Updated on February 19, 2024
5 min read

How To Recognize & Support Those With Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone is a potent prescription medication for severe pain relief. As an opiate analgesic, it alters the brain's perception of pain and discomfort.

Doctors typically prescribe hydrocodone for extended periods only after less potent pain management methods are ineffective. However, prolonged use of hydrocodone carries the risk of habit formation.

Like oxycodone, hydrocodone can impair judgment. Both medications can also lead to dependence and addiction and are subject to strict regulations to prevent misuse.

Why is Hydrocodone Addictive?

Like other opioids, hydrocodone works by binding to specific receptors in the brain and blocking pain signals. This mechanism also activates the brain's reward system, causing feelings of pleasure and relaxation, which can become addictive.

These pleasurable effects can make you continue taking the medication even after the pain has subsided. It’s often a result of developing tolerance to the drug, where the body becomes accustomed to its effects and requires higher amounts for the same impact.

Common Methods of Hydrocodone Misuse

Misuse can very quickly turn into addiction. Some common methods of misusing hydrocodone include crushing the pill to snort or inject it into the body.

Some people also take larger doses than necessary or more frequently than prescribed. These habits increase addiction risks greatly.


What are Hydrocodone Addiction Signs?

Hydrocodone addiction can only be diagnosed by a medical professional. However, some signs that could indicate an opioid addiction include:

  • Taking hydrocodone in increasing doses over a greater period of time
  • The inability to stop or cut down hydrocodone use despite its negative effects
  • Experiencing strong cravings for the drug
  • The inability to fulfill daily responsibilities because of drug use
  • Getting into dangerous situations to use or obtain hydrocodone

When a person’s addicted to hydrocodone, they may also exhibit worsened side effects of the drug. Some of these side effects include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Slowed heartbeat (bradycardia)
  • Vomiting

If a person experiences seizures, it’s crucial to call emergency medical services immediately. Seizures can indicate a dangerous level of hydrocodone misuse or addiction.

What are Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal from hydrocodone, and opioids in general, is intense and fast. They can begin within 8 hours after the last dose.

Some extended-release doses can make symptoms take longer to manifest. After a week, these withdrawal symptoms begin to subside.

Common hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling of “skin crawling”
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Muscle, bone, and joint aches
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations and tachycardia
  • Restlessness
  • Stomach cramping
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes (epiphora)

Stopping the use of hydrocodone, even at a low dose or after long-term use, can trigger a range of unpleasant symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can also occur regardless of whether a person misused hydrocodone or followed medical advice.

What are Hydrocodone Overdose Symptoms?

Overdose can occur when a person takes too much hydrocodone. Similar to opioid overdose symptoms, some of the more common overdose signs include:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach or intestinal tract spasms
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Weak pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Issues breathing
  • Stopping breathing
  • Slow, difficult, or shallow breathing
  • Fingernails and lips turning blue

Seek immediate medical assistance if you suspect a hydrocodone overdose. Medical professionals may administer naloxone to reverse its effects.

What are Hydrocodone Drug Interactions?

Hydrocodone carries a high risk of life-threatening drug interactions. Combining it with alcohol or benzodiazepines can lead to severe consequences, including excessive sedation, coma, and death.

Additionally, since doctors often prescribe hydrocodone in combination with acetaminophen, using it with other liver-metabolized drugs can increase the risk of respiratory issues. Doing so can also lead to liver damage or failure.


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How to Treat Hydrocodone Addiction

Treating hydrocodone addiction involves a multi-faceted approach. This includes taking behavioral therapy, medication, and support groups.

Some treatment options available for hydrocodone addiction include:

  • Supervised detoxification: Provides medical supervision to prevent the worsening of withdrawal symptoms
  • Behavioral therapies: Help change a person’s attitude towards opioids while developing coping strategies for cravings and stressors
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Involves therapy and medications to reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms
  • Support groups: A nonjudgmental environment to talk openly about addiction and learn from others in similar situations

Resources for Help and Support

If you or someone you know is struggling with hydrocodone addiction, there are resources available to help. Consider reaching out to:

  • National Helpline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Treatment locator
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • Your primary care provider or a mental health professional: Consult them for personalized guidance and treatment options

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How Can You Prevent Hydrocodone Addiction?

Closely monitoring your hydrocodone usage and communicating clearly with your doctor are key practices to prevent dependence and addiction. Always take the drug as your doctor directs, and never share prescriptions with others.

You can keep track of your pills by storing them in a safe, secure place. Note your pain levels in a diary while taking hydrocodone. If you feel you are craving the medication without being in pain, contact your doctor right away.

Support ​​​​Guide for Caregivers of Addicts

If you’re taking care of a loved one with hydrocodone addiction, there are several things you can do to support them in their recovery. These include:

  • Learning more about the struggles of hydrocodone addiction
  • Being vocal about your support
  • Accompanying them to appointments
  • Helping them look for a treatment facility
  • Avoiding enabling behaviors
  • Being patient through relapses

As you support your loved one, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Recovery is difficult and can be draining for everyone involved. Helping yourself will ensure you can be there for your loved one.


Hydrocodone is a potent opioid pain reliever that can effectively manage moderate to severe pain. However, it carries a high risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose.

It’s crucial to use this medication carefully and under strict medical supervision. If you or a loved one are struggling with hydrocodone addiction, seek help from a healthcare professional immediately.

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Updated on February 19, 2024

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