The Addictive Nature of Vicodin

Vicodin is the popular brand name version of the drug Hydrocodone. The medication is used to manage pain, including ongoing or chronic pain. It is an opioid which means it is a synthetic (man-made) drug which mirrors the effects of naturally occurring opium-based drugs. Opioids are highly addictive and therefore are tightly controlled substances.

Due to the risk of addiction, physicians carefully monitor Vicodin use even when it is being used to treat long-term pain. Addiction occurs when the person develops a physiological and psychological dependence upon the drug. These dependencies are very real and therefore extremely difficult to overcome without outside help.

Vicodin and other opioids work to block pain by binding to specific pain receptors throughout the body. In this way, the message of pain is blocked from reaching the brain. Some experts argue that long-term use of opioids like Vicodin actually makes a person more sensitive to pain, thus driving their perceived need for the drug. Addiction also occurs in part because over time the body adjusts to the medication and eventually demands more in order to get the same level of relief. In either case, the person winds up craving more and more of the drug.

But not only does Vicodin blunt the feelings of pain, it moderates a person’s experience of pain by accentuating dopamine behavior in the brain. Dopamine is the brain chemical responsible for pleasant emotions. Not just the strong rush of euphoria that is associated with drug abuse, but all the desirable emotions which range from enjoying a sunset to the thrill of romantic feelings are connected to dopamine levels in the brain. A person becomes addicted to Vicodin because eventually all these pleasurable emotions start to feel elusive in the drug’s absence. The person now senses that they need the drug in order to feel any degree of normal happiness.

Alongside the very real physiological impact of the drug, is the risk of psychological addiction to Vicodin. This is especially true for those with a personal or family history of addiction or those who live in an environment which is sympathetic to drug abuse. Psychological dependence means that without physical reason, the person is convinced that they must use a substance in order to carry on with their everyday life. Psychological dependence is often part of the experience of addiction. Even though Vicodin addiction cannot be predicted with complete accuracy, when the drug is taken properly the risk of addiction is under ten percent. However, if these risk factors are present the potential for addiction rises sharply.

A person can become addicted to Vicodin. Misuse and abuse of Vicodin can become all-consuming which negatively impacts personal relationships, work or school performance and a person’s ability to enjoy interests and activities not connected to the drug. Drugs like Vicodin are controlled substances precisely because they can so quickly and easily wreak havoc in a person’s life.

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The Pain of Addiction

Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. Most people start taking Vicodin or other pain medications after surgery or an injury. But then they can’t stop. They need more to get the same pain relief. They start doctor shopping to get more pills. And the cycle continues until it takes over their lives.