Vicodin is a brand-name prescription painkiller product that has been discontinued in the United States, though similar generic and branded products, like Lortab and Norco, are prescribed to control chronic, moderate, or severe pain.
These prescription drugs all use a combination of acetaminophen (a mild pain reliever and fever reducer found in Tylenol) and hydrocodone (a semi-synthetic opiate pain reliever).
Unfortunately, because of its potency and widespread use, Vicodin and similar combination pain relievers are often diverted and abused, either for the purpose of self-medication or to get high.
And some who use Vicodin to get high may choose to modify the product in order to increase its effects, including injecting or smoking it.
Methods Of Vicodin Abuse
Vicodin and other similar products are designed to be swallowed and absorbed into the body through the digestive tract. But oral drug use is very slow and controlled compared to other routes of ingestion.
By modifying and taking Vicodin in other ways, people have been able to greatly increase the speed and intensity of its effect, resulting in a greater level of euphoria while also increasing the potential risks and health consequences of Vicodin abuse.
Alternative routes of ingestion for Vicodin include:
Intravenous or injection drug use is considered the most intense and dangerous form of drug abuse. And while abusing Vicodin through injection is unusual, it does happen.
To inject Vicodin, the tablets first need to be crushed into as fine a powder as possible.
This powder is then mixed with water and loaded into a syringe to be injected into a vein, muscle, or other area below the skin. This delivers the full dose of the drug directly into the bloodstream with effects that are felt almost immediately.
Dangers Of Injecting Vicodin
Shooting Vicodin is extremely hazardous. Not only does it expose you to infections like HIV and hepatitis, but the filler and binder substances suspended in the injection can cause serious damage to your circulatory system, collapsing and blocking blood vessels.
Injection use of Vicodin also greatly increases the risk of harmful or fatal overdose, and can accelerate the formation of drug dependence and addiction.
To smoke Vicodin, the tablets are once again crushed into a powder and heated, often over tinfoil. The vapors from this process are then inhaled, introducing the drug to the bloodstream through the lungs.
Dangers Of Smoking Vicodin
While smoking is sometimes seen as a safer and more casual way to abuse drugs, this method of ingestion isn’t much safer than shooting up. And, unfortunately, the same filler and binder materials that cause issues in injections can also build up in the lungs over time with harmful overall effect.
In addition to an elevated risk of overdose, dependence, and addiction, smoking Vicodin can trigger a variety of specific side effects like:
- eye, lung, nose, and throat irritation
- lung injuries and breathing problems
- respiratory system problems
- chronic runny nose
- nausea and vomiting
Vicodin and similar combination opioid painkillers are classified as schedule II-controlled substances, meaning that they have a high potential for addiction, diversion, and abuse.
Tampering with painkiller tablets to enhance the experience they provide multiplies this potential danger, as injecting or smoking Vicodin dumps a much larger dose into your body more rapidly, increasing the risk of overdose and lasting physical or mental harm.
Signs of an opioid overdose include:
- slow or shallow breathing
- blue-tinted lips or fingernails
- nausea and vomiting
- small pupils
- unusual drowsiness/sedation
- low heart rate
- non-responsiveness (coma)
If you suspect that you or a loved one are experiencing a Vicodin overdose, immediately call 911.
Vicodin Dependence & Addiction
Injecting or smoking Vicodin also tends to accelerate and intensify the progression of Vicodin dependence and addiction while simultaneously damaging the liver as the abuse continues.
Signs that you may have developed a dependence or addiction centered on Vicodin include:
- experiencing drug cravings
- needing larger doses to feel the same effect due to tolerance
- spending large amounts of time sourcing the drug or recovering from it
- experiencing uncontrollable mood, personality, or behavioral changes
- declining mental health due to anxiety or depression
- loss of interest in relationships and responsibilities
- secondary effects from abuse like track marks or infections from injection Vicodin use, or problems with your respiratory system from smoking
- experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking Vicodin
- experiencing symptoms of liver damage or liver failure
If you or a loved one would like to learn about our substance abuse treatment options, please reach out to Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today.
Northeast Addition Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.