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photo of man holding his neck in pain

Hydrocodone has been available in the United States since 1943 and was marketed as a replacement for people addicted to Codeine. Cases of hydrocodone addiction were not actually diagnosed until almost twenty years later. Hydrocodone is a prescription painkiller classified as a semi-synthetic opiate (synthesized from the naturally occurring molecule Codeine). The pain relieving properties are about equal to those of morphine. However, since hydrocodone has less side-effects than morphine and has more favorable metabolic pathway, it is more commonly prescribed than other opioids and opiates.

Hydrocodone can be addictive. It is found in certain preparations and can lead to pain killer addictions like:


  • Vicodin addiction
  • Lortab addiction
  • Lorcet addiction

Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Lortab, and Lorcet are often prescribed after dental procedures, minor surgery, for headaches, and for general types of pain, such as back pain and arthritis. But, because hydrocodone is an opioid, it shares the common side-effect of being addictive. The other issue with hydrocodone is that induces tolerance. Tolerance is when more of the medication is needed to produce the same effect.

Tolerance does not necessarily predict addiction. But, once one has begun to experience tolerance, a withdrawal, mild to severe, can be expected upon its abrupt discontinuation. There are those who are prescribed Vicodin, or hydrocodone, for an ailment and find themselves in a situation where they begin to use more of the drug because the lower dose has become ineffective at relieving the pain. Eventually, when they stop using the medication as the pain resolves they either have cravings and miss the euphoria and relaxation, or experience withdrawal symptoms, which provokes these individuals to continue using the medication. It is this pattern of use that can cause addiction to set in.

Others, however, who either were or were not previously addicts may start taking the medication simply for recreational purposes – for euphoria – or for relaxation. The first use of hydrocodone in this situation may ultimately lead to an addiction, because the sole purpose of use was not medically-related. Unfortunately, Vicodin and hydrocodone addiction is common in youth, as these medications are widely available in medication cabinets throughout the country. Youth may steal the medications and share them with one another, and peer pressure also plays a role. In fact, it has been said that access to hydrocodone for youth may be easier than access to alcohol.

Lortab and Lorcet are more commonly prescribed for headaches. These medications can be found, along with tramadol, in the medication cabinets of those who suffer from migraine headaches and frequent tension headaches, among others. Because the headaches may be chronic, the continual use of these medications can lead to a Lortab or Lorcet addiction.

Pain killer addiction is part of the opioid addiction epidemic in the U.S. and in other locations. Death rates for those who are addicted to opiates are extremely high. The deaths are mainly attributed to overdose. Narcan (naloxone) can be live-saving for those who overdose and are fortunate enough to have access to the medication and have another alert adult who is able to administer the medication. But, sadly for many, either they don’t have access or the drug is administered too late to be effective.

Overdose from opiates is caused by the side-effects of respiratory and cardiac depression. Overdose can occur in either those who have not previously been exposed to opioids, or in those who wish to get a greater “high” and take more than their cardiac and respiratory systems can handle. In addition, if another drug that suppresses respirations, such as a sedative – Ativan, Xanax, alcohol – is also ingested, this greatly increases the risk of overdose.

Pain pill addiction is a serious, country-wide medical problem that must be addressed. There are drug and alcohol treatment centers with expertise in treating opiate addiction, and more specifically in treating those who are addicted to pain killers. The most common starting point is in an inpatient or residential detox, followed by drug rehab. Many who try to abruptly stop using pain pills, without treatment, ultimately cannot or will not tolerate the symptoms of withdrawal and end up continuing to use opiates. Further, for those with medical conditions, opiate withdrawal can create a medically unstable condition for the addict.

The addiction specialists at Behavioral Wellness and Recovery can help you, or your loved one, find the services that will provide medical care, support, and counseling to aid you in the beginning of your recovery journey. The staff at BWR is available 24/7 and can be reached by calling 800-683-4457. Alternatively, you may complete the online contact form.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

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