Hydrocodone

  • Generic Name or Active Ingridient: Hydrocodone
Drug Class: Hydrocodone > Semi Synthetic Opioid > Opioids > Opioid Agonist > Analgesic.

Uses

Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opiate in the United States, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA. In 2010, more than 139 million hydrocodone prescriptions were filled. This effective opioid relieves moderate to moderately severe pain. Learn More About Hydrocodone Uses

Other, off label uses for this medicine

Hydrocodone is also used alone or with other antitussives to relieve a dry, non-productive cough. Other off label uses may exist. More Off-Label Uses for Hydrocodone

Administration/Dosage

Forms Hydrocodone is available in tablets, pills and in liquid form, known as a suspension. In tablet form, Hydrocodone is marketed under the brand names Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Anexsia, Hycodan, Vicoprofen, Tramadol, Zydone, Tylox, Tussionex and Hycomine.

Dosage The maximum single dose of acetaminophen for adults is one gram, or 1000 mg. The maximum daily dose of acetaminophen for adults is four grams, or 4000 mg. Learn how much acetaminophen is in each hydrocodone tablet- some tablets contain as much as 750 mg of acetaminophen. Many over the counter medications also contain acetaminophen; always read the labels of all supplements, prescription medicine and over the counter medications to learn if they contain acetaminophen.

Measure each dose of hydrocodone suspensions with a special dose-measuring spoon or cup. Do not use a household tablespoon to dispense liquid medicine, as you increase the risk for dosing errors and overdose.

Missed Doses Hydrocodone is prescribed to be taken as needed for pain, so missed doses should not be a problem. If you forget to take a dose and are in pain, take a dose as soon as you can. If you are to take hydrocodone on a regular basis and forget to take a dose, simply take one as soon as you remember or at the next scheduled time. Do not double up on doses in an effort to catch up.

If you have been taking hydrocodone for a long period of time or have been taking high doses of this opioid, you may suffer withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the medication. Try weaning yourself off by increasing the amount of time between doses.

Read More About Hydrocodone Administration and Dosage

Action

Hydrocodone binds to the receptor cells in the brain and nervous system, changing the way your brain perceives pain. Hydrocodone is often combined with acetaminophen or non-steroidal inflammatory agents to produce an additive analgesic effect. Hydrocodone and these other pain relievers work in different ways, so their combined effect is often more effective against pain than just hydrocodone alone.

More About How Hydrocodone Works

Precautions

Tell your doctor if you are allergic to hydrocodone, aspirin, Tylenol or any other medications. Hydrocodone is usually combined with other drugs.

Tell your physician about your medical history. Tell her if you consume more than three alcoholic beverages each day. Inform her of any alcoholic liver disease, or cirrhosis. Hydrocodone is frequently mixed with acetaminophen, which can cause further damage to the liver in patients with a history of cirrhosis.

Let your doctor know if you have a history of breathing problems such as asthma, COPD and sleep apnea. Speak with your physician about any liver or kidney disease, stomach or intestinal disorder. It is vital your health care provider know about a history of head injury or brain tumor, low blood pressure, underactive thyroid, adrenal gland disorders like Addison's disease and curvature of the spine. Tell your doctor about any history of mental illness, including depression or anxiety. Be honest with your physician about past drug or alcohol abuse.

Taking hydrocodone may make you drowsy. Do not operate heavy machinery, drive a car or perform potentially dangerous tasks until you know how hydrocodone affects you.

Do not drink alcohol or use other pain relievers while taking hydrocodone. Doing so may result in serious drug interactions and side effects, including death.

Hydrocodone can be habit forming. Take only as directed. Do not take hydrocodone in amounts larger than prescribed. Do not use this opioid longer than directed.

Hydrocodone can cause constipation. Drink six to eight full glasses of water each day to soften your stool. Speak with your doctor or nutritionist about ways to increase your dietary fiber and reduce constipation. Do not take stool softeners or laxatives unless directed to do so by your doctor.

Read More About Hydrocodone Precautions

Warnings

Certain prescription and over the counter medications can add to sleepiness caused by hydrocodone, or could even slow down your breathing. Avoid taking new prescription and over the counter drugs while on hydrocodone. Tell your doctor if you are taking or plan to take cold or allergy medicine, narcotic pain medicine, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, antidepressants or seizure medication.

This drug may cause damage to unborn babies. Do not take hydrocodone if you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant while taking this pain reliever. Taking this medication while pregnant may cause your infant to suffer breathing problems along with symptoms of dependency and withdrawal. Hydrocodone and acetaminophen may pass into breast milk; do not breastfeed your baby while taking hydrocodone.

You may experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking hydrocodone. Speak with your doctor if you feel unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you do not take a dose. If you are unable to wean yourself slowly from hydrocodone, your physician may recommend a treatment program.

