Vicodin: What You Need to Know

in Drug Insights
Published Dec 2, 2020

Vicodin is a powerful prescription medication that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Containing opioids, Vicodin has a potential for misuse, and even addiction. Read more to find out about Vicodin, its effects, risks for addiction, and the US Food and Drugs Administration Blackbox warning. 

What is Vicodin?

Vicodin is the brand name for a drug containing the narcotic hydrocodone and acetaminophen which is used to relieve pain and fever. This prescription medication is used to treat moderate to severe pain that does not respond to other non-opioids pain medications. Vicodin should only be used for short periods of time, to treat things like post-surgical pain, or cancer. 

Opioids affect the pleasure center of the brain, causing euphoria. However, because of this effect they have the greatest potential for misuse, meaning they can lead to the brain becoming addicted and subsequently cause substance use disorder. Opioids can also lead to the body becoming physically dependent. Those taking the medication may experience unpleasant side effects, or withdrawal symptoms, when use of the drug is reduced or stopped.

As Vicodin is a narcotic, and given its potential for misuse, it is listed as a Schedule 2 drug by the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Vicodin also contains a Blackbox Warning of misuse, addiction, risk of overdose and death, and potential to cause neonatal opioid withdrawal symptoms when used for prolonged periods by women who are pregnant. 

Dosage for Vicodin

The usual dose for Vicodin is 1 to 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours as needed.

Vicodin side effects

Common side effects of taking Vicodin, include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Mood changes
  • Dry mouth

Additionally, acetaminophen can cause damage to the liver. You should talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your urine, pain in your abdomen, or experience a loss of appetite. 

While less common, some people taking Vicodin may experience more serious side effects — listed below. If you or a loved one have any of these side effects, you should call 911 and seek immediate medical assistance:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Allergic reaction such as hives or rash, or any facial swelling
  • Low blood pressure

There are also a number of drugs that interact with Vicodin which carry the potential to increase sedation. It can be dangerous to take Vicodin with alcohol and any other sedatives. 

Vicodin addiction

Given its pain relieving properties and euphoric effects, Vicodin has the potential for misuse. Also, when taken for prolonged periods of time, the body may develop a physical dependence. 

When a person with a physical dependence stops taking Vicodin, they may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. For these reasons, doctors try to exercise caution when prescribing pain relieving medication that contains opioids.

Vicodin withdrawal

Symptoms of withdrawal from Vicodin may differ from person-to-person depending on dosage and length of use. Those withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, fever, chills, or congestion
  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Yawning
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Rapid breathing
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Exhaustion
  • Restlessness
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps and shivering
An easier solution to withdrawal

Detox is a crucial first step in most people’s recovery journey. In fact, it is recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

“For alcohol, sedative-hypnotic, and opioid withdrawal syndromes, hospitalization or some form of 24-hour medical care is generally the preferred setting for detoxification, based upon principles of safety and humanitarian concerns.”

– SAMHSA Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Improvement Protocol, TIP 45

There is no need to suffer withdrawal alone, we can help. 

At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we bring compassion to the commotion. Peace to the pain. Empowerment to the powerless. If you or someone you know needs support with addiction problems, bring us your battle. Call us today and take the best, first step towards recovery: 720-704-1432