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What is Hydrocodone?

What is Hydrocodone / Pain Pills?

Hydrocodone is a narcotic analgesic similar to codeine. It is used to control mild to moderate pain and is also an anti-tussive (cough suppressant). Hydrocodone is much more potent than codeine, however. Thirty milligrams of codeine is the equivalent of about 5 milligrams of hydrocodone. In strength, hydrocodone is more comparable to morphine, heroin and oxycodone. It also produces similar effects to these drugs—a calm euphoric state.

Hydrocodone is available with a doctor's prescription. It is one of the most prescribed medications in the United States, with over a hundred million prescriptions made in the year 2010. With so many prescriptions for hydrocodone out there, it is not difficult to obtain hydrocodone through illegal means.

While pure hydrocodone is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, hydrocodone is not usually prescribed in its pure form. It is usually mixed with another drug or multiple drugs. For example, hydrocodone and acetaminophen (also called hydrocodone apap) is a common formulation found in Vicodin and Lortab. Hydrocodone is also combined with ibuprofen, aspirin and antihistamines. When combined with other non-narcotic drugs, hydrocodone becomes a Schedule III controlled substance and is not as heavily restricted by the government.

Examples of pain pills that contain hydrocodone as one of their active ingredients include: Vicodin, Lortab, Lortab 7.5/500, Lortab ASA, Norco, Azdone, Damason-P, Alor 5/500, Vicoprofen, Reprexain and Ibudone. Hydrocodone is also an ingredient in cold medications such as Tusnel-HC, VasoTuss HC, Anaplex HD, Donatussin MAX, Excof, Mintex HC, Histex HC, Z-Tuss 2, Tussend, Zotex HC, Hydex PD, Narcof and Tussinate.

The lesser restrictions on the combination formulas like Vicodin have led to greater abuse of these drugs than pure hydrocodone, which is harder to obtain. Vicodin and similar drugs are widely available through “doctor shopping,” forging prescriptions and other avenues. Like it’s cousin, oxycodone, hydrocodone can cause physical dependence and addiction. In some cases, hydrocodone addiction can be more dangerous than oxycodone addiction because of side effects from other drugs like acetaminophen. 

Hydrocodone works by blocking pain sensations in the brain. It also depresses the action of the part of the brain that is responsible for the coughing reflex. Like other narcotic (opioid) medications, hydrocodone is habit-forming. People who take opioid medications usually like the feeling of pleasure that results. If a person uses hydrocodone frequently or in high doses, they can build up a tolerance to the medication and require more of the medication for the same result. This can be dangerous because it can lead to addiction in both recreational and therapeutic users, and also because the other medications that are included with hydrocodone may cause other problems, such as liver toxicity.

Addiction to hydrocodone pain pills can be treated. If a person is addicted to hydrocodone, it is extremely difficult for them to stop on their own due to withdrawal symptoms. Checking in to a drug rehabilitation center can give a patient the chance to detox safely and more effectively than they could on their own.


Click here to read the next part in the series, "Hydrocodone Addiction." Click here to return to the first part in the series, "Introduction to Oxycodone Abuse, Addiction and Treatment."

Pat Moore Foundation's drug & alcohol detox and alcohol & drug addiction treatment programs are licensed and certified by The State of California. We provide non-medical and medically managed detoxification (using Suboxone, Subutex, and Buprenorphine when appropriate) and primary residential treatment. Our individual homes are on a unique co-ed campus where we offer gender specific treatment. We are located in Costa Mesa, in Orange County, Southern California, close to Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, and only an hour's drive from Los Angeles and San Diego. To speak with a counselor, please call us 24-hours at (888) 426-6086 or if you'd like us to contact you, send a confidential message online by filling out our online form.

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