More Warnings About Using Hydrocodone

Drug Interactions

Some drugs interact negatively with hydrocodone. Give your doctor and pharmacist a list of all prescription drugs, over the counter medications and herbal remedies you take regularly. Hydrocodone and acetaminophen are known to interact with:

  • Antidepressants such as amitriptyline, clomipramine, imipramine and others. Brand names for these medicines include Elavil, Etrafon, Anafranil, Janimine and Tofranil.
  • MAO inhibitors such as Marplan, Nardil, Azilect, Eldepryl, Emsam or Parnate.
  • Atropine (Donnatal, and others), Benztropine (Cogentin), Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), Glycopyrrolate (Robinul), Mepenzolate (Cantil), Methscopolamine (Pamine) or Scopolamine (Transderm-Scop).
  • Bladder or Urinary Medications. Tell your doctor if you are taking medications like Enablex, Urispas, Ditropan, Oxytrol, Detrol or Vesicare.
  • Bronchodilators such as ipratropium or tiotropium. Brand names for these drugs include Atrovent and Spiriva.
  • Irritable Bowel Medications such as Bentyl, Anaspaz, Cystospaz, Levsin or Pro-Banthine.

More Drug Interactions

Side effects

Side effects of hydrocodone and acetaminophen range from serious and life-threatening to less serious. If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing serious side effects, contact your local emergency room immediately.

Serious side effects include:

  • Shallow Breathing.
  • Slow Heartbeat.
  • Feeling Lightheaded or Fainting.
  • Confusion, Fear, Unusual Thoughts or Behavior.
  • Seizures.
  • Problems with Urination.
  • Nausea, Stomach Pain, Loss of Appetite.
  • Itching.
  • Dark Urine, Clay-Colored Stools.
  • Jaundice or Yellowing of the Skin or Eyes.

Less serious side effects can still impact your health in a negative way. Consult with your doctor if your less serious side effects are acute or don't go away on their own.

Less Serious Side effects of Hydrocodone include:

  • Feeling Anxious, Dizzy, or Drowsy.
  • Mild Nausea, Vomiting, Upset Stomach, Constipation.
  • Headache.
  • Mood Changes.
  • Blurred Vision.
  • Ringing in Your Ears.
  • Dry mouth.

Learn More About Hydrocodone Side Effects

Overdose

Overdose of hydrocodone is a serious medical situation. If you suspect that you or someone you know has taken an overdose of hydrocodone, contact your local emergency room or poison control center by calling 1-800-222-1222.

Symptoms of overdose include:

  • Cold, Clammy Skin.
  • Circulatory Collapse.
  • Stupor.
  • Coma.
  • Depression.
  • Respiratory Depression.
  • Cardiac Arrest.
  • Death.

Learn More About Hydrocodone Overdose

Abuse

Hydrocodone is abused for its euphoric effects. The DEA reports hydrocodone abuse has escalated dramatically in recent years, even among school-age children. Abusers use diversion tactics, like placing bogus call-in prescriptions to pharmacies, altering prescriptions, theft and illicit purchases from the internet, to gain hydrocodone. Hydrocodone pills are the most frequently abused form of the opioid; pills are often taken with alcohol to maximize effect. There is increased potential for abuse by a significant segment of the population largely because this drug is widely available to people of all age groups and is viewed as generally safe by the medical community.

Hydrocodone carries a high risk for opioid dependence and addiction requiring treatment. Because hydrocodone is frequently combined with acetaminophen which may cause liver damage, taking large doses of hydrocodone may cause liver toxicity.

Read More About Hydrocodone Abuse

Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms occur if you have developed a dependence on hydrocodone and suddenly stop taking the medication. Withdrawal symptoms may be severe enough to prevent detoxification without medical intervention. Withdrawal symptoms usually begin six to twelve hours after your last dose and peak 24 to 72 hours later. These symptoms are very unpleasant and typically last for one to two weeks.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Intense Cravings for the Drug.
  • Irritability.
  • Nausea or Vomiting.
  • Muscle Aches.
  • Runny Nose or Eyes.
  • Dilated Pupils.
  • Sweating .
  • Diarrhea .
  • Yawning .
  • Fevers.
  • Chills.
  • Inability to Sleep.
  • Depression.

Detox

Substance abuse programs usually include detoxification and behavioral counseling. Rapid detox is a humane way to get through the peak discomfort associated with withdrawal. During rapid detox, you are given a combination of sedatives and anesthesia, so that you sleep while medical professionals cleanse hydrocodone from your system. You awaken unaware of the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal. Other types of treatment plans are effective, whether you choose an in-patient facility or an out-patient program. Consult with your physician to find out the most effective treatment plan. Learn More About Hydrocodone Detoxification Programs

Storage

Keep hydrocodone in a secure location away from excessive heat and moisture. Count your pills frequently and keep track of how many you should have. Keep hydrocodone away from children, pets and adults who might take this drug accidentally or on purpose.

Read More About Storing Hydrocodone