Warning Signs, Symptoms and Signs of Vicodin Addiction

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 15th 2021

Content Overview

With Vicodin becoming more widely available in the UK, drug treatment centres are seeing an increase in the number of patients looking to beat a Vicodin addiction. Vicodin addiction is recognisable through the many warning signs and symptoms it creates. We encourage you to seek out medical help if you recognise any of those warning signs or symptoms in yourself or someone you care about. Vicodin abuse and addiction can be resolved with medical treatment.

Vicodin is a sedative that affects the brain in several distinct ways. As such, abusing the drug is easier to identify if you learn to recognise the effects it produces. Identifying the warning signs of abuse can help ward off a more serious problem. Learning to recognise the symptoms and signs of addiction could possibly save someone’s life.

When Does Drug Use Become Drug Abuse or Addiction?

Millions of people around the world take Vicodin every day. The vast majority of them never have problems with abuse or addiction. Knowing that leads to the following question: when does prescription drug use become abuse, and then addiction?

To be able to explain these phenomena to ourselves, we will need to know the very basis of addiction and abuse:

Prescription drug use – Prescription medications like Vicodin can be used responsibly under the supervision of a doctor. Following a doctor’s instructions offers maximum benefit with the very little risk of abuse or addiction.

Drug abuse – In its most basic form, drug abuse is using any drug outside of the boundaries of a doctor’s prescription or, in the case of over-the-counter (OTC) medications, in ways other than what the manufacturer intended.

Drug addiction – Drug addiction is a physical and mental disorder characterised by an inability to control one’s drug use. An addict is compelled to continue using even though he or she knows doing so is destructive.

With those definitions established, it should be a bit easier to understand the process by which drug use ends up in addiction.

A person using Vicodin according to a prescription is circumspect about his or her use. He or she is able to control how much is taken on a daily basis. Should that person start using the drug in a way that is contrary to what the doctor intended, he or she is now a Vicodin abuser. By the time that abuse progresses to addiction, the user can no longer control him/herself. He or she is driven by habit.

Negative Effects

Vicodin abuse and addiction carry with them some negative effects. Some of those effects are short-term while others are long-term. You need to be aware of them if you are at risk of Vicodin abuse.

The short-term effects begin as soon as a person starts taking the drug. Vicodin works by binding and activating opioid receptors in the brain and spinal column. As it starts working, it blocks pain signals. It also has a sedating effect on various parts of the body. In the short term, Vicodin can cause dizziness or light-headedness, breathing problems, constipation, confusion, and other symptoms.

The long-term effects of Vicodin abuse are more profound. They begin with tolerance and dependence, two conditions that can eventually lead to addiction. Beyond tolerance and dependence are additional negative effects including increased pain perception, mood swings, poor stress management, poor memory, and an increased tendency to personal injury due to the drug’s sedating properties.

How it Can Change Your Loved One

Rest assured that Vicodin abuse does change people. Whether you are the person abusing it or you’re thinking of someone else, Vicodin changes the abuser’s personality. It will change the way that person views the world, interacts socially, and performs at work or school. And none of the changes is positive.

Imagine a loved one who used to be very socially outgoing before Vicodin abuse started. After a few months of using, he or she no longer goes out with friends and family. He/she does not participate in family activities. He/she is isolated because of not wanting to be around other people and they do not want to be around him/her.

Vicodin abuse and addiction cannot help but change people. Vicodin affects the brain in certain ways that influence everything from a person’s physical health to his or her thought processes and personality. He or she becomes an entirely new person driven by the need to consume Vicodin.

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Shifts in Behaviour

A person abusing Vicodin will demonstrate clear shifts in behaviour. You have already learned about social interaction and isolation, but that is just a starting point. The Vicodin abuser will demonstrate other behavioural changes as well. For example, he or she might begin having trouble processing thoughts in a logical way. This is a result of the sedation associated with Vicodin.

Vicodin abusers frequently experience pronounced mood swings. A user might be on cloud nine today but living in the depths of despair tomorrow. And on either end of the spectrum, he or she might also show signs of erratic behaviour. Impulse may be the rule of the day.

Vicodin Addiction and the Brain

Understanding how Vicodin affects the brain can lead to a better understanding of Vicodin addiction itself. First, understand and Vicodin is a combination of two drugs: hydrocodone and paracetamol (acetaminophen). The addictive nature of this drug is found in the hydrocodone.

Hydrocodone is an opiate in the same family as morphine and heroin. When used as a pain reliever, it works by binding itself to opioid receptors and then activating those receptors to slow down or block pain signals in the brain and spinal cord. Hydrocodone would probably be okay if that’s all it did. But it does more.

Hydrocodone also stimulates the production of endorphins. In turn, that stimulates a brain chemical known as dopamine. When these two chemicals are produced in excess, they create feelings of pleasure and euphoria. This is often where addiction lies.

The pleasure centres of the brain are very influential in driving us to do the things we do. When we experience something we like to do, the brain rewards us with pleasurable feelings. That motivates us to duplicate the experience in the future.

In some people, Vicodin triggers very intense feelings that are not experienced by others. Such intense feelings make it more likely that the user will eventually be a Vicodin addict. It all boils down to how the drug interacts with the brain.

