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Hydrocodone Addiction and Treatment

Hydrocodone is a highly addictive prescription opioid typically prescribed for treating pain and cough suppression. It is commonly found in combination with other medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to enhance its effects.² The drug works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. While hydrocodone can be an effective pain reliever, it also has a high potential for abuse and addiction.²

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Understanding Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone is a powerful opioid pain medication that is commonly prescribed for short-term moderate to severe pain management. However, prolonged use of hydrocodone can lead to physical and psychological dependence, making it difficult for individuals to stop using the drug without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.²

Signs of Hydrocodone Abuse

Just like with other opioids, hydrocodone abuse can develop quickly. As the body becomes tolerant to the drug’s effects, users may need higher doses to achieve the same level of pain relief. This can lead to physical and psychological dependence, as well as an increased risk of hydrocodone overdose.³

Some common signs of hydrocodone addiction include:

  • Increasing use despite negative consequences
  • Preoccupation with obtaining and using the drug
  • Continued use despite wanting to quit
  • Changes in behavior or mood
  • Taking hydrocodone at larger doses
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home
fentanyl addiction signs

What Are The Long Term Effects of Hydrocodone Use?

Using hydrocode for a prolonged period can have serious and potentially life-threatening consequences. The drug can cause respiratory depression, slowed heart rate, and decreased blood pressure, which can lead to coma or even death. It is also associated with an increased risk of liver damage and gastrointestinal issues.⁴

In addition, prolonged use of hydrocodone can cause changes in brain chemistry, leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. It can also negatively impact relationships, finances, and overall quality of life.

Effects of Opioid Abuse on Mu-Opioid Receptors and Central Nervous System

Hydrocodone, like other opioids, binds to the mu-opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. This binding mimics the action of endorphins, our body’s natural painkillers, thereby relieving pain and inducing a sense of relaxation and euphoria.³

However, repeated misuse of opioids can lead to changes in the CNS and the functioning of these receptors. The brain becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug and adjusts its normal functioning accordingly, leading to tolerance – a state where higher doses of the drug are required to achieve the same effects.³

Over time, this tolerance can become habit-forming, where the CNS becomes reliant on the drug to function normally. This is due to the downregulation of these receptors, leading to a decreased response to opioids.³

When an individual stops using prescription opioids, withdrawal occurs as the CNS struggles to readjust to normal functioning without the drug. These symptoms can be both related to physical dependence and manifest as restlessness and muscle pain, and psychological, and present in the form of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and mood swings.³

Risk of Opioid Overdose

An opioid overdose occurs when an individual takes more than their prescribed dose or combines opioids with other drugs, illegal or those they have a legal prescription for, or with alcohol use.

As opioids suppress the respiratory system, an overdose can lead to breathing difficulties and oxygen deprivation. This lack of oxygen can cause irreversible brain damage or death within minutes.⁴

It is essential to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect someone has overdosed on hydrocodone or any other opioid. Emergency treatment may involve medical professionals administering an opioid antagonist, such as naloxone, to reverse the effects of the drug and prevent further harm.⁴

Treatment for Hydrocodone Dependence

The first step in treating hydrocodone addiction is acknowledging the problem and seeking help. This can be a difficult decision, but it is necessary for recovery. In most cases, a comprehensive addiction treatment plan for overcoming hydrocode abuse includes medical detox, behavioral therapy, and support groups.¹

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Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is a leader in the addiction treatment field, with proven success in facilitating long-term recovery. Our team of top clinical & medical experts specializes in treating addiction coupled with mental illness, ensuring that each person receives individualized care. Call us – we’re available 24/day, 7 days/week.

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Medical Detox for Hydrocodone Use Disorder

Detox is the process of removing toxins from the body. In the case of hydrocodone addiction, medical detox involves slowly tapering off the drug while managing withdrawal symptoms.³ Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Insomnia
  • Blurred vision

Detoxing from hydrocodone can be uncomfortable, but medical supervision can help manage symptoms and make the process safer. While these are common symptoms related to hydrocodone misuse, there are other symptoms of hydrocodone that can be more dangerous, especially when stopping cold turkey when an individual has been taking high doses.³ These may include an irregular heartbeat and seizures.

Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) for Opioid Withdrawal

In some cases, medication-assisted therapy (MAT) may be used during detox to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.² Medications such as buprenorphine or methadone can help ease the transition off of hydrocodone and increase the chances of successful recovery from prescription drug addiction.²

If an individual is struggling with severe symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal, MAT may be the way to begin to receive treatment safely.

MAT for hydrocodone addiction

Behavioral Therapy for Substance Abuse

After detox, individuals with hydrocodone addiction can benefit from behavioral therapy to address the psychological aspects of their substance use disorder. This type of therapy aims to help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to drug use.¹

Some forms of behavioral therapy used in treating hydrocodone abuse include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): helps individuals recognize and change negative thought patterns that may lead to drug abuse.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): teaches individuals skills such as mindfulness and distress tolerance to cope with triggers and cravings.
  • Contingency Management: rewards individuals for staying sober by providing incentives or privileges.

Treating Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues

Many individuals struggling with hydrocodone abuse also have co-occurring mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. These underlying conditions may contribute to substance abuse and need to be addressed in treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment can help address both substance use disorders and mental disorders simultaneously for a better chance at long-term recovery.¹

Treating Chronic or Severe Pain Without Prescription Drugs

For individuals struggling with chronic pain, there are alternative treatments available that do not involve prescription drugs like hydrocodone. These may include physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, or even cognitive-behavioral techniques to treat moderate pain and improve overall quality of life.

Support Groups for Hydrocodone Addiction Recovery

Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery, offer a community of individuals recovering from substance abuse to share their experiences and provide support. These groups can also serve as a source of accountability and encouragement during recovery.

It is crucial to remember that addiction is a chronic disease that requires ongoing management and support. Seeking help can help individuals commit to a long-term plan to no longer abuse hydrocodone. Addiction counseling with others who understand and emphasize the struggle with drug abuse can help individuals feel heard in a non-judgmental space.¹

Seeking Help For Prescription Drug Abuse

At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, we understand the complexities of prescription opioid abuse and offer personalized treatment plans to help individuals overcome their substance use disorder. Our team of medical professionals, therapists, and counselors provide support and guidance throughout the recovery journey.

If you or a loved one is struggling with hydrocodone addiction, do not hesitate to reach out for help. With the right addiction treatment and support, individuals can recover from hydrocodone abuse and stay sober long-term.

Our comprehensive addiction treatment plans may include residential care, outpatient services, therapeutic services where a professional can provide counseling for individuals and families, and medication-assisted treatment for hydrocodone dependency.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of drug addiction treatment: a research-based guide (third edition).
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Medications for opioid use disorder. Treatment improvement protocol (TIP) series 63 publication no. PEP21-02-01-002. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Prescription opioids drug facts.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2022). Opioid overdose.
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Addiction treatment specialist

Medically Reviewed By

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC Clinical Director
Learn about Inessa Maloney

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC has been dedicated to the mental health and substance abuse field for a decade, providing her expertise to guarantee quality and accuracy.

  • Specializes in outpatient services with a focus on substance abuse
  • Expertise in reality-based therapy, CBT/DBT, and motivational interviewing
  • Holds a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling
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