Lortab Addiction

Lortab addiction and other substance abuse is a growing problem in the United States. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports the U.S. admission rate for opioids other than heroin skyrocketed by 414 percent between 1997 and 2007, from 7 people in every 100,000 to 36 people per 100,000.

People in the United States take more opioids than another other nation on earth. According to the Institute of Addiction Medicine, Americans account for only about 5 percent of global population but use 80 percent of the world's supply of opioids.

The active ingredient in Lortab - hydrocodone - is the most frequently prescribed painkiller in the U.S. Hydrocodone is associated with more drug abuse than any other prescription or illegal opioid.

The Definition of Addiction

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a "primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry." In other words, Lortab addiction is a long-term neurological disorder that damages the brain's reward circuitry. Dysfunction to these circuits causes certain changes in a person's behavior, thinking and social interactions. These changes include cravings for Lortab. Lortab addiction is a primary disease, which means it arose on its own and not as the result of some other condition.

A person struggling with Lortab addiction may show characteristic signs of addiction such as:

  • Inability to abstain consistently
  • Impaired behavioral control
  • Craving
  • Inability to recognize significant problems with one's own behavior
  • Inability to recognize significant problems with interpersonal relationships
  • Dysfunctional emotional response

Many individuals battling Lortab addiction go through repeated cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or with inadequate treatment, addiction is a progressive disease that can result in disability or premature death.

Addiction versus Dependence

With prolonged use at high doses, a person may become addicted to Lortab or dependent upon it, or both. Addiction and dependence are separate medical conditions and quite different from one another.

The human body adapts to the presence of certain foreign substances, such as Lortab, by adjusting its own chemical balance. In time, the body may become tolerant to Lortab, which means it takes a stronger dose to achieve the intended effect.

With continuous use, the body begins to depend on having a certain level of Lortab present in order to feel normal. If Lortab were to drop below this level, the body would struggle to maintain its chemical balance. The Lortab-dependent person feels this struggle through potent withdrawal symptoms.

A person who is addicted to Lortab will feel powerful cravings and will engage in drug-seeking behavior when her supply of Lortab runs out.

Someone can be addicted to a substance but not dependent upon it, and vice versa. For example, an individual can depend on an antihypertensive to keep her blood pressure low. If she runs out of medicine, her body struggles to maintain a safe blood pressure but the person will not crave the drug.

In contrast, a cocaine addict will not feel flu-like withdrawal symptoms when he runs out of cocaine but he will crave the illicit drug and seek out another dose.

Addiction: What Family Members Should Know

Addiction is a neurological disease, not a choice or an indication of moral character. It is true that many people develop a Lortab addiction through illicit drug use but many medical conditions, including cancer, are the result of poor lifestyle choices. Anyone can develop an addiction, including those who use opioid medications exactly as prescribed to treat a chronic, painful condition. As with any disease, the addicted person needs the love and support of his family if he is to attempt recovery.

Addiction is a family affair in that genetics play a large role in determining who develops a substance abuse problem. A child who has a parent with a substance abuse problem is more likely to develop an addiction or dependence later on in life. Hypersensitivity to stress, known for increasing the risk of addiction, also passes from one generation to the next.

A stressful home environment raises the risk for addiction in everyone living within that house. Financial problems, violence or arguments between residents, criminal activity or other stresses lead people to "self-medicate" with alcohol or drugs. A child who watches his parent cope with stressful situations by drinking or doing drugs is likely to use those same coping mechanisms when he grows up.

Addiction affects and endangers the entire family. Lortab and other opioids are expensive, diverting money earmarked for the family's groceries, rent, bills or medical expenses. A child with one or two addicted parents suffers from neglect, as Lortab addiction robs the individual of his capacity to think of anything other than using opioids.

Dangerous Risks

A person with a Lortab addiction usually keeps several doses on hand. Keeping opioids such as Lortab in a house with children increases the risk for accidental overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency departments treated about 71,000 kids for accidental drug overdoses between the years 2004 and 2005. About 80 percent of these children where unsupervised when they found and consumed these medications.

Lortab addiction increases the family's exposure to criminals. At some point, many people battling opioid addiction find they can no longer get Lortab from a doctor or local pharmacy, so they resort to buying drugs on the street. At first, the addicted individual may keep his drug dealers at a distance. As his disease progresses, he may become more comfortable allowing criminals into the home to sell drugs or to use them.