Signs of an Overdose

Overdose is rare when a person uses Vicodin under the supervision of a doctor. It is not so rare among Vicodin abusers and addicts. Someone who has overdosed will begin to show signs that progressively get worse if not addressed. These are as follows:

  • Gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite)
  • Mental difficulties (confusion and loss of cognitive ability)
  • Lethargy, muscle weakness, and general fatigue.
  • Breathing problems (sometimes accompanied by chest pain)
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Jaundice (yellow skin)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Alternating diarrhoea and constipation
  • Erratic behaviour (especially anger).

Overdose Prevention

Preventing Vicodin overdose is as simple as not using the drug in any way contrary to a doctor’s instructions. You cannot overdose on Vicodin if you do not abuse it. If that is not an option for you at this juncture, you should make a point of not mixing Vicodin with any other drugs. Do not mix it with alcohol; do not mix it with other opiates; do not mix it with benzodiazepines. Combining Vicodin with other sedating drugs enhances its effects and can lead to an overdose situation.

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Early Warning Signs of Teen Vicodin Use

Are you concerned that your teen might be using Vicodin? If so, there are some early warning signs that could confirm it for you. Here’s what to look for:

  • Abnormal lethargy and fatigue
  • Poor performance in school
  • Regular mood swings
  • A tendency toward erratic behaviour
  • A change in friends
  • Gradually increasing social isolation.

Common Physical Warning Signs of Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin addiction manifests itself in a number of physical symptoms. Look for the following if you are concerned about someone you know who uses Vicodin:

  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Frequent breathing difficulties
  • Diagnosed liver problems
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Regular drowsiness, weakness, and lethargy
  • Episodes of unconsciousness.

Common Emotional and Social Warning Signs of Vicodin Addiction

Just as Vicodin addiction manifests itself in physical symptoms, there are emotional and social warning signs as well. Look for the following if you are concerned about someone you care about:

  • Defensiveness about Vicodin use
  • Gradually worsening depression or anxiety
  • Unpredictable mood swings
  • Episodes of paranoia
  • Social isolation
  • Troubled family relationships.

Behavioural Warning Signs of Vicodin Abuse

Look for these behavioural warning signs in some you suspect is abusing Vicodin:

  • Poor performance at work
  • Financial problems
  • Secretive behaviour
  • Lying, stealing, and manipulating to obtain Vicodin
  • Doctor shopping for new prescriptions
  • Attempting to buy Vicodin from the dark web.

Symptoms of Vicodin Withdrawal

A person in the throes of Vicodin addiction will experience withdrawal symptoms between doses. Should that person undergo treatment, detoxing from Vicodin will produce the same symptoms.

Common Vicodin withdrawal symptoms include the following:

Anxiety or depression – Feelings of anxiety or depression are often the result of the brain trying to rebalance itself.
Loss of appetite – As cravings for Vicodin increase, the appetite is naturally suppressed.
Nausea and vomiting – These two symptoms are the result of the gastrointestinal tract attempting to normalise itself.
Rapid breathing – Vicodin suppresses breathing; withdrawal does the opposite. A person in withdrawal will experience a measurable increase in respiration.
Sweating – Increased respiration and heart rate make the body work harder which, in turn, increases body temperature and causes sweating.
Sleeping problems – Because Vicodin is a sedative, it causes fatigue and drowsiness. Withdrawal reverses this effect. It can cause insomnia in some people.

This list represents only the most common withdrawal symptoms associated with Vicodin. There are more than a dozen others, some of which you might also experience should you go through withdrawal yourself. Please note that withdrawal symptoms can be severe enough to be life-threatening.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do drug abuse and addiction develop?

Drug abuse begins when a person starts using one or more substances in ways they were not intended to be used. For example, taking more Vicodin than a prescription calls for. When abuse is left unchecked, it can lead to tolerance, dependence, and eventual addiction.

How to know when your teen has a drug problem?

Teens with drug problems manifest certain symptoms and warning signs that give them away. Learn the symptoms and warning signs. If you observe them in your teen, seek help for the child right away.

Are heroin and Vicodin the same thing?

No. While there is an opiate component to both, heroin and Vicodin are distinctly different drugs.

How can you know if a family member is addicted to Vicodin?

The Vicodin addict will exhibit a range of physical, mental, and social warning signs.

What does Vicodin treatment involve?

Treatment varies based on the seriousness of the problem at hand. The Vicodin abuser may be fine with a bit of counselling and support group involvement. An addict is likely to require a more comprehensive treatment that begins with detox, follows with psychotherapeutic treatments, and concludes with aftercare services.

What to do if you are concerned for a loved one?

Again, look for the warning signs and symptoms you learned from this guide. If your observation indicates that a problem exists, talk with your loved one about it. Offer your support and help, including researching treatment options. Encourage your loved one to get medical help as soon as possible.

When to go to rehab for Vicodin addiction?

A Vicodin addiction is not something to fool around with. As soon as a person recognises he or she is addicted, arrangements for treatment should begin. The earliest possible treatment offers the best chances of permanent recovery.

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