A hydrocodone high is characterized by mild-moderate euphoria when used or abused, and those who are engaging in the latter may also report feeling tired and weak. Some persons attempt to enhance the effects by administering it intranasally or via injection, thinking that doing so will allow the drug to reach the brain rapidly. This is an ill-advised practice, however, as it can lead to numerous medical complications.
Vicodin and other brand names of hydrocodone bitartrate come in three different doses of the painkiller: 5 mg, 7.5 mg, and 10 mg. Generally, it’s recommended that individuals take the medication every 4-6 hours. This immediate-release form of hydrocodone is intended to be used for temporary pain relief on a short-term, as-needed basis. Zohydro is the extended-release version of hydrocodone, which comes in 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, and 50 mg doses. It is administered only once per day because it lasts for up to 12 hours.
The immediate-release versions of these medications may induce a mild hydrocodone high in small, prescribed doses based on several factors: the person’s particular chemistry, how often they use hydrocodone, what other opioids they have used, and their size. In some instances, those who are “naive,” or those with little history of using opioids, may experience a moderate amount of euphoria even if they are using the drug as directed.
Usually, however, these feelings ease up over time as the individual’s body becomes accustomed to the medication. Many people who take hydrocodone for pain management never feel the euphoric or numb feelings it can produce. Those who abuse hydrocodone by ingesting a higher amount or more often than prescribed or consume it via an approved administration method (e.g., crushing the pill and snorting the residual powder) will get high off the medication.
What Is Hydrocodone, Exactly?
Hydrocodone is a prescription painkiller commonly used to treat moderate-severe pain, and it’s commonly given in combination with acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid, meaning it’s chemically manufactured based on opioid substances culled from the opium poppy but not entirely natural.
Hydrocodone is derived from a modified codeine molecule and is similar in structure to both codeine and morphine. The medication comes in an extended-release form intended for all-day pain relief, while standard hydrocodone may be used only when needed. Those who use hydrocodone may administer it in an oral tablet, capsule, or liquid solution. Some examples of medications that include hydrocodone are the following:
Hydrocodone attaches itself to opioid receptors in the brain and works to reduce pain sensations. Activation of opioid receptors has also been linked to heightened dopamine activity in brain regions responsible for reward. The body produces its own substances that naturally bind to the opioid receptors to block pain signals, calm the body, act as an antidepressant, and reduce respiration rate.
The body typically doesn’t produce enough of these substances naturally to achieve high or relieve a substantial amount of pain. Still, when additional substances are introduced and attached to these receptors, these effects are possible.
Hydrocodone Abuse and Addiction
Hydrocodone has a high potential to be habit-forming and mentally and physically addictive, particularly when abused. Mayo Clinic reports that the risk of developing an emotional addiction from a legitimate prescription when using it as advised is dubious. Physical dependence on the drug may develop over time, even when using it as directed. Therefore, it’s essential to consult the prescribing doctor when stopping the use of hydrocodone.
Physical withdrawal symptoms can occur in those who use the drug to relieve pain for a prolonged period and then abruptly discontinue use. Generally, those who have used hydrocodone for an extended amount of time or at excessive doses must be tapered off the drug slowly to prevent the severe side effects of physical withdrawal, including the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramping
- Muscle aches and pains
- Bone pain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Chills and goosebumps
- Sleep disturbances
Can a Legitimate Hydrocodone Prescription Fuel Addiction?
Those who use a prescription as directed can develop a tolerance for the drug, meaning they require increasing amounts to induce the same pain-relieving effect. This may lead users to increase their dosage or administer the medication more frequently without direction by a health provider. Also, a hydrocodone high can consist of euphoric effects, and then the user may decide to take more than prescribed or it in higher dosages to intensify the experience. As this abuse increases, so does the risk of addiction.
Short-Term Health Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse
People whose hydrocodone for medical purposes are at risk of respiratory depression and experiencing a drop in blood pressure and a reduction in heart rate. These effects tend to be more pronounced in persons who abuse the drug in higher amounts or by using another administration method.
For example, a person can have a valid prescription for hydrocodone and experience respiratory depression. Still, those taking it more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed put themselves at a heightened risk of severe respiratory depression, coma, and death.
Also, if tolerance has developed, the chances of an overdose increase due to excessive use, especially if a health professional isn’t monitoring the individual. Other symptoms of short-term hydrocodone abuse include the following:
- Sleep disturbances
- Reduction in heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
Long-Term Health Risks of Hydrocodone
Individuals with asthma or another respiratory condition are often prescribed another pain medication that doesn’t put them at risk for severe respiratory issues. This is because repeated misuse or abuse of hydrocodone can weaken pulmonary function and increase a person’s likelihood of developing pneumonia.
The liver metabolizes all substances, meaning that substances containing hydrocodone make the liver worker harder than it would normally. When hydrocodone is used in combination with acetaminophen in medications such as Vicodin, the liver works even more challenging. With frequent usage and high dosages, drugs containing hydrocodone, especially those with acetaminophen, will harm the liver.
In some instances, the amount of acetaminophen is enough to cause complete liver failure. When a person abuses hydrocodone, it can interfere with the normal function of the brain’s reward system. In addition, someone who uses hydrocodone regularly may find it hard to experience pleasure from everyday life activities.
Getting Help for Substance Abuse
The abuse of or addiction to hydrocodone or other opioids can devastate a person’s life and mental and physical health. Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery are dedicated to providing each individual we treat with the tools, education, and support they need to achieve abstinence and sustain long-lasting happiness and wellness.
Our intensive, integrated programs offer a variety of therapeutic services and activities, including the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Health and wellness education
- 12-step group support
- Individual and family counseling
- Art and music therapy
- Adventure therapy
- Relapse prevention strategies
- Aftercare planning
- Alumni events