With any subject of interest, an increase in online searches is often concurrent with a rise in popularity of that subject. Such is the case with hydrocodone, known more often as Vicodin, where an increase in online searches for information regarding this narcotic analgesic seem to correlate to the increasing use and abuse of this drug.
According to a report released in 2011 by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, Americans spent $5.7 billion on narcotic analgesics in 2006, and $8.4 billion on narcotic analgesics in 2010. Coming in after lipid regulators and antidepressants, narcotic analgesics make up the third-most prescribed medication, with two hundred forty-four million prescriptions written in 2010, eleven percent more than reported in 2006. The single most prescribed medication was hydrocodone, with one hundred thirty-one million prescriptions written in 2010. According to the IMS report, hydrocodone has been the most-prescribed medication for at least the five years prior to the report.
What Hydrocodone Is
Hydrocodone is an opioid drug derived from codeine and is used in the treatment of moderate to severe pain and sometimes as a cough suppressant. By binding opioid receptors in the central nervous system, hydrocodone suppresses the body’s communication of pain.
Hydrocodone users can develop a tolerance for the drug, requiring more in order to achieve the desired effects. Because it affects the functions of the brain, hydrocodone use can create both physical and psychological dependency. It is not uncommon for hydrocodone to be abused, both by individuals who have been prescribed the drug for medical purposes and by those who use it for pure recreational purposes.
Some of the common side effects of hydrocodone use include nausea, vomiting, constipation, drowsiness, dizziness, euphoria, lightheadedness, fuzzy thinking, anxiety, abnormal mood changes, dry throat, difficulty urinating, rash, itching, narrowing of the pupils, slowed or irregular breathing and chest tightness. Hydrocodone overdose can cause narrowed or widened pupils, slow, shallow or stopped breathing, slowed or stopped heartbeat, cold, clammy or blue skin, excessive sleepiness, loss of consciousness, seizures and death.
Hydrocodone Addiction & Abuse
The fact of hydrocodone abuse is not a secret. According to drugabuse.gov non-medical use of opiate-based drugs like hydrocodone were responsible for 1.2 million emergency department visits in 2009. A simple online search will turn up a large amount of online blogs that share stories of recreational hydrocodone use and abuse. On one site where a poster requested information about “getting the best high”, one blogger warned, “Watch out with your usage, I started with hydro and became massively addicted to opiates/opioids. I got to the point where hydro did not even hold me over no matter the dose and it used to give me some GREAT euphoria.” Another blogger states, “I use strictly once a month, and my tolerance has risen from 20mg … to 90 mg … over the course of a couple of years. I would not at all recommend doing this weekly.”
While medical hydrocodone use was originally intended to treat moderate to severe pain, the fact stands that as an opioid drug it suppresses pain and creates feelings of euphoria which in turn cause both psychological and physical dependence, making it a highly addictive drug. Simply labeling the recommended dosage amounts and stating that it should only be taken by the individual for whom it was prescribed is obviously not entirely effective in preventing its illegal use by others. Drug addiction has proven to drive individuals into committing dishonest and illegal acts to feed their addiction, so a hydrocodone abuser is not likely to avoid its use simply because it’s illegal or warned against. In battling the rising statistics of hydrocodone abuse it may be more effective to find alternate solutions for pain management and simply remove this drug from medical use.