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 in 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 chance of dependence.
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Hydrocodone Dos and Don’ts
When starting a prescription for hydrocodone, or any prescription medication, it’s important to understand the correct steps to minimize risk. Following the directions of your prescription exactly functions as a proactive solution to many issues surrounding prescription abuse. Doctors design prescriptions specifically for your situation and going beyond their expertise is inadvisable to say the least. Informing your doctor of any other prescriptions that may interact with the hydrocodone is vital because of the dangerous reactions many opioids have with other drugs. Similarly, if you expect to undergo a surgery or even a minor procedure at the dentist requiring numbing, always make sure the healthcare professional is aware of your prescription so they can choose the correct course of treatment. While additional substances may be a large worry, natural biological functions also change when taking opioids. A doctor will need to know if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding before prescribing you hydrocodone. Keeping these things in mind when starting a new prescription go a long way in avoiding the pitfalls of opioid dependence or complication due to hydrocodone.
While knowing what to do is extremely important, understanding the missteps and mistakes can provide even more information. Because hydrocodone functions as a regimented drug and not as needed, always take the exact amount at the predetermined times. If you miss a dose, wait until the next scheduled time to take it. Panicking and taking hydrocodone pills too close to one another, or doubling up after a missed dose, can lead to disastrous results. Moving on from the daily timescale, pay attention to the duration of the prescription. If the doctor prescribed hydrocodone to you for a month, do not keep taking it after that period without consulting them first. The longer opioids spend in your body, the more likely a dependence is to form. Long-term use can lead to dependence or addiction, but short term consequences could be just as severe if you treat hydrocodone carelessly. 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 and integration into every day life, but it can react dangerously with an opioid prescription if ingested. The last “don’ts” revolve around how you interact with others in terms of your prescription.
Giving friends or family access to your medication is never advisable for any reason. If a loved one truly needs a prescription, direct them towards the correct channels of access, not your bathroom cabinet. Even if you reach the end of your prescription and have extra medication left over after a refill, do not pass it along to someone else. Ensure that you research the correct way to dispose of your medication to avoid tempting yourself or others with it in the house. Also, do not sell hydrocodone to people. Regardless if you know them or not, whether or not they need it, participating in the secondary drug market is an extremely dangerous risk for you and the person buying your prescription. These kinds of behaviors help perpetuate the problems growing out of control in the opioid epidemic. Your prescription is meant to manage your pain, not supplement your 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 a line of communication with your doctor about the effects of a new prescription is always 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
- 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
- Irregular pupil size, either narrowed, or dilated
- Slow heart-rate
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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