Hydrocodone is an opioid and a powerful pain ingredient in narcotic painkillers, prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain that no other medication can reduce. It is usually administered orally, but those abusing the drug may crush their pills and snort or inject the drug contents. It is also an effective cough suppressant and is sometimes used in combination with acetaminophen.
It is marketed under different trade names:
Though the drug has legitimate medical uses, it also has a high potential to lead to dependence and addiction. Hydrocodone addiction is a serious problem today. According to reports, in 2016, the most commonly misused subtype of prescription pain relievers consisted of hydrocodone products with an estimated 6.9 million Americans (aged 12 or older) misusing them in the past year.
Hydrocodone works by binding to opioid receptors located in the brain, spinal cord and other areas of the body. Once bound to these receptors, it blocks pain signals from reaching the brain. It also interacts with other brain chemicals like endorphins to create feelings of euphoria and sedation.
When taken as prescribed, the drug is effective in relieving pain, but its non-medical use can result in a variety of side effects. Some of them are:
- Physical dependence
- Respiratory depression
Prolonged hydrocodone abuse can lead to irreversible health consequences, including judgment lapses, psychosis and liver damage.
Patients, at times, resort to various means to procure drugs for non-medical purposes. One such method is the practice of doctor shopping, wherein patients visit different doctors in order to get numerous prescriptions for the medication. Illicit sale of hydrocodone via internet is also a serious problem. Opioid abuse may force users to switch to heroin, a cheaper alternative with similar effects.