Vicodin Addiction – Health Risks & Effects on the Brain

What Is Vicodin?

Vicodin is a brand name for an opioid narcotic analgesic drug often used for pain relief. The drug is a combination of hydrocodone and paracetamol (acetaminophen) also sold under additional brand names such as Lortab, Lorcet, Zydone and many others.

Because of its narcotic status, a doctor must prescribe Vicodin, or any hydrocodone-containing drug. Healthcare professionals often prescribe the drug for relief of moderate to moderately severe acute and chronic pain, or for postoperative pain relief. When used as directed, Vicodin is typically safe for most users with the most common side effects being nausea, vomiting, dry mouth and constipation.

However, not all users take Vicodin as prescribed, and this often leads to dependency on the drug. In fact, Vicodin is one of the most-prescribed drugs in the United States and as such it’s led many proponents to suggest patients might be better off switching between narcotic and non-narcotic pain killers, as well as altering lifestyle habits, and undergoing more rigorous rehabilitation programs instead of having complete reliance on a drug that is known to be quite addictive.

Vicodin addictions typically start in one of two ways.

The first, involves taking the medication of a friend, family member, or acquaintance in a higher quantity or in a manner other than prescribed.

The second starts as using the prescription as prescribed, but gradually increasing the dose as the perceived effects are no longer what they once were. For example, if you have chronic pain and are used to taking Vicodin, over time your body will build a tolerance to its effects, which leads many users to self-prescribe higher doses in order to ensure they are no longer in pain.

No matter how it starts, Vicodin, once abused, is a serious problem.

How Opiates Like Vicodin Affect the Brain

Vicodin works by connecting to opioid receptors, which are proteins in the spinal cord and brain. Once connected, narcotic analgesics (like Vicodin) interfere with pain signals that would otherwise trigger a pain response in the brain. Instead, Vicodin blocks these signals and leaves the user feeling euphoric and slightly drowsy in some instances.

While we have a basic understanding of why Vicodin works, there are many things that doctors don’t currently understand about how this, and other opioids affect a user not just physically, but mentally.

For example, those with prescription painkiller dependence often rate their levels of pain much higher than those without the same dependence, or to experience (and even manifest) a sort of phantom pain even in areas that aren’t injured. Both of these effects have been proven to be the part of the mental affects of withdrawal, rather than actual physical pain from an injury. What’s even more fascinating about this effect is that the pain isn’t made up. When scanned, these patients often exhibit pain-type responses even when the body isn’t injured, thus leading to the belief that the effects originate in the brain, rather than from the body itself.

In short, when addicted to Vicodin or other opioids, the brain actually works against the user by creating pain where there is none, and making other pain more intense in order to get more of the drug.

Health Risks Associated With Continued Use or Abuse of Vicodin

Vicodin has a number of physical and metal side-effects that are mostly attributed to long-term use or abuse. Like many other drugs, the most persistent side-effect is that of withdrawal. Withdrawal from opioids is often quite severe and even dangerous if this detox period happens outside of a controlled environment, such as a detox center.

More physical effects are mainly from the acetaminophen within the drug and high doses of acetaminophen have been shown to cause liver damage (or failure) as well as affecting heart rate and kidney function.

The most severe side effects are those of overdose due to increased tolerance. As users continue to use the drug, they must do so in higher doses to get the same effect. This could lead to accidental overdose, and does so with some regularity.

How Can Prescott House Help?

Prescott House is a male only long-term treatment facility designed to help with a wide variety of substance abuse and mental health issues. Our qualified professionals can better educate you on the detoxification and withdrawal effects from Vicodin, and even provide resources to better assist you in your area. After detox, our inpatient treatment facility can begin working with you or your loved one on the road to recovery with the assistance of our well-trained staff, and a team of motivated individuals with a desire to live a clean and sober lifestyle.

Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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