Addiction: What Parents Should Know

Parents should know that prescription drug abuse is a serious problem among American children and teenagers. According to results of the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 2 percent of 12 and 13 year olds report using psychotherapeutics including opioids like Lortab either to get high or to treat a condition for which it was not prescribed. The number of prescription drug abusers rises to 3 percent among 14 and 15 year olds. Almost 4 percent of 16 and 17 year olds report using drugs like Lortab without a prescription.

It is normal for a child to change as he grows so it may be difficult to recognize changes in your child's behavior that could indicate drug abuse or addiction. Parents should look for warning signs including an unusual loss of interest in things that were once important to your child. His grades or performance in sports may deteriorate; he seems to lack the motivation or energy to improve his behavior. He may sneak away and have trouble explaining his absences. He might have money problems that seem advanced for a child his age - be aware of money or items missing from your home.

Caring for a Family Member with an Addiction

Recovery often begins when family members begin to talk about Lortab addiction. Family members are allowed to talk about issues that affect the household, including substance abuse and addiction. Family members should schedule meetings to discuss treatment plans and progress.

The addicted person does not have to participate at first. In fact, she may be upset when she first learns of the family meetings. The neurological changes associated with Lortab addiction makes many people reluctant to talk about their disease. She will grow more comfortable talking about her Lortab addiction as time goes by and rehabilitation restores some of her neurological functions.

Addiction has a negative effect but recovery can have a positive effect on a family as each individual participates in the healing process.

Family members play a critical role in recovery. Frequently, a family member finds the treatment facility the addicted individual eventually attends. Every member of the family should encourage the addicted individual to seek and complete treatment.

When to Seek Treatment

It is possible to slow or stop the progression of addiction at any time. Do not let your loved one hit rock bottom before encouraging him to seek help. Addiction causes collateral damage and health hazards that your family member could have avoided through early treatment.

The treatment and recovery experience works best when the individual feels physically, emotionally and spiritually safe with his family. To afford him this safety, family members should treat addiction as a disease and avoid blaming the individual for his illness.

There is, however, a line between supportive comfort and enabling the Lortab addiction. Frequently, the individual must experience the full force of problems associated with Lortab addiction before he is willing to attempt recovery.

Signs of Addiction

Lortab addiction makes changes to the neurological system on a cellular level. These changes to the central nervous system cause the addicted person to behave, think and feel in a certain way. Doctors look for these changes when diagnosing a person as suffering from Lortab addiction.

Behavioral, Cognitive and Emotional Changes


A person with a Lortab addiction uses opioids excessively, often consuming larger doses or using Lortab more frequently than he intends. Even while he is using Lortab, he may express a persistent desire to quit and may even attempt recovery several times. He may seem unable or unwilling to overcome his habit, even though he is apparently aware of the damage Lortab does.

One distinguishing characteristic of Lortab addiction is that it causes a person to lose an excessive amount of time looking for Lortab, getting high or recovering from drug use. Eventually, he loses interest in all aspects of his life that do not involve Lortab. This has a significant negative impact on the individual's social life, personal relationships and performance on the job.


Lortab addiction changes the way a person thinks. She becomes preoccupied with substance abuse; Lortab invades all other aspects of her life. She perceives Lortab as entirely good and ignores the negative attributes of drug abuse. She may hold the inaccurate belief that other people or events caused her problems, rather than seeing her difficulties as the predictable consequence of addiction.


While many people develop a Lortab addiction after using this drug to self-medicate emotional pain, Lortab addiction actually causes increased anxiety, emotional pain and sadness. The neurological changes associated with addiction recruit the brain's stress system, making everyday challenges seem more stressful to the addict.

Addiction sometimes makes it hard for a person to identify her feelings or to distinguish between emotions and body sensations. She may have trouble describing her feelings, a condition known as alexithymia.

