Hydrocodone is one of the most frequently prescribed pain medications in the United States. It is a prescription opiate medication typically combined with other pain relievers or antihistamines to treat pain or relieve cough. Hydrocodone has been widely used since its creation over 100 years ago. However, abuse of the medication results in thousands of emergency room visits yearly, with some overdoses resulting in death.

Even though hydrocodone is commonly abused, health professionals can effectively treat addiction.

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What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid pain or cough medicine created in the 1920s. The medical community hoped to provide a treatment less addictive than opiates, such as codeine. It is a semi-synthetic drug created by modifying codeine or thebaine. Both codeine and thebaine are chemicals produced from poppy seeds. 

Hydrocodone is more effective than codeine at suppressing coughs and nearly as potent as morphine for pain management. However, early research recognized the possibility of addiction due to hydrocodone’s euphoric effects. Therefore, the drug is often used as a combination medicine to reduce the risk of addiction. This practice has only recently been reversed with the distribution of pure hydrocodone medications such as Zohydro ER and Hysingla ER.

There are several hundred brand name and generic hydrocodone medicines, most of which are combination products. These products are produced in many forms, such as tablets, capsules, or syrups.

What Are Common Brand Names for Hydrocodone?

The most commonly prescribed hydrocodone combination medicine is hydrocodone with acetaminophen.

Common brand names are: 

  • Vicodin
  • Lorcet
  • Lortab
  • Norco
  • Co-Gesic. 

Hydrocodone is also combined with ibuprofen.

Popular brand names for this combination include:

  • Ibudone
  • Reprexain
  • Vicoprofen

Additionally, for pain relief, stand-alone extended-release hydrocodone medications are now being offered.

Brands include:

  • Hysingla ER
  • Zohydro ER

Hydrocodone is a potent cough suppressant and is frequently combined with guaifenesin or homatropine.

The most commonly used brand names include: 

  • Flowtus
  • Hycofenix
  • Obredon
  • Rezira
  • Tussicaps
  • Tussigon
  • Tussionex
  • Pennkinetic
  • Vituz
  • Zutripro

What Is the History of Hydrocodone as a Controlled Substance?

In 1971 the United States government passed the Controlled Substance Act.

The new law created five categories of controlled substances: 

  • C-I too dangerous for legal medical use
  • C-II high potential for abuse with severe psychological or physical dependence
  • C-III potential for abuse with moderate physical dependence and high psychological dependence
  • C-IV low potential for abuse
  • C-V slight potential for abuse

At the time, despite research and early concerns regarding the significant potential for addiction when using hydrocodone, only pure hydrocodone was listed as a C-II medication. Combination hydrocodone medications were categorized as C-III.

When Was Hydrocodone Introduced to the Market?

In 1978 Vicodin was introduced to the market with a strength of 5 mg hydrocodone and 500 mg acetaminophen. As Vicodin use increased, a connection with liver failure due to an overdose of acetaminophen was identified. In response, the amount of acetaminophen was restricted to 325 mg. Due to the reduction in acetaminophen, the amount of hydrocodone in medicines was increased. Norco released its medication with a strength of 10mg hydrocodone and 325 mg acetaminophen in the late 1990s. 

What Is the Risk of Hydrocodone Addiction?

Coinciding with the increased strength, emergency room visits for overdoses caused by hydrocodone began to rise. By 2009, the number of hydrocodone-related visits reached over 105,000 annually, and overdose deaths from opioids increased four-fold. 

Over 90 years after its creation, the substantial risk of addiction to hydrocodone was acknowledged. As a result, in 2014, all hydrocodone products were changed to the higher C-II controlled substance classification, putting it into the same category as morphine, oxycodone, and hydromorphone. This move was intended to notify prescribers that the drug was more addicting and more dangerous than previously considered and served to make hydrocodone more difficult to obtain. 

Is Hydrocodone Restricted?

Prescriptions of hydrocodone products are limited in quantity and frequency, cannot be refilled, and must be issued under a specialized prescribing system, depending on the state.

Despite this increase in prescribing requirements, hydrocodone continues to be widely abused, and many people are addicted to the medication.

What Is Hydrocodone Prescribed to Treat?

Hydrocodone is typically prescribed to treat severe pain, usually in circumstances where the patient is expected to need pain relief continually over a period of time. Because of its addictive nature, hydrocodone is usually not prescribed unless there isn’t another option available to treat the pain. 

What Conditions Does Hydrocodone Treat?

Hydrocodone and opioids, in general, are usually prescribed for the following reasons:

  • Pain following surgery
  • Pain due to disease
  • Pain due to trauma
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea

How Does Hydrocodone Work?

