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Effects Of Hydrocodone Use

Hydrocodone is a prescription Opioid used in managing pain over longer periods of time, usually several hours to a full day.

Understanding The Effects Of Hydrocodone Use

Due to the nature of the pain Hydrocodone treats, it’s not used as an “as needed” drug, but as a regularly taken prescription. Pharmaceutical companies engineer some capsules and tablets to release the drug slowly over the course of a day in order to curb chronic pain. While necessary to help people cope with pain, this type of treatment can exacerbate into the potentially addictive effects of Hydrocodone use.

Analgesic drugs provide much-needed relief for people with chronic pain, and Opioids are some of the most effective Painkillers available. Unfortunately, this class of drugs is also an addictive one, often leading to dependence if the prescription isn’t followed properly. Hydrocodone’s effects are similar to those of other Synthetic Opioids in this class of drugs. Because Hydrocodone is designed for long-term pain reduction, it poses a serious risk of addiction. Even when doctor’s instructions are followed correctly, the longer someone takes an Opioid, the higher their risk of dependence.

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Hydrocodone Dos And Don’ts

When starting a course of any prescription medication, it’s important to understand the correct steps to take to minimize risk. It’s important to follow prescribed instructions to the letter; doctors tailor prescriptions specifically to a patient’s needs, and going beyond professional expertise is inadvisable. A doctor should know about any other prescription drugs a patient is taking that may interact with Hydrocodone.

A doctor should also know if a patient is pregnant or breastfeeding before prescribing Hydrocodone. If a patient expects to undergo surgery, the relevant healthcare professional should be made aware of any prescription drugs the patient is taking. Keeping these things in mind when starting a new prescription can go a long way toward avoiding the pitfalls of Opioid dependency or other complications due to Hydrocodone.

Furthermore, because Hydrocodone functions as a regimented drug and is not prescribed as needed, always take the exact right amount at the predetermined times. If a dose is missed, it’s best to wait until the next scheduled dose before taking any medication. Doubling up after a missed dose can lead to disastrous results.

The duration of a prescription is also important; if a doctor prescribed Hydrocodone for only a month, a patient should not continue taking it after that month ends. Long-term use can lead to dependence or addiction, but short-term consequences could be just as severe. Taking other substances while on Hydrocodone could lead to an overdose and even death. Alcohol poses the largest threat because of its ease of access, integration into every day life, and potential to react dangerously with an Opioid prescription if ingested.

Finally, giving friends or family members access to one’s prescribed medication is never advisable. If a loved one truly needs a prescription, direct them toward the correct channels of access and not your bathroom cabinet. Ensure that medication is disposed of properly to avoid misuse by one’s self or one’s acquaintances. Never sell Hydrocodone. Participating in the secondary drug market is extremely dangerous. Prescription Opioids are meant to manage pain, not supplement income.

Common Side Effects Of Hydrocodone Use

When taking Hydrocodone, one can expect some of the common effects caused by many Opioids. Drowsiness often occurs when acclimating to the prescription, and medical professionals strongly advise against driving until you understand the effect Hydrocodone has on you. Along with drowsiness, light-headedness upon standing up is a common effect. These symptoms are common amongst people who are new to Hydrocodone, but they usually go away as the body adjusts. As always, keeping an open line of communication with your doctor about the effects of a new prescription is a good idea. Outside of perception-altering effects, Hydrocodone causes disturbances in the digestive system in many people who take it for longer than a few days. Constipation is common among Opioid treatments and can be remedied by talking to your doctor and getting directions on what steps to take.

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Serious Side Effects Of Hydrocodone Use

Experiencing one or two of these symptoms momentarily should not cause worry, but encountering many of these or one severely should lead you to call your doctor. If you may be worried about these symptoms for yourself or a loved one, calling a medical professional is never a bad idea.

  • Chest pain
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Swelling of the face or mouth and throat
  • Irregular swallowing or breathing
  • Hives or itching
  • Tinnitus
  • Decreased sexual desire or erectile function
  • Noticeably irregular menstruation


Unfortunately, Opioids are one of the most abused classes of drugs in the US today. It’s estimated that 130 people die each day from an Opioid-related overdose. Understanding the symptoms and preparing can save your life or someone else’s. The chances of overdose increase drastically when mixing Opioids with other substances, which is why doctors are so stringent about which medications and substances can be mixed with an Opioid prescription.

Opioid overdoses slow down different bodily functions, specifically breathing. A fatal overdose occurs when Opioid exposure causes the respiratory system to shut down and the person suffocates while unconscious. Luckily, the treatment for an Opioid overdose is reliable and effective. Naloxone, an Opioid antagonist, removes Opioids from the receptors in the brain and allows the person to begin breathing again quickly. In order to treat an overdose, you need to be able to recognize one as it’s happening, or hopefully before.

Symptoms of Hydrocodone overdose include:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Sudden drowsy or sleepy feeling
  • Vision issues
  • Dry mouth
  • Cold skin
  • Blue lips
  • Irregular pupil size, either narrowed or dilated
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness

Surgical procedures often leave patients in pain, which prompts the use of Opioids like Hydrocodone for long periods of time. A 2012 study from Michigan University examined the effects of Hydrocodone use going over six months. This course of treatment is considered abnormally long and the study found several common effects.

75% of people studied developed some type of sleep-disordered breathing. Disorders like sleep apnea may not be too dangerous on their own, but can exacerbate post-procedure complications. The same study found that this type of therapy also caused a 77% increase in the likelihood of a cardiac event, including heart attack and heart failure.

Bone fracture also appeared as a significant side effect of long-term Opioid use. The study admits that the cause isn’t clear, but theories usually refer to the greater likelihood of falling from Opioids’ impacts on perception and coordination. This risk is especially pronounced in people 65 or older, who are already predisposed to falls.

Treatment Options For Hydrocodone Addiction

Opioids quickly form dependencies because of the way they interact with our physiology. Overcoming a chemical addiction is difficult, but you don’t have to do it alone. Rehabilitation facilities provide valuable therapy through counseling, detoxification, and education. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction to Hydrocodone, don’t hesitate to reach out for help today.

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Last Updated:


Michael Muldoon

Sources Cited

Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional

Clinical Reviewer

Dayna Smith-Slade