Symptoms of Addiction

As with any other disease, a person suffering from addiction will feel physical and psychological symptoms resulting from the neurological changes addiction causes. Physical symptoms may be mistaken for lifestyle choices, whereas psychological symptoms of addiction can sometimes make it difficult to interact with the addicted individual.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of drug addiction include:

  • Unexplained Weight Gain or Weight Loss
  • A Change in Sleep Patterns
  • Deteriorating Physical Appearance - Looks Sickly
  • Nagging Cough
  • Diminished Hygiene Care
  • Body or Clothing May Have an Unusual Odor
  • Bloodshot Eyes with Large or Small Pupils
  • Tremors
  • Slurred Speech

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms of addiction to opioids include:

  • Inability to Abstain Consistently
  • Impairment in Behavioral Control
  • Cravings for Drugs or Intense Reward Experiences
  • Diminished Capacity to Recognize Significant Personal or Relationship Problems
  • Dysfunctional Emotional Response

Gender Differences

According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, men were twice as likely as women to abuse or be dependent upon illicit substances such as heroin, cocaine or marijuana. In 2010, 5.9 percent of females admitted to using illicit drugs, as compared to 11.6 percent of males.

While fewer women abuse illegal drugs, a higher percentage of females abuse prescription drugs, such as Lortab. Females are also more likely to combine prescription drugs like Lortab with alcohol, marijuana or other psychoactive drugs.

Men abuse drugs differently than women do. A man is most likely to get high with friends while a woman would probably choose to do drugs by herself. Addicted women tend to be loners, whereas men with addictions have wide social circles. The way the two genders abuse drugs such as opioids could be because society is tolerant of addicted men while women face strong social stigmas against drug use and addiction.

Men and women take different paths to Lortab addiction. Men tend to abuse drugs for recreational purposes while women often begin opioids addiction after using this medication as prescribed to treat pain. Some studies suggest physicians are more likely to prescribe mood-altering drugs to female alcoholics because they think depression, anxiety or some other emotional difficulty was at the root of the woman's health complaints.

Cause of Gender Differences

Addicted women frequently come from families where at least one relative struggled with substance abuse problems or addictions. Girls who carry too much domestic responsibilities can develop an addiction later on in life. Many addicted females report a turbulent childhood home environment.

Addicted women sometimes blame a difficult relationship or traumatic event as the cause of substance abuse and addiction. When asked, women also name genetics, family history or environmental stress responsible for their drug abuse problems.

Women with addictions are frequently in relationships with a partner who also has a substance abuse problem. This can make it difficult for a woman to seek recovery, feeling she is "leaving her partner behind" or breaking some sort of promise.

Addicted females often have co-existing psychological problems such as a poor body image or eating disorders. Women with opioids addiction report lower expectations for their lives. Addicted women tend to have less education, fewer marketable skills and less job experience than males.  Addicted women are more likely than addicted males to have attempted suicide.

Women ask for help more frequently than men do but females do not stay in treatment as long. Many women feel treatment program focuses on males with opioids addiction and, as a result, are not effective for women.

Women struggle to overcome additional barriers to recovery, such as being able to afford quality treatment for their Lortab addictions or finding childcare while the mother is in rehabilitation.

Treatment Options

The American Society of Addictive Medicine warns that addiction to substances such as Lortab can cause "disability or premature death, especially when left untreated or treated inadequately." Without proper medical treatment, many people battle dangerous cycles of recovery and relapse.

Treatment consists of two parts: detoxification and rehabilitation. Detoxification is the medical process of lowering the level of opioids in the body. A person going through detoxification usually experiences five or more days of intense withdrawal symptoms as his body adjusts to lower levels of Lortab.

Rehabilitation focuses on restoring the neurological function disrupted by opioid addiction. This phase of treatment includes behavior modification and counseling that teaches the addicted person how to live without Lortab.


Some people try self-detoxification to end an addiction to Lortab. This is sometimes called "going cold turkey," which refers to the cold, clammy, pale skin with goose bumps that addicted people experience as they go through detox.

Those who try self-detoxification experience the full brunt of withdrawal symptoms, and face an increased risk for suffering complications associated with the flu-like symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms, known in the medical world as opiate abstinence syndrome, often come in two waves several hours after the last dose of Lortab. Early symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle Aches
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Watery Eyes
  • Yawning

After a day or two, the individual will experience symptoms including:

  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Goose Bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The goal of self-detoxification is to last five or more days, with the worst symptoms occurring on or about the fourth day. Many people succumb to overpowering physical and mental withdrawal symptoms and take another dose of Lortab just to ease the discomfort.

Some people create treatment plans that include medicine to ease withdrawal symptoms. One such treatment is The Thomas Recipe, which includes valium or some other benzodiazepine to calm the person down and help him sleep. Imodium eases diarrhea while mineral supplements relieve muscle aches. On or about the fourth day, the individual awakens with overwhelming malaise and lack of energy that makes it difficult to move around. The patient takes L-Tyrosine with B6, which gives him a surge of energy.