Hydrocodone helps to mask pain by altering how the nervous system and the brain respond to pain. It does not eliminate the pain but instead blocks the pain receptors in the brain so that it doesn’t register. This blockage of pain also can induce euphoria, which contributes to the addictive nature of hydrocodone. Those who become addicted to it would continue to seek it out for the high they experienced even after the pain is gone.

What Are the Side Effects of Hydrocodone?

Like other drugs, hydrocodone has several side effects. Most involve its activity in the central nervous system and brain. However, other areas are affected as well.

Common side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Moodiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Constricted pupils
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Addiction

What Are the Signs of Hydrocodone Abuse?

When taken as prescribed, hydrocodone does not commonly cause severe side effects, but when taken for non-medical reasons, it may seriously impact physical and mental health.

What Are the Signs of Hydrocodone Physical Addiction?

Common side effects from physical addiction to hydrocodone include:

  • Extreme Dizziness
  • Excessive Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Death

Like all opioids, hydrocodone may cause tolerance when taken for an extended period. As a result, people dependent upon hydrocodone will require increasingly larger doses to achieve the same effects. In addition, medicines combining hydrocodone with acetaminophen can lead to liver damage or failure from acetaminophen overdose.

What Are the Signs of Hydrocodone Mental Addiction?

In addition to the physical effects, long-term use of hydrocodone can also result in psychological symptoms.

Some of these may include:

  • Excessive anger
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Relationship troubles
  • Difficulty with employment

People who take hydrocodone for non-medical reasons over a long time may become used to feeling emotionally disconnected. The brain also begins to crave the euphoric effects of hydrocodone, creating a pattern of repeated abuse.

Over time, specific processes involving opiate receptors within the brain undergo physical changes. Therefore, when the drug is absent, symptoms of withdrawal will occur.

What Are the Symptoms of Hydrocodone Withdrawal?

Hydrocodone interacts with the brain to impact many body functions, including breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. When a person becomes dependent on hydrocodone, sudden drug removal from their system can cause severe reactions and even death.

Common symptoms include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Flu-like symptoms including fatigue, muscle aches, runny nose, nausea, abdominal cramps, sweating, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache.
  • Psychological symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, difficulties focusing or concentrating, restlessness, mood swings, trouble feeling pleasure, depression, agitation, drug cravings, and thoughts of suicide

What Types of Treatment Are Available for Hydrocodone Addiction?

Withdrawal from hydrocodone can be excruciating, making it very difficult to do, particularly without assistance. Medical treatments can sometimes reduce symptom severity, but close supervision is required.

A physician may be able to slowly wean a patient off hydrocodone by using medications such as buprenorphine or methadone. In addition, behavioral treatments such as group or individual therapy, 12-step programs, or rehabilitation treatment increase the chance of recovery.

In all cases, the first step toward recovery is recognizing the disease. Some patients will seek assistance, while others must be forced or coerced into treatment. However, rehabilitation centers are often successful at designing and implementing a plan that can effectively manage withdrawal and help to recognize and change behavior patterns making recovery possible.

Have There Been Hydrocodone Lawsuit Settlements?

Due to its nature as an opioid, hydrocodone lawsuits have been handled under an umbrella of opioid cases including other medications such as oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and others. These lawsuits have been primarily brought against opioid manufacturers, with settlements found both for and against the manufacturers.

Additionally, several companies have chosen to reach agreements for claims brought by nearly 3,000 government agencies rather than go to trial.

As of November 2022, agreements with pharmaceutical companies and distributors have exceeded $50 billion in compensation, payments, and opioid addiction treatment medication.

Companies agreeing to settlements include:

  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries-$22.5 billion
  • Johnson & Johnson-$4 billion
  • Cardinal Health-$6 billion
  • McKesson Corp-$7.4 billion
  • AmerisourceBergen-$6.1 billion
  • Walmart-$3.1 billion

All of the proceeds are earmarked by the plaintiffs for drug treatment programs and health care designed to help treat those suffering from opioid addiction and to ease the impact of the opioid epidemic. 

Are There Ongoing Hydrocodone Lawsuits?

As of the final settlement with Walmart in November 2022, all current opioid lawsuits have been settled. In addition, manufacturers and distributors will be making settlement payments over the next decade to state and local governments fighting the opioid crisis.

How Do I Find a Hydrocodone Lawsuit Attorney?

Contact Seeger Weiss today for a free consultation. You won’t have to pay anything unless your case against the company that manufactured the hydrocodone medication in question is successful. Seeger Weiss’ lawyers have extensive experience with litigation against large pharmaceutical corporations.

Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.


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