Short and Long-Term Side Effects of Hydrocodone: Coping With Adverse Reactions

Last Updated: April 7, 2020

Authored by Olivier George, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Hydrocodone, an opioid medicine, is prescribed for severe pain and to suppress a dry cough. Although this drug is currently available on prescription only, unfortunately, it still stirs side effects even when consumed upon medical advice.
The use of this drug for recreational purposes is even more likely to cause long-term and short-term adverse reactions. How much hydrocodone to get high is needed depends on the variety of factors, including the body weight and individual tolerance.

What are the Short-Term Side Effects of Hydrocodone?

When comparing this opioid with the other prescription painkillers, they appear to have relatively similar side effects. Speaking about Tramadol VS Hydrocodone, for example, the adverse reactions are quite similar; however, the latter one is much more efficient in pain relief.
The short-term side effects of taking this opioid include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Coughman with cough and breathing problems
  • Chest discomfort
  • Congested nose or nasal discharge
  • Fever, chills and excessive weakness
  • Depressive thoughts
  • Swollen limbs or face
  • Frequent or painful urination
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Muscle cramp
  • Hydrocodone allergies: Allergic reactions to hydrocodone include itching, rash, and hives.

What are the Long-Term Side Effects of Hydrocodone?

The long-term effects of hydrocodone are immense when compared to immediate reactions:

  • Hearing loss: Prolonged use of this drug may result in a profound irreversible hearing loss.
  • Chronic Constipation: This side effect starts to occur as soon as a person starts taking the medication; however, prolonged use develops this side effect making it a constant problem.
  • Liver damage: This side effect is more likely to occur if hydrocodone is taken in combination with acetaminophen and can be quite severe. Contact the doctor immediately if one has noticed yellowing of the skin and eyes whites or experiences pain in the right upper stomach.
  • Kidney Failure: Large doses of hydrocodone drugs can also result in kidney diseases, especially when combined with other medications.
  • Cardiovascular Damage: This drug may affect the heart and blood vessels. Note, that CVD is one of the leading causes of deaths globally.
  • Brain Damage: Personality change, memory loss and difficulties with cognition are the symptoms of opioid-induced brain damage.
  • Androgen deficiency: Chronic use of this opioid affects the level of male sex hormones in the body, which is dangerous for both men and women.
  • Pregnancy problems: The intake of this drug while pregnant is likely to cause an adverse effect on the fetus and might result in NAS.
  • Severe respiratory depression: This is one of the most dangerous side effects as it may lead to coma and even death.
  • Serotonin syndrome: This potentially lethal effect may be caused by taking high doses of the drug or combining it with serotonergic -MAOIs or SSRIs, for example.

Variables Affecting the Side Effect Emergence:

Type of Intake:

The way a person takes this drug largely affects the emergence of side effects. Swallowing extended-release tablet or capsule; chewing, crushing tablets or sniffing Hydrocodone can cause serious side effects as it causes the medicine to reach the brain much faster.

Individual tolerance and conditions:

Some people are more likely to develop certain side effects, such as nausea or itching, due to existing health conditions, for example, allergies. Many people have no tolerance to acetaminophen which can intensify side effects and cause serious risk to health.

Taking in combination with other drugs:

Mixing Hydrocodone and alcohol, marijuana, other prescription medications or street drugs increase the likelihood and severity of the side effects.

Precautionary Measures to Control Negative Hydrocodone Effects

Consult a doctor before starting or stopping a drug. Below are some precautionary measures that one should take before start using this:

  • Inform the doctor and/or pharmacist if one is allergic to any medicine.
  • Discuss with the doctor if one experiences any condition indicated in the Important Warning section of the tablet leaflet/packet. important warnings lable on the bottle of prescription hydrocodone
  • The consulting doctor should know what herbal and medical products are being previously or currently consumed.
  • Inform the doctor about being pregnant, planning pregnancy or breastfeeding as hydrocodone stays in system for some time after the last dose and might affect the fetus.
  • Inform the doctor about opioid use before any surgery planned (including dental surgeries).
  • Be careful when getting up too quickly from a lying down position as this drug may cause dizziness and weakness.
  • Pay attention both to correct storage and expiration dates as the expired Hydrocodone intake can have unpredictable consequences.
  • Consult a specialist immediately in case of any of the symptoms of allergy to hydrocodone.

Treatments and Therapies to Cope with Negative Reactions

Some of the side effects of the opioid medication listed above are quite severe and may require medical assistance, switching to an alternative drug or quitting the medication. Ask for professional help in order to cope with the body’s adverse reactions to the drug. Listed below are some of the ways that help and support during the struggle to escape hydrocodone addiction.

  1. Drug rehabs include inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities. These encourage meetings and living in centers for the treatment duration.
  2. Drug detox: This means giving time to “flush” out toxins to cleanse the body.
  3. Medical assisted treatment: To minimize the side effects like hallucinations and emotional pain from withdrawal, specific remedies may be prescribed.

The treatments and therapies act as a support system to escape the horrifying life. Get out of this trauma and reach out for help.

Page Sources

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration. Hydrocodone. 2018.
  2. Medline Plus. Hydrocodone. 2019.
  3. National Institute of Health. HYDROCODONE. 2019.

Published on: March 15th, 2017

Updated on: April 7th, 2020

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.


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