While the Thomas Recipe eases withdrawal symptoms a bit, the individual is still at risk for complications such as aspiration, dehydration and relapse. Relapse to opioid abuse may result in life threatening overdose. Tolerance to Lortab drops throughout the detoxification process; as a result, he can overdose on a smaller amount of Lortab than he used to take before attempting detoxification.


Lortab addiction may result in overdose, which can be fatal. Symptoms of Lortab overdose include:

  • Breathing that Stops
  • Cold, Clammy Skin
  • Confusion
  • Extreme Drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Pinpoint Pupils
  • Shallow Breathing
  • Weak Pulse

Lortab overdose is a serious, life threatening medical emergency requiring immediate care. In the emergency department, doctors give the patient naloxone and other medications to reduce Lortab to safe levels. Nurses establish an airway to help the patient breathe and monitor his vital signs. Nurses may empty the patient's stomach or administer charcoal to absorb excess Lortab. If necessary, nurses and doctors perform life-saving measures such as CPR.

Some people with a Lortab addiction who are in otherwise stable condition might benefit from Drug Replacement Therapy, or DRT. Patients in DRT replace illegal drugs with medications such as methadone, Suboxone or buprenorphine. DRT medications act similarly to opioids, so the patient does not experience withdrawal symptoms, but DRT drugs do not cause euphoria - the patient does not get high on them. This allows a person with a Lortab addiction to put off the detoxification stage while he begins behavioral modification. After the patient learns how to live without Lortab, he weans himself from the replacement drug.

Many patients passionately support DRT because it allowed them to work and live at home during treatment. Opponents of DRT say it is merely trading one addiction for another. Many people have trouble quitting the replacement drug. Harvard Medical School cites estimates that 25 percent of methadone DRT patients eventually abstain, another 25 percent continues to take the DRT drug and 50 percent go on and off methadone.

DRT is just one kind of Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT. Medications reduce the overpowering symptoms of withdrawal, enabling the patient to tolerate the process long enough to successfully detoxify his body.

Rehabilitation professionals say that MAT is an important and effective treatment approach because it:

  • Improves Survival Rates
  • Increase Retention in Treatment
  • Decreases Illicit Opioid Use
  • Decreases The Risk for Hepatitis and HIV
  • Decreases Criminal Activities
  • Increases Employment
  • Improves Birth Outcomes for Pregnant Women Battling Addiction

Standard MAT involves a hospital stay. Doctors administer naloxone and other medications to reduce Lortab levels, and other medications to ease the ensuing withdrawal symptoms. While standard inpatient MAT relieves the strength and duration of symptoms a bit, patients still face a lengthy, uncomfortable and demoralizing battle that leaves psychological scars that can interfere with rehabilitation. Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse or Lortab addiction.

Rapid detox is cutting-edge and well-established approach to treatment, thought by many to be the most humane form of detoxification available today. During rapid detox, board certified anesthesiologists administer the standard detoxification and anti-withdrawal drugs alongside sedatives and anesthesia, so that patient dozes in a pleasant "twilight sleep." When the patient awakens, she will have no memory of the grueling detoxification process. Instead of a few days, she is ready for meaningful behavior modification in a few hours.


Because Lortab addiction is a neurological disease that manifests itself through behaviors such as craving and drug-seeking, behavioral modification is essential for recovery. Addiction is a complex but treatable disease; each person experiences addiction differently, therefore no single treatment is appropriate for everyone. Effective treatment addresses the individual's multiple needs, not just her drug abuse. Many who suffer addiction to Lortab or other drugs have other mental disorders, legal trouble, social problems or relationship issues that compound addiction and increase the risk for relapse.

Treatment programs should assess patients for diseases such as HIV/ AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases. Rehabilitation programs should include counseling to help patients modify or change behaviors that place them at risk of contracting or spreading infectious diseases.

Individual counseling, group therapy and other behavioral modification programs are commonly used to treat drug abuse. Treatment needs to be readily available to encourage maximum participation. Remaining in treatment for an adequate amount of time is critical to prevent relapse. Rehabilitation professionals need to monitor the patient's treatment course and progress to make sure treatment meets the individual's needs. Relapse is common and professional monitoring reduces the risk for return to Lortab abuse.