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Vicodin Addiction: Signs, Overdose, & Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

December 6, 2023

Table of Contents

Vicodin addiction easily occurs due to the hydrocodone content of this powerful opioid pain reliever.

SAMHSA recently published data from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH 2020). While this data shows that alcoholism and drug addiction both increased significantly in the United States from 2019 to 2020, the total number of adults in the US with opioid use disorder (OUD) decreased.

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Even if the opioid epidemic is not yet resolved, this encouraging decrease in OUDs suggests that efforts to limit the prescription of opioids combined with the effective medication-assisted treatment of OUD are both going at least some way to minimize Vicodin abuse and the abuse of other prescription opioids.

What is Vicodin used for, then?

What is Vicodin?

A prescription opioid painkiller, Vicodin is prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain.

Vicodin contains the following active ingredients:

  • Hydrocodone: A potent synthetic opioid, activating the same neurotransmitters as opiate narcotics like heroin.
  • Acetaminophen: This is the active ingredient found in the OTC painkiller Tylenol.

Vicodin tablets contain hydrocodone in the following levels:

  • 5mg
  • 7.5mg
  • 10mg

Depending on the dosage of hydrocodone, each tablet of Vicodin contains between 300 mg and 325mg of acetaminophen.

Typically, one Vicodin tablet is taken every 4 to 6 hours throughout the day when used as prescribed. In the event of Vicodin addiction, people often consume much higher doses.

What does Vicodin feel like?

Vicodin Side Effects

In addition to the pain-relieving properties of Vicodin, many potential side effects manifest. This occurs with all hydrocodone combination medications.

If you experience any of the following symptoms severely, or if the symptoms do not dissipate, inform your healthcare provider. Do not suddenly stop taking Vicodin without medical guidance and supervision.

The most common Vicodin side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Feeling unusually happy or sad
  • Problems urinating
  • Dry throat
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Pinprick pupils

You should call your doctor immediately if you encounter any of the following serious Vicodin side effects:

  • Chest tightness
  • Decreased libido
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Appetite loss
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

As with all hydrocodone combination products, you could also experience other side effects not listed above. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you encounter any problems while taking Vicodin.

Vicodin Uses

Vicodin is typically used to relieve pain in patients who undergo invasive procedures like dental surgery, joint replacements, organ surgeries, etc. 

The drug is routinely prescribed for patients post-surgery, with a single dose typically providing relief for up to 6 hours. 

However, like all opioids, it’s important for patients to understand that this drug has a strong potential for abuse and addiction once tolerance begins building. The use of Vicodin should always be under the supervision of a healthcare professional, and patients should only take doses as prescribed to them. 

Because of these risks, prescribers have been more hesitant to administer opioids like Vicodin in recent years. With the opioid epidemic causing major issues in the lives of many, alternatives and non-opioid pain management should be considered before administering Vicodin in many cases. 

If you have concerns about a Vicodin prescription, it’s important to talk to your prescribing doctor or reach out to an addiction counselor to get support.

Is Vicodin Addictive?

Vicodin was reclassified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the US Drug Enforcement Agency in late 2014. Previously, Vicodin was under Schedule III of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act).

The medication was reclassified due to the strong abuse potential identified for both Vicodin in isolation, and also other combination drugs containing hydrocodone.

Any use of Vicodin other than directed and all Vicodin use without an underpinning prescription is considered Vicodin abuse.

The symptoms of hydrocodone abuse will differ from person to person, but there is one constant of Vicodin abuse: tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction will all follow as a result of sustained abuse.

woman with her hand on her face representing vicodin addiction.

Signs of Vicodin Addiction

It can be challenging to pinpoint when Vicodin abuse turns into Vicodin addiction.

The formal descriptor for Vicodin addiction is opioid use disorder (OUD). Like all substance use disorders, OUD is diagnosed using the criteria in DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Depending on how many criteria you meet, you will be diagnosed with mild, moderate, or severe opioid use disorder.

If you are experiencing a handful of the below symptoms, you may be addicted to Vicodin.

  • Taking more Vicodin than intended, or taking Vicodin for longer than intended.
  • Trying and failing to moderate or discontinue Vicodin use.
  • Spending lots of time using Vicodin or recovering from Vicodin abuse.
  • Cravings to use Vicodin.
  • Failing to meet your responsibilities at home, work, and school.
  • Needing more Vicodin to achieve the same effects as tolerance builds.
  • Using Vicodin when it is dangerous to do so.
  • Continuing to use Vicodin despite these adverse outcomes.
  • Stopping favored activities in favor of using Vicodin.
  • Using someone else’s Vicodin prescription.
  • Obtaining black market Vicodin.
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms in the absence of Vicodin.

Can You Overdose on Vicodin?

Yes, Vicodin overdose is possible if you take too much of the drug too quickly.

Some of the most common symptoms of Vicodin overdose include:

  • Pinprick pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Weak pulse
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Stomach spasms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Trouble breathing
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow or labored breathing
  • Breathing stopping completely
  • Lips and fingertips turning blue
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of Vicodin overdose, seek immediate emergency medical assistance.

Naloxone (Narcan) is a medication capable of reversing the effects of opioid overdose, but it needs to be administered promptly. Further medical care is required, but Narcan will arrest the immediate effects of Vicodin overdose.

Vicodin Withdrawal

Vicodin withdrawal, like all opioid withdrawal, can be intensely uncomfortable, but it’s also fairly fleeting. Symptoms will dissipate in most cases after 7 to 10 days.

The half-life of Vicodin is 4 hours, so withdrawal symptoms present around 8 hours after the last dose.

Vicodin Withdrawal Symptoms

Vicodin triggers similar withdrawal symptoms to other opioid painkillers. These include:

  • Psychological changes: Mood swings, irritability, confusion, and anxiety.
  • Physical symptoms: Enlarged pupils, tremors, sweating, diarrhea, fever, cold-like symptoms, nasal congestion, vomiting, and nausea.
  • Appetite changes: Reduced hunger and cravings for Vicodin.

If you feel Vicodin rehab would give you the strongest chance of discontinuing the use of this powerful opioid, we can help here at Renaissance Recovery.

Renaissance Recovery logo representing vicodin addiction treatment

Vicodin Addiction Treatment Program at Renaissance Recovery

At Renaissance Recovery, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of addictions, delivering the support and structure you need to combat substance use disorders like OUD without the cost of restrictions of inpatient treatment.

Our Vicodin addiction treatment is available via the following:

We also offer virtual addiction treatment for anyone unable or unwilling to attend traditional outpatient therapy.

When you engage with treatment at the right intensity for the severity of your Vicodin addiction, you’ll have access to these evidence-based therapies:

  • MAT: Medication-assisted treatment can be a valuable component of a comprehensive Vicodin addiction treatment plan, streamlining the discomfort of withdrawal and minimizing cravings for Vicodin.
  • Psychotherapy: MAT is always most effective when delivered alongside psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy). Discover what triggers you to use Vicodin by working with your therapist, then learn how to implement healthy coping strategies instead of reaching for a Vicodin pill.
  • Counseling: Benefit from both individual and group counseling to explore the psychological aspect of addiction in general, and Vicodin addiction in particular.

When using Vicodin starts causing more problems than it is solving, it’s time to fight back. Reach out to admissions at Renaissance and we’ll help you to leave opioids behind you. Call 866.330.9449 today.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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