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The Dangers of Vicodin

Effective Pain Relief With The Risk of Addiction


Updated May 22, 2014

LK was prescribed Vicodin for pain control after he broke his shoulder in a car accident. He followed his prescription to the letter, only using the Vicodin when he was having pain. And the drug worked well for awhile. Two weeks after his injury, LK found that the prescribed dose was no longer relieving his pain so he took more Vicodin. On occasion, he took the drug sooner than he was supposed to in an attempt to avoid the onset of pain. It seemed to LK that he needed more medication to achieve the desired pain relief. He asked his doctor for a new prescription. Two weeks later he had already used a month's worth of Vicodin. When his doctor refused to write a new prescription, LK went to other doctors; he went to his dentist; he went to emergency rooms around town. LK was hooked on Vicodin. This scenario is typical in people who have become addicted to Vicodin. While the original intent of the medication is control of real and legitimate pain, misuse leads to addiction.

Vicodin Fact Sheet - How Does It Work?

What is Vicodin?

Vicodin is actually a combination of two pain relievers; acetaminophen, commonly known by the trade name Tylenol; and hydrocodone, a synthetic codeine. Vicodin is one of the most widely prescribed pain relievers and has become one of the most frequently abused.

Are You Addicted to Vicodin?

Because Vicodin has a high degree of physical and emotional dependence, anyone taking the drug should be aware of the warning signs of Vicodin addiction. Do you:
  • feel physically ill (muscle and bone pain, night sweats, insomnia, etc.) when you run out of Vicodin or stop taking Vicodin?
  • committ illegal acts such as juggling doctors or buy Vicodin on the street to maintain your supply?
  • need more pills to get the same or desired effect?
  • feel guilty or ashamed of your Vicodin use?
  • take Vicodin more often or in larger quantities than prescribed?
  • feel or have you been told your Vicodin use has become an issue with your family or loved ones?
If you answered "YES" to any of the above questions, your Vicodin use has reached a dangerous level. If so, talk to your doctor or a counselor about getting help. The longer you wait the more difficult it can be to kick your habit.

Substance Abuse & HIV

Are There Other Dangers Associated with Prolonged Vicodin Use?

Like any prescription medication, prolonged use or misuse can have dangerous consequences. In the case of Vicodin these dangers include:
  • Liver disease related to prolonged or excessive use of acetaminophen (contained in Vicodin).
  • Physical tolerance to the drug. After prolonged use, increased doses are needed to achieve the same pain relief. Because of the acetaminophen in Vicodin, increasing doses can lead to liver damage as mentioned above or in severe cases death from respiratory complications.
  • Drug interactions with MAO inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants

    Antidepressant Fact Sheets.

  • Physical and emotional dependence on Vicodin can occur after several weeks of continued use. Withdrawl symptoms such as insominia, night sweats, tremors, and agitation can occur when Vicodin is stopped.

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Does the Combination of Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen Go By Other Names?

While the generic ingredients are hydrocodone and acetaminophen, the combination is know by many brand names including:
  • Vicodin, Vicodin HP, and Vicodin ES
    (depending on the concentrations of hydrocodone and acetaminophen)
  • Lortab
  • Anexsia
  • Zydone
  • Lorcet
  • Norco

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Vicodin is an effective pain reliever when used properly and for the short term. Careless, inappropriate, or diliberate misuse of Vicodin can be dangerous. If you are taking Vicodin now, talk to your physician about a pain control strategy that does not include Vicodin or other addictive pain medications. If you feel you are addicted either physically or emotionally to Vicodin, talk to your doctor, a counselor or a substance abuse professional as soon as possible to avoid the inevitable dangers of Vicodin.

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