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Hydrocodone Use: Signs and Symptoms of Abuse and Addiction

hydrocodone abuse signs and symptoms

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Hydrocodone is a powerful painkiller that changes the way the brain perceives pain. It works by binding the pain receptors with the aim of weakening pain signals. However, when taking hydrocodone with acetaminophen, care should be exercised not to overdose on acetaminophen because it may damage the liver. Since it is an opioid, users should watch out for addiction warning signs.

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Table of Contents

Signs of Hydrocodone Abuse

The recommended way of taking this drug is oral. However, it’s not uncommon to find people snorting, injecting, and plugging hydrocodone. That said, the other modes of intake apart from oral, expose users to overdose and the likelihood of developing symptoms of abuse. In 2006, close to 130 million prescriptions were written for patients to buy hydrocodone.
The abundance of this painkiller makes it easy to obtain. This is one of the reasons why signs of hydrocodone use disorders are rampant.
Signs of hydrocodone abuse can be classified into three groups: physical, behavioral, and psychological.

Physical Signs

  • Constricted pupils – This makes it difficult for the pupils to respond to changes in light intensity
  • Drowsiness – This is dangerous as it may cause falls and other accidents especially if one combine hydrocodone with alcohol
  • Lightheadednesswoman scratching an itchy rash on the elbow
  • Withdrawal symptoms when drug use is stopped
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood clotting issues
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Dizziness
  • White powder on hard objects – This is one of the important symptoms of substance use disorder. Patients often crash the painkiller on hard surfaces and snort it.

Behavioral Signs

  • Withdrawal from social activities – Due to the unique hydrocodone mechanism of action, patients tend to withdraw from activities that they previously found pleasurable
  • Desire to stop medication use without success
  • Inability to fulfill daily responsibilities
  • Borrowing or stealing pain medication from other people

Psychological Signs

  • Difficulty thinking – The drug can cause both short-term memory loss and long-term impairment if it is abused continuously
  • Anxiety – The impact of the drug on the brain may spill over and cause cognitive problems such as anxiety
  • Depression – This has to do with the side effect of hydrocodone abuse on the central nervous system
  • Fear – This is mostly caused by imagined as opposed to real threats
  • Euphoria
  • Abnormally cheerful mood -The hydrocodone high feeling brings about a temporal happy mood
  • Abnormally despondent mood

Despite the above symptoms of abuse, misuse of this drug is pretty hard to recognize. This is because the users maintain a high-level of secrecy or may exude a certain degree of calmness and relaxation that may cause one to be unsuspecting.

However, recognizing the signs and symptoms of hydrocodone abuse early enough can potentially save a life. an overdose of hydrocodone in system can be fatal.

Signs of Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone is such a potent drug thus making it easy for people to develop an addiction. It all starts with a simple prescription and grows to become a chemical dependence. Thereafter, the user develops hydrocodone addiction symptoms evidenced by a compulsive need and strange cravings for the painkiller irrespective of the consequences and circumstances.
Hydrocodone addiction signs are not far off from those of abuse. Some of the notable symptoms include:

  • Inability to function properly without taking a drug is one of the signs of hydrocodone dependence
  • Carrying pills everywhere they go man hiding hydrocodone pills in the back pocket of his jeans
  • Stashing pills in hard-to-reach areas in the house or car
  • Another sign of addiction is patients denying taking pills for fear of being chastised
  • Super-frequent visits to the doctor- According to a study done at Henry Ford Hospital, 47% of frequent doctor visits were associated with pain-relief narcotics addiction
  • Exaggerating pain or feigning injury to get prescription
  • Mood changes and outbursts are also common signs
  • Spending money quickly

What Shall One Do If Noticed Opioid Abuse or Addiction Signs?

When one realizes that the user is showing signs of addiction to hydrocodone, they should immediately act. Delays make recovery very difficult. The greatest danger with prescription-based medication is that the patients believe they are following doctors’ orders hence not concerned with tendencies of abuse or addiction.
The best approach is to stage an intervention for a user manifesting physical signs of addiction. There are also specialists who are experienced and can help with rapid detox among other procedures to rid the system of the drug. The key is in choosing the right treatment which should be patterned based on the patient’s lifestyle and needs.
Treatment for patients with symptoms of opioid addiction can be administered through inpatient or outpatient programs. For this to be efficient, immediately the patient starts displaying hydrocodone abuse symptoms, he should attend individual or group therapy sessions. Family members can also provide a good support system for hydrocodone addiction treatment at home.

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  1. Graziani M, Nisticò R. Gender difference in prescription opioid abuse: A focus on oxycodone and hydrocodone. Pharmacol Res. 2016.
  2. Alshehri FS, Hakami AY, Althobaiti YS, Sari Y. Effects of ceftriaxone on hydrocodone seeking behavior and glial glutamate transporters in P rats. Behav Brain Res. 2018 Jul 16;347:368-376.
Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
Olivier George

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.


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