How to Cope With Vicodin Addiction

Three Parts:Receiving Medical AttentionConsidering Vicodin Addiction TreatmentEngaging in Harm Reduction

Vicodin is an opioid (in the same class as heroin and morphine) and is composed of a mixture of hydrocodone (opioid analgesic) and acetaminophen (Tylenol).[1] Vicodin is the most common pain-killer prescribed and most individuals who use Vicodin were first prescribed the pain-killer by a medical professional.[2] However, Vicodin use can be a serious issue if it is abused, used against its instructions, or not prescribed or managed by a medical doctor. To cope with an addiction to Vicodin, it is important to receive medical treatment, consider addiction treatment, and engage in harm-reduction techniques.

Part 1
Receiving Medical Attention

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    Consult with your doctor. If you are prescribed Vicodin by a medical doctor, the most crucial component of coping with Vicodin use is to attend your regular doctor appointments and discuss your concerns.
    • If you are not prescribed Vicodin, it is equally important to discuss this issue with a medical doctor. If you are worried about admitting that you are using a substance illegally and the possibility of getting into trouble with the law, discuss issues of confidentiality with your doctor prior to this discussion. In most cases, doctor-patient confidentiality protects you because it requires the doctor to keep your information private and confidential (unless you are a serious harm to yourself or others).
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    Ask about the risks of Vicodin use. Many people are not informed of these risks when prescribed Vicodin. However, knowing the possible negative consequences of your Vicodin use can help you decide if you want to make a plan for reducing/eliminating your Vicodin use. Some of the possible risks of Vicodin use include: liver failure, trouble breathing, jaundice, lowered heart rate, seizures, and death.[3]
    • Discuss the side effects and risks of continuing to use Vicodin with your medical doctor.
    • Understand your dependence symptoms. Some signs of opioid intoxication and addiction are: feeling high, drowsiness, slurred speech, concentration issues, memory problems, lack of awareness or confusion, constricted pupils, balance issues, depressed mood, increased sweat.[4]
    • If you stop taking Vicodin, some symptoms of withdrawal include: dysphoric mood [dissatisfaction], nausea or vomiting, muscle aches, lacrimation [tears] or rhinorrhea [mucus in nasal cavity], pupillary dilation, piloerection [hair standing up], or sweating, diarrhea, yawning, fever [and] insomnia.[5]
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    Consider alternative medications. Discuss different medications you can take for pain with your doctor in order to eliminate or reduce your Vicodin use. Tramadol (Ultram, Ultracet, Rybix, etc.) can be effective for the general aches and pains.[6] It dulls your over-firing pain receptors. However, Tramadol is addictive just like any other opiate-receptor agonist.[7] However, Vicodin is abused more than any other opioid, so perhaps the addictive potential of Vicodin is higher than Tramadol.[8] With Tramadol, there may be less risk for addiction. It can also be unpleasant to withdraw from Tramadol if you've been taking high doses of it for a long time. Discuss the benefits and possible costs to changing medications with your doctor.

Part 2
Considering Vicodin Addiction Treatment

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    Consider detoxification. Detoxification programs are typically medical units that can help you safely eliminate Vicodin from your body.[9] Detoxification usually involves inpatient treatment and includes collaboration between medical professionals and therapists.
    • Speak to your doctor about this option.
    • This method is meant to ease withdrawal symptoms.
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    Explore medication options for treatment of opioid use/withdrawal. There are several medications that have been indicated in the treatment of opioid/Vicodin addiction. Naltrexone is a medicine that blocks the effectiveness of opioids, like Vicodin, and can decrease your cravings to use the substance.[10] However, do not take Naltrexone while taking Vicodin.[11] Methadone, LAAM, buprenorphine, and diacetylmorphine have also been used to treat opioid addiction.[12]
    • Always discuss medications with your medical doctor before taking them. Do not take any medications without a valid prescription.
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    Contemplate tapering your use. Speak to a medical doctor if you decide that tapering your use could be an option for you. Your doctor may inform you of a plan to slowly reduce the amount of Vicodin you take. Never try to stop taking high doses of an opiate/opioid cold turkey; this can lead to very strong withdrawal effects.
    • An example of a tapering regimen would be to decrease your Vicodin use over the course of a month or two until you're only taking a small dose in the morning, and then an even smaller booster dose in the evening. Stay there until your doctor says you can quit completely. When you do, the withdrawal will be much, much milder and won't last nearly as long.
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    Consider psychological treatment. If your use of Vicodin disrupts your daily life and functioning, counseling or mental health treatment may be helpful. Some signs you might need therapy or treatment are if you cannot stop taking the pills, are engaging in unsafe activities (such as driving while intoxicated or having unprotected intercourse), or you are experiencing or think you may experience symptoms of withdrawal if you stop taking the drug.[13]
    • Examples of addiction treatments include: rehabilitation programs, day treatment programs, detoxification, individual therapy, and group therapy.[14]

Part 3
Engaging in Harm Reduction

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    Understand harm reduction. Harm-reduction has to do with reducing the possible negative effects of your Vicodin use. Reducing the harm of Vicodin use is associated with: reducing the severity and incidence of relapse, increasing social support and adjustment, lowering the risk of overdose, and eliminating illegal behaviors.[15]
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    Take the medication as prescribed. Not following the specific instructions on your prescription including when and how much Vicodin to take can lead to dependence, serious side effects, or overdose.[16]
    • Avoid snorting Vicodin. Snorting Vicodin is extremely dangerous and has negative effects on your nose and sinuses. Don't snort, shoot, smoke, or do anything with your pain pills except swallow them.
    • Do not cut up or crush any time-released medications; they are intended to be released in small amounts in your body throughout the day - not taken all at once. Doing so can cause serious health risks or even death.
    • Remember that overdose can occur if you take more pills or milligrams than you are prescribed.
    • Discuss with your doctor the possibility of taking pills with less acetaminophen in order to reduce negative effects on the liver.
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    Identify the legal risks. Know that purchasing pain medication that you were not legitimately prescribed is a crime, which could lead to jail or prison time. You could have to pay an enormous fine. If you're a college student, you could lose your federal financial aid forever. There could be long-term repercussions when you're seeking a job or trying to rent an apartment.
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    Practice self-care and acceptance.[17] Remember that individuals who are dependent on Vicodin are human beings too. Many people who are addicted to Vicodin are normal people in unfortunate situations who are dependent on a medication and are trying to avoid the agony of withdrawal. Whatever the reason for your use, you are worthy and deserving of help.
    • Set aside time each day to do something you enjoy such as: cooking, art, writing, surfing the web, playing games, playing an instrument, watching a movie, etc.
    • Make sure you have adequate down-time in your day. Use this time to relax, take a bath, read a book, or do something else that calms you down.
    • Remind yourself on a daily basis that you are worthy of help, that working through this addiction is a journey, and that you have accomplished much simply by seeking help and reading about the topic.


  • When making any changes to your medication use, always consult with your doctor beforehand.

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Categories: Addictions | Drug Addictions