According to studies, hydrocodone/acetaminophen, commonly known as Vicodin, Norco or Lortab, had approximately 123.3 million prescriptions in 2014. Vicodin is a commonly prescribed opioid that is used to treat severe pain. Vicodin comes in pill form and like many other opioids, is overly prescribed for mild to moderate pain. This prescription painkiller is one of the most abused and addictive medications and plays a huge role in the current opioid epidemic that is spreading across the United States. Vicodin, like all other opioids, can be lethal in a high enough dosage and can cause excruciating, but not deadly, withdrawals. Due to the extreme withdrawals, many users are unable to quit cold turkey and as a result, there are many medications on the market that can help lessen the withdrawal side effects associated with Vicodin addiction.
Signs and symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal
- Rhinorrhea (runny nose)
- Lacrimation (tearing)
- Abdominal cramping,
- Bone pains
- Muscle aches
Methadone is a long-acting opioid that has been used for decades to treat individuals with Vicodin addiction. It is administered once a day and individuals must be enrolled in a methadone treatment center or a methadone clinic and must be supervised under medical personal when prescribed this treatment. Methadone is part of a comprehensive treatment program that also includes counseling and active participation in social support groups. Methadone works by binding to the natural opioid receptors in the brain and administering a sense of euphoria to the individual in order to lessen the intense withdrawal side effects. Methadone is slowly weaned over time and eventually becomes opioid-free. Since methadone is an opioid it does have addictive properties and potential for abuse and therefore methadone addiction has been a huge problem in recent years and is still currently on the rise.
Suboxone has replaced methadone as the first-line treatment for Vicodin addiction. It is the combination of two different drugs: buprenorphine (a partial opioid agonist) and naloxone (a pure opioid antagonist).
As a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine’s job is to deliver very diminished opioid doses to an individual who is addicted to a stronger opioid, such as Vicodin. It provides a way for the individual to be gradually weaned off their pre-existing addiction while minimizing the opioid withdrawal symptoms that would come from the process. Since a partial agonist triggers the opioid receptors in the brain only partially, the “highs” are quite low in comparison to those created by full agonists (such as Vicodin), and they are not as habit-forming. The other active ingredient in Suboxone is naloxone, a pure opioid antagonist; an antagonist shuts down the opioid receptor by blocking the agonist from reaching the receptor and even reversing the effect of opioid agonists already in the individual’s system.
Since naloxone carries too many risks for it to be administered by itself, it is combined with buprenorphine to give individuals an easier process of weaning away from stronger narcotics. If an individual takes a Vicodin or uses another full agonist opioid while taking Suboxone, the naloxone will cause the individual to go into physical withdrawals.
Intranasal or injectable naloxone, an opioid receptor blocker, is used to prevent opioid overdose by rapidly reversing the respiratory depression and sedation caused by opioid intoxication. This is an emergency medication that is often used by first responders and ER doctors when individuals overdose from opioids.