Addiction Drug Use Prescription Medications What Is a Vicodin Addiction? By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 23, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE Medically reviewed by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Westend61 / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Is Vicodin? What Is a Vicodin Addiction? Causes Diagnosis Treatment What Is Vicodin? Vicodin (hydrocodone) is the brand name of a prescription painkiller that can help relieve pain and fever, says Melissa Weimer, DO, MCR, FASAM, an addiction medicine expert at Yale Medicine. Medications containing hydrocodone are classified as opiate (narcotic) analgesics. What Is a Vicodin Addiction? Individuals who have a Vicodin-related addiction actually have an opioid addiction, which is also known as opioid use disorder, explains Dr. Weimer. She says opioid use disorder is a medical disease characterized by compulsive use of an opioid, despite negative consequences. Opioid pain relievers like Vicodin are considered to be safe if they are taken for a short period of time, per the doctor’s prescription. They work by blocking pain signals between the body and brain; however, in addition to relieving pain, they also induce a relaxed state of euphoria in some people. This “high” can be addictive and cause people to misuse the medication, which can involve: Taking larger or more frequent doses than prescribed Using the medicine even after the prescription period has ended Consuming the medicine in a different form than prescribed Combining the medication with other harmful substances Using the medication without a prescription Becoming dependent on the medication due to long-term use According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 5.5 million people misused a hydrocodone drug. This number includes those who were aged 12 and older. Signs and Symptoms of a Vicodin Addiction These are some of the signs of a Vicodin addiction, according to Dr. Weimer: Strong cravings for the medication Compulsive use of the medication, despite it affecting the person’s job, relationships, or health Tolerance to the medication Needing to take more of the medication to achieve the same result Loss of control over usage of the medication Emotional and physiological dependance on the medication Withdrawal symptoms if the person doesn’t take the medicine Additionally, the person may experience the following symptoms: Slow or shallow breathing Agitation Irritability Depression Overdose Anxiety attacks Mood swings Irresponsible behavior Lack of motivation Poor decision making Over time, untreated use of Vicodin or other opioids can cause changes in the reward circuit of the brain, says Dr. Weimer. Vicodin addiction can result in an overdose or other serious side effects. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Causes of a Vicodin Addiction Though anyone can develop an opioid use disorder, some individuals are more at risk of developing this condition, says Dr. Weimer. She says some of the risk factors for this condition include: Family history of substance use Personal history of substance use Traumatic childhood experiences Depression or other mental illnesses Before taking Vicodin, it’s recommended that individuals inform their healthcare provider if they have any of these conditions, to help prevent dependence. They can work with their healthcare provider to find alternative options for pain management. When Does Drug Use Become an Addiction? Diagnosing a Vicodin Addiction If you or a loved one have a vicodin addiction, you should contact a healthcare provider immediately. “Vicodin addiction can be diagnosed by any clinician,” says Dr. Weimer. “Your healthcare professional may be able to treat you or offer a referral for treatment.” These are some steps you can expect during the diagnostic process, according to Dr. Weimer: A physical examination by the healthcare providerA series of screening questionsA detailed list of questions related to your personal and family medical historyUrine or blood tests, to confirm the use of opiates Your healthcare provider will evaluate your condition based on these factors and determine whether it matches the criteria for opioid use disorder outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association. Treating a Vicodin Addiction These are some of the steps that treatment for vicodin addiction may involve, depending on the severity of the condition. Detoxification Detox involves abstaining from using the drug. It can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as: Stomach cramps Muscle pain Runny nose Sweating Nausea Vomiting Diarrhea Goose bumps Anxiety Agitation Insomnia Yawning The symptoms can start within hours of the last dose of vicodin. They can cause severe discomfort, but are not life-threatening. The detox process may take place in a hospital setting if the person’s condition is severe. Otherwise, it can take place in a therapeutic community, a detox facility, or the person’s home. Undertaking the detox process at home is difficult and needs to be done slowly. Medication These are some of the medications that can help treat opioid disorder, according to Dr. Weimer: Methadone is an opioid medication that helps relieve withdrawal symptoms and aids in the detoxification process. It is also used as a long-term maintenance medicine, after which the dosage may be reduced gradually. Buprenorphine also relieves withdrawal symptoms and can help shorten the detoxification period. Like methadone, buprenorphine may also be used for long-term maintenance. Naltrexone can help prevent relapse. Naltrexone can induce withdrawal if the individual takes it while they still have opioids in their system. Naloxone is the antidote to opioid overdose. Additionally, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help regulate your sleep patterns or treat symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. For people who are also experiencing pain, Dr. Weimer says it is best treated with multimodal treatments such as physical therapy, physical conditioning, and non-opioid medications. Counseling People who have a Vicodin addiction may require long-term counseling after detox. This can take different forms, depending on the individual and their circumstances. Some of the options include: Outpatient counseling with a mental healthcare providerInpatient treatment in a hospital or treatment facilityIntensive outpatient treatment, which may involve daytime hospitalizationCommunity counseling, through programs such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART How to Admit Yourself to a Psychiatric Hospital A Word From Verywell Vicodin addiction can start innocently enough, with people taking the painkiller for an injury or recent surgery, for instance. However, this medication has tremendous potential for misuse, because it contains opioids, a substance also found in heroin and morphine. People may become addicted to the drug and start to misuse it. Addiction is a brain disease that requires treatment. It’s important to understand that someone struggling with a vicodin addiction needs support and evidence-based treatment, says Dr. Weimer. How to Find the Right Addiction Recovery Program for You 6 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. McLellan AT. Substance misuse and substance use disorders: Why do they matter in healthcare?. Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2017;128:112-130. SAMHSA. 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. American Academy of Family Physicians. Opioid addiction. National Library of Medicine. Hydrocodone Combination Products. Medline Plus. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Bart G. Maintenance medication for opiate addiction: the foundation of recovery. J Addict Dis. 2012;31(3):207-225. doi:10.1080/10550887.2012.694598 Additional Reading National Institute on Drug Abuse. Opioids. National Library of Medicine. Opiate and opioid withdrawal. Medline Plus. By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.