Updated on April 3, 2024
6 min read

Norco Effects, Risks & Addiction

We know that managing pain, especially if it's chronic or from an injury, can feel incredibly difficult. Finding a solution can become a frustrating journey. If you're struggling with pain, you might have heard of Norco, a pain medication designed for moderate to severe cases.

Norco combines acetaminophen with an opioid (hydrocodone) to offer relief. However, it's important to understand that opioids carry a risk of addiction. If your doctor prescribes Norco, it's crucial to use it exactly as directed to minimize this risk.

Our goal is to help you understand how Norco works, its potential risks, and how to use it responsibly while also seeking other solutions for pain management.

Is Norco Addictive?

Norco is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means it has a high potential for misuse and addiction and requires a doctor's prescription.

Norco isn't the only pain reliever that carries these risks. It's important to be aware that while Norco has medical uses, misuse can have serious consequences ranging from addiction to overdose or even death. If you or someone you know is struggling with Norco addiction, there is help and hope available.

How is Norco Addictive?

Like other opioids, Norco works by increasing feel-good chemicals in the brain. This can lead to a sense of pleasure that some people find difficult to resist, even if it starts to cause problems in their lives.

Over time, your body can build a tolerance, meaning you'll need more of the drug to get the same effect. This increases the risk of overdose and addiction.

In 2021, approximately 8.7 million people, accounting for 3.1% of the population, acknowledged misusing prescription pain relievers like Norco.1

What are the Signs of Norco Addiction?

Norco, like other opioids, carries a high risk of addiction due to the feelings of pleasure it can create. Once a person is addicted, they can begin to show irresponsible and compulsive drug-seeking behavior. It can also seem irrational at times.

If you're concerned about yourself or a loved one, here are some key signs to watch out for:

  • Lack of hygiene
  • Changes in exercise habits
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased libido (sex drive)
  • Weight loss
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Associating with people who encourage drug or alcohol addiction
  • Changes in urination and bowel habits
  • Doctor shopping or trying to get multiple prescriptions for a drug
  • Choosing to misuse the drug over other important aspects of life
  • Crushing, chewing, or mixing the drug with other substances

Addiction is a complex condition, and it's never a sign of weakness. If you recognize these signs, it's crucial to seek help from a doctor or healthcare professional.  They can create a safe plan to taper off Norco and manage any potential withdrawal symptoms.

What are Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms?

When your body has grown dependent on opioids like Norco, you can suffer through withdrawal once you are lessening or stopping use altogether.

Opioids have potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Increased pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Mood changes like Irritability or agitation
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Muscle cramps/aches
  • Yawning
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Watery eyes, runny nose
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Chills, sweating, or goosebumps
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Stomach cramps
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Nausea/vomiting

Don't attempt to withdraw from Norco on your own. It can be dangerous, and sudden changes in drug use can lead to seizures or death.

Your doctor will be able to plan out how to slowly taper your use to lessen the potential of harmful withdrawal symptoms. Tapering your use like this means withdrawal symptoms will be less severe and manageable with other medications.

You must only taper drugs under your doctor's supervision. Avoiding withdrawal means you also lessen your chances of overdosing or relapsing.

What are Norco Overdose Symptoms?

Taking too much Norco in one dose can lead to an opioid overdose. This can also happen if you abuse Norco or mix it with other medications and alcohol.

A Norco overdose can lead to life-threatening respiratory depression and serious breathing problems. Even more fatal consequences can follow if you don’t get immediate medical help.

Signs of a Norco overdose to look out for include:   

  • Vomiting
  • Limp body
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Trouble speaking
  • Purple or blue lips and fingernails
  • Pale and clammy skin
  • Shallow breathing

If you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms, call your local poison control center, 911, or emergency medical help immediately. Inform them of any Norco usage and how much was ingested.

What are Norco's Side Effects?

Pain medications like Norco can cause side effects. These side effects may be intensified if you’ve developed an unhealthy dependency or misuse the drug.

The most common side effects of Norco include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sedation or sleepiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation

If you’re sensitive to hydrocodone or acetaminophen, don’t take Norco to avoid an allergic reaction.

Norco may also cause more serious side effects, including:

  • Hearing impairment or permanent loss
  • Impairment of mental and physical performance
  • Severe constipation
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Mood changes
  • Upper stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Jaundice
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Chronic breathing disorders

In rare cases, Norco can cause severe, even life-threatening skin reactions. If you develop any skin rash, blisters, or dark urine while on Norco, stop taking it and contact your doctor or health department immediately.

In an emergency, call 911 immediately and let them know how much Norco you or your loved one took so they can prepare accordingly.


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Treatment Options for Norco Abuse and Addiction

Available treatment options for opioid or Norco addiction include:

Getting treatment is important. To make a full recovery, you need to take treatment seriously, listen to your doctors, and communicate any withdrawal symptoms you may be experiencing.

You may feel ashamed about getting treatment and even just developing an addiction in the first place, but getting better should be your first priority so you can get back on track.

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BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor.

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How to Support Someone With Norco Addiction

Helping someone struggling with addiction requires understanding, support, and boundaries. Here's how:

  • Educate yourself: Learn about addiction as a disease, fostering empathy and guiding your support.
  • Offer non-judgmental support: Communicate your concerns with care, avoiding blame. Use "I" statements to express your feelings.
  • Encourage treatment and recovery: Discuss options, but respect their autonomy. Offer to accompany them to appointments and support them throughout their journey.
  • Set healthy boundaries: Communicate your limits regarding their addiction to protect both of you. Know that it’s okay to put yourself first and not to push yourself to your limits trying to take care of someone else.
  • Take care of yourself: Prioritize your own well-being through self-care and potential support groups.

Norco is the brand name of acetaminophen-hydrocodone bitartrate, a prescription medication for pain. It affects the opioid receptors to reduce your response to discomfort.

However, Norco has adverse side effects. It's also a Schedule II controlled substance with a high potential for addiction and abuse. 

Mixing Norco with other drugs and alcohol can lead to dangerous drug interactions and overdose. Contact a doctor immediately if you or someone you know is abusing Norco.

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Updated on April 3, 2024
17 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024
  1. Misuse of Prescription Drugs Research Report: What is the scope of prescription drug misuse in the United States?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  2. Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drug Scheduling.” DEA.
  3. Feldmeyer et al. “Acute Generalized Exanthematous Pustulosis: Pathogenesis, Genetic Background, Clinical Variants and Therapy.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2016.
  4. Norco (Hydrocodone Bitartrate 2.5 mg and Acetaminophen 325 mg Tablets.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2014.
  5. Stevens-John syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis.” MedlinePlus, 2020.
  6. Opioid Abuse Disorder.” Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  7. Tapering off opioids: When and How.” Mayo Clinic, 2021.
  8. Acetaminophen.” MedlinePlus, 2023.
  9. Hydrocodone.” MedlinePlus, 2023.
  10. Opioid Misuse and Addiction Treatment.” MedlinePlus, 2023.
  11. Opioid Overdose.” MedlinePlus, 2023.
  12. Prescription Opioids DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021.
  13. 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Annual National Report.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019.
  14. NORCO®." Food and Drug Administration.
  15. "Serotonin Syndrome." Mayo Clinic, 2022.
  16. "Hydrocodone And Acetaminophen (Oral Route)." Mayo Clinic, 2023.
  17. Habibi et al. "Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen." StatPearls Publsihing, 2022.

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