdose
  • Death

Long-term effects of hydrocodone abuse include:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Increased risk of bone fractures
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Sleep-disordered breathing
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver damage or failure
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Memory problems
  • Mental health disorders

Risk Factors for Hydrocodone Addiction

Taking hydrocodone can cause opioid addiction in anyone, but there are also risk factors that can make the likelihood of developing an addiction much higher.

The following risk factors make any substance addiction more likely:

  • Mental illness
  • Family history of addiction
  • Peer pressure
  • Lack of family involvement
  • Exposure to drugs at a young age

Specific risk factors for hydrocodone addiction include:

  • Being prescribed hydrocodone
  • Being in your teens or 20’s
  • Having chronic pain
  • Taking hydrocodone unprescribed
  • Taking part in risky behavior
  • Environmental factors like easy access to hydrocodone
  • Being prescribed a high dose of hydrocodone
  • Being prescribed hydrocodone for a long period of time

Diagnosing Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone addiction can be identified by its signs and symptoms, but a true hydrocodone addiction diagnosis can only come from a medical professional who has completed an evaluation.

If you notice a loved one exhibiting signs of opioid addiction, it’s strongly recommended to encourage them to seek professional medical help.

When completing a medical evaluation, a healthcare provider will analyze different areas of your life as well as your behavioral patterns and habits to determine if you have an addiction.

You may expect to be asked questions about the frequency and dosage of your hydrocodone use as well as choices you make regarding hydrocodone use.

Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment Options

There are many different kinds of treatment for hydrocodone addiction. Oftentimes, people will discuss what treatment methods are best suited for them with their doctor. You may seek out one treatment service in particular or receive a combination of several.


Commonly offered at the start of a rehab program, medical detoxification is a common service seen in hydrocodone addiction treatment. Essentially, this service helps rid your body of any residual hydrocodone prior to the program.

Detox can be done in both inpatient and outpatient settings. It’s an incredibly important service as detoxing from opioids on your own can be very dangerous.

During detox, your care team will monitor your vitals, administer medications or treatments as needed, and help you manage withdrawal symptoms.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is commonly used in opioid addictions like hydrocodone addiction. MAT is an evidence-based treatment method that has been found to be very effective.

This treatment service utilizes medications like Suboxone, methadone, and buprenorphine, all of which are approved by the FDA, to treat addiction. Though it may sound counterintuitive, these medications help curb withdrawal symptoms and cravings, thus reducing the risk of relapse.

MAT is usually provided over a long period of time to encourage long-lasting recovery. Your doctor will start slowly tapering your off of medication overtime once they feel MAT is no longer necessary.

Inpatient Rehab

A popular treatment program option for people with opioid use disorder is an inpatient rehabilitation program. Inpatient treatment offers a high level of care with round-the-clock treatment.

If you choose an inpatient program, you’ll be required to live in a care facility for the length of your treatment program. Though it may sound intimidating, constant supervision and a strict schedule is very effective in severe addictions.

Inpatient treatment combines several treatment methods to achieve recovery. These can include counseling, MAT, behavioral therapy, and more.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is the second-best option to inpatient treatment. It’s still very effective, but does not provide quite as much supervision.

People who have less-severe addictions or cannot live in a care facility during treatment may find outpatient rehab to be a better option for them. This is because you only have to travel to a treatment center on days you are scheduled for treatment.

Sometimes, people enroll in an outpatient rehab program after completing an inpatient program. There are also some variations of outpatient treatment that are somewhere in between inpatient and outpatient. These include intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs).

What Happens After Hydrocodone Rehab?

Once you complete hydrocodone treatment, you will move to aftercare, sometimes called continuing care. You and your doctor will discuss what aftercare options are best suited for you. Continuing care is a personal service, meaning the methods will vary from person to person.

The idea behind aftercare is to decrease the likelihood of relapse and increase the likelihood of long-term recovery. Additionally, it can make triggers less intimidating when you return to your day-to-day life.

Some aftercare options include behavioral therapy, support groups, counseling, MAT, or sober living arrangements.

Sober housing provides people who have completed an addiction program with a sober environment to temporarily live in after treatment.

This can make the transition much easier and provide people with a support system after a rehab program.

Who Can Benefit From Hydrocodone Rehab?

Anyone who abuses hydrocodone or develops an addiction to it can benefit from hydrocodone rehab.

If you’re trying to encourage someone else to seek out hydrocodone treatment, you may find it difficult to do so. This is why many people choose to hold an intervention.

Hydrocodone rehabilitation can have incredible benefits, whether your addiction is mild or severe.

Benefits of hydrocodone treatment can include:

  • Improved physical health
  • Reduced risk of hydrocodone overdose
  • Improved mental health
  • Reduced risk of death
  • Reduced risk of relapse
  • Improved personal and professional relationships
  • Improved well-being
  • Improved financial health
  • Improved career
  • Repaired family bonds

How to Prevent Relapse After Hydrocodone Rehab

Having a relapse prevention plan is invaluable when it comes to preventing relapse after hydrocodone treatment.

Some treatment programs offer relapse prevention education which can be particularly beneficial. Even if your program does not, you and your doctor will likely discuss relapse prevention tools prior to completing your program.

Relapse prevention strategies may include:

  • Learning health coping mechanisms
  • Setting up a support system
  • Attending therapy and counseling sessions regularly
  • Joining a support group
  • Taking up new, healthy hobbies
  • Surrounding yourself with people who support your sobriety

Find Help for Yourself or a Loved One with Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone addiction is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly. Whether your addiction is mild or severe, it can be detrimental to your health and well-being.

If you or a loved one has more questions regarding hydrocodone addiction and treatment, make sure to call our helpline today.

Hydrocodone Addiction FAQs

Does hydrocodone lead to physical dependence?

Yes, hydrocodone leads to physical dependence. Opioids like hydrocodone are highly addictive and block pain signals. They also release endorphins. Over time, you’ll need more hydrocodone to feel the same effects.

What are the side effects of hydrocodone abuse?

There are short- and long-term effects of hydrocodone abuse. Some common side effects include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, dilated pupils, constipation, anxiety, euphoria, memory problems, and in extreme cases, organ failure, overdose, and death.

Can you quit hydrocodone addiction without treatment?

It is possible to quit hydrocodone abuse without treatment, but usually much more challenging. Professional treatment is evidence-based and designed to treat addiction in safe and effective ways, making sobriety an easier goal to achieve.

Can you recover from hydrocodone addiction?

Yes, you can recover from hydrocodone addiction. Substance addiction is not curable, but it is treatable. Proper treatment can make it possible to manage your addiction and live a sober life.

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