Hydrocodone is a medication that can be prescribed by a doctor in order to control pain or severe coughing. It is classified as an opioid, also known as a narcotic drug. It is similar in action to codeine. Hydrocodone works by blocking nerve cell receptors in the brain that relay pain sensations to the body.

Hydrocodone is classified as a Schedule 2 Drug by the DEA. It was moved up in class in 2014 from a Schedule 3 drug to the more restrictive Schedule 2 classification. Class 2 Drugs have the potential for abuse but have accepted medical uses for which it is legally prescribed. These drugs, however, can be quite addictive. Schedule 2 Drugs also include opioids like oxycodone in their classification of medicines that have a strong capacity for becoming addictive.

Hydrocodone is known by other names on the street. These names are nicknames for the various brand names that the drug is sold under. Some of the brand names for this drug include Lortab, Vicodin and Norco. Some of the more commonly known street names for hydrocodone include:

  • Hydros
  • Vics
  • Tabs
  • Watsons
  • Lorris
  • 357s
  • Vicos

There are many other different brands of hydrocodone that contain a combination of ingredients, such as acetaminophen. A few other brand names that contain hydrocodone are:

  • Co-gesic
  • Liquicet
  • Xodol
  • Lorcet

Hydrocodone’s History and Current Trends

A German pharmaceutical company first made hydrocodone in the 1920s. The creators attached a hydrogen atom to molecules of codeine to make a powerful analgesic, but the medicine was found to be potentially very addictive, as it created strong feelings of euphoria.

Today, most formulations of this drug contain a second analgesic such as acetaminophen. Because the drug also produces an euphoric sensation, especially when taken at higher doses, it has found a place in society as a recreational drug of choice. The drug can produce a pleasantly numbing feeling in the body.

Hydrocodone has become a piece in the puzzle of the American painkiller drug abuse epidemic. When someone takes more than the amount of the drug than what has been prescribed, they are in danger of becoming addicted. Others who abuse this drug obtain it without a lawful prescription on the black market. As of 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health has found that about 4.5 million Americans (ages 12 and above) were currently abusing prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone, among other narcotic analgesics.

The side effects of hydrocodone abuse can be uncomfortable and quite dangerous. Some of the effects of abusing this drug include:

  • Slowdown of heart rate, blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Confused thoughts
  • Blurry vision
  • Ringing in ears
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Constipation

Hydrocodone is one of the most commonly abused painkillers in America, often tied with oxycodone as being the most abused. In some states, it is ahead of oxycodone in terms of drug abuse statistics.

Abuse and Addiction

When hydrocodone is used for a lengthy period of time, it can create a psychological or physical dependence. Those who become physically dependent upon the drug can have severe withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking it suddenly.

Dosing for hydrocodone can be different, depending upon the patient. The drug comes in capsule, tablet, elixir and solution formulations. Oral dosages can range from 7.5 mg to 325 mg tablets for adults, taken every 4 to 6 hours as needed. These doses, when increased, can lead to addiction, as more and more higher strengths are necessary in order to feel the same sensations of euphoria as with lower doses.

A person who is addicted to hydrocodone shows certain signs and symptoms of addiction that aren’t always simple to detect, as these differ for each individual. Some of the more common signs of abuse are as follows:

  • Frequent hydrocodone refills are requested
  • The person is seeing two or more physicians to gain more prescriptions for it
  • Spending more time isolated from others
  • Spending more money than usual, more quickly
  • Focusing on hydrocodone more than other things in life
  • Social activities change suddenly
  • Mood swings occur

The effects of abuse are such that the pain relief the drug offers may lead the body to change how it processes the drug. A person may believe that their body absolutely needs the drug in order to get through normal daily activities. When someone finds they need a higher dose in order to feel the initial effects they first felt when taking hydrocodone, they may increase their dosage, leading to the possibility of addiction.


For those who become addicted to hydrocodone, treatment is available to help them stop abusing this drug. There are hydrocodone treatment centers that offer detoxification and aftercare treatment. Often, doctors and nurses are on staff to alleviate withdrawal symptoms while the body detoxifies from the medication. Symptoms can include muscle pains and insomnia. The average stay at an inpatient detox center is 30 days, though some may need longer periods for severe addictions.