Read about the devastating long term effects of hydrocodone addiction and how you can get help.
Hydrocodone is an opioid medication derived from the poppy plant and used to treat both chronic and acute pain. It works by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain and dulling the sensation of pain. Opioid painkillers cause the brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine, which produces a keen sense of wellbeing and pleasure. The long term effects of hydrocodone addiction include serious physical and mental health problems; relationship problems; and financial and legal troubles.
What Are the Side Effects of Long Term Use of Hydrocodone?
If you take hydrocodone exactly as it’s prescribed by your physician, you can generally use it for six months without major side effects or serious problems. But what are the side effects of long term use of hydrocodone? Hydrocodone and other prescription opioids can cause a number of health problems when they’re abused for the long term, which is generally longer than six months. The list of potential long term effects of hydrocodone on the brain and body is very long, but some of the most common include:
- Hormonal changes that lead to reduced fertility, sex drive, and libido.
- Weakened immune system leading to increased risk of infection and some cancers.
- Abnormal pain sensitivity.
- Organ damage, particularly in the liver and heart.
- Cognitive, memory, and learning problems.
- Brain damage.
- Emotional problems.
- Problems with decision-making.
- Problems with judgment.
Perhaps the most serious and dangerous long term effects of hydrocodone on the brain are addiction and dependence, which deserve their own section.
Hydrocodone Addiction and Dependence
Long term use of hydrocodone can lead to addiction, which is characterized by compulsive use despite negative consequences, and dependence, which is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that set in when you stop using the drug.
Addiction develops due to changes in the physical structures and chemical functions of the brain related to the memory, reward, and learning centers. Our brains are hardwired to seek out pleasure, and the brain makes powerful connections between taking hydrocodone and the pleasure it produces. This can produce intense cravings for hydrocodone, triggered by the emotions, activities, and people the brain associates with using. Addiction is progressive and chronic, which means that it will get worse with time, and it can’t be “cured,” although it can be sent into long term remission.
One of the long term side effects of hydrocodone addiction is dependence, which, like addiction, develops as the result of brain changes caused by compulsive opioid abuse. When you abuse hydrocodone, your brain changes its chemical function in order to compensate for the unnatural dopamine rush the drug produces. As a result, you develop a tolerance, which means that you need larger and larger doses to get the desired effects. At some point, your brain function may shift so that nerve receptors in the brain become dependent on the hydrocodone to function. Then, when you stop using hydrocodone, normal brain function rebounds, and this causes the onset of withdrawal symptoms.
Long Term Side Effects of Hydrocodone Addiction and Dependence on Mind and Spirit
The long term side effects of hydrocodone addiction and dependence aren’t just physical. Addiction changes the way your brain operates physically, but it also changes your thought and behavior patterns. That’s why addicted individuals often seem to be different people than they once were.
If you’re addicted to hydrocodone, you may begin to do things that you wouldn’t have done before the addiction. You may be in denial about the effects or the extent of the addiction, and you may become paranoid, hostile, or moody. These changes in thought and behavior lead to a lack of self-awareness as well as negative emotions like guilt, shame, and self-hatred, which fuel an even deeper level of dysfunctional thought and behavior and perpetuates the addiction.
This ever-escalating cycle can end up destroying your relationships, your ability to work or attend school, and your mental health. The risks you take while addicted to hydrocodone can get you into legal trouble or worse. As the hydrocodone abuse damages your brain and body, it also damages your spirit.
Help is Available
The good news is that many people successfully overcome opioid addiction and dependence with professional help. A high quality treatment program helps you address the issues behind the addiction, re-learn healthy ways of thinking and behaving, and develop the skills and strategies you need for long term success.
Engaging in a high quality, holistic treatment program can help you end your addiction and dependence for good. It can help you restore your health and wellbeing, find purpose and meaning without opioids, and dramatically improve your quality of life.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.