Hydrocodone: A Comprehensive Guide On The Narcotic Drug

One of the very common legal opioid painkillers that are commonly prescribed by doctors in the US is Hydrocodone. Strong painkiller but possibly addictive! The sense of well-being and desired relief feeling but medium to severe side effects? So, what is Hydrocodone?

What is Hydrocodone?

Quick facts about Hydrocodone: It is a strong painkiller, an opioid and it is NOT an Over The Counter (OTC) medication meaning that it needs to be prescribed by doctors. It is one of the most popular medications in the US! Hydrocodone with the chemical formula of C18H21NO3 is an opioid painkiller derived from Codeine which is a similar opioid. It belongs to the narcotic analgesics which simply means pain medicines.

Hydrocodone is used to treat mild to severe pain and It acts on the central nervous system (CNS) to relieve pain. It also stops and/or prevents coughing. Hydrocodone is available in many different forms and brands. Hydrocodone is categorized in the Schedule II in the Controlled Substances List from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which means this drug is important in treating serious pain, but there is an elevated risk of addiction. Keep on reading to know more!

Main Ingredients – Hydrocodone And Acetaminophen

Hydrocodone for oral administration is available in different forms. For immediate release, it is usually combined with acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. Hydrocodone with acetaminophen is a usual form for oral administration. Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol is a non-opioid painkiller which is used for treating mild to moderate pain and reducing fever.

Acetaminophen is the main ingredient of Tylenol. Hydrocodone with acetaminophen is available by different brands including Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, Maxidone, Norco, and Zydone. Vicodin, for example, has 300 mg of acetaminophen with 5-10 mg of Hydrocodone.

Vicoprofen, Ibudone, and Reprexain are brands of Hydrocodone mixed with ibuprofen. Azdone, Damason-P, Lortab ASA and Panasal 5/500 are Hydrocodone combined with aspirin.

What is Hydrocodone Used For?

As mentioned above, hydrocodone is an opioid medication which works by altering the perception of pain. Hydrocodone is usually prescribed for moderate to severe pains to treat patients who are in need of medication for a long time in which other painkillers such as codeine may not work as well. Hydrocodone also may be used to stop or prevent coughing.

What Are The Effects Of Hydrocodone Pills?

When you take Hydrocodone, the primary effects on the brain include pain relief, drowsiness, respiratory depression, and sedation. It also brings the desired relief feeling, sense of well-being and it may reduce stress and worries. While it may make you sleepy, compulsion, cravings or headaches may also occur as secondary effects.

How Long Does Hydrocodone Last In Body?

Although Hydrocodone is well-absorbed, it has about 25 percent bioavailability. Bioavailability is the fraction of the unchanged drug that reaches the systemic circulation. In order to measure how long drugs stay in the body, drug half-life is usually measured. Half-life is the time that it takes for half of the administered drug to gets eliminated from the body.

The half-life of Hydrocodone is about 3.8 hours but it may vary person to person depending on one’s metabolism rates. For most of the adults, it should not take more than a day for Hydrocodone to gets fully eliminated from the body, however, residuals of the drug stay in saliva, urine or hair for longer times up to 3, 4 and surprisingly 90 days respectively.

Although residuals of Hydrocodone may stay in different parts of the body, the pain relief effects will not last that long.

Recommended Dosage For Hydrocodone

The recommended dosage for Hydrocodone should come from your doctor. Hydrocodone is a habit-forming drug, especially if overused! So, the right dosage should be prescribed by a doctor. For the immediate release versions of hydrocodone, one pill containing 5mg of hydrocodone with 300 mg of acetaminophen every 4–6hrs (as needed) seems to be a common dose.

If pills contain more than 5mg, for example, 7.5 or 10 mg of Hydrocodone, lower dosages are recommended. The Maximum daily dosage of Hydrocodone should not exceed 60 mg per day.

Hydrocodone Side Effects

Similar to all other drugs, Hydrocodone comes with side effects. There are some common side effects that may be temporary. However, hydrocodone may be dangerous if not taken properly and at prescribed dosages. Having difficulties with breathing is the most common side effect which could become severe and even cause death. Hydrocodone common and severe side effects are listed in the following sections.

Common Side Effects

Many opioid drugs share similar side effects. Some of the common side effects of hydrocodone include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle spasms
  • Itching
  • Stuffy nose

Severe Side Effects

Hydrocodone is a relatively strong opioid and it may be dangerous if not taken at the proper dosage. If any of the following conditions occur after taking any form of Hydrocodone, you have to stop taking the medication immediately and call your doctor. Severe symptoms include:

  • Weak breathing
  • Pain or burn when urinating
  • Lasting light-headed feelings
  • Agitation
  • Abnormally low blood pressure
  • High fever
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Shivering
  • Fast heart rate
  • Death!

May Cause Abnormally Low Blood Pressure

Hydrocodone and other strong opioid painkillers such as morphine lead to histamine release in the body, which results in significant decreases in systemic blood pressure. So, upon taking Hydrocodone, you may end up having abnormally low blood pressure which could affect daily functions as the brain gets deprived of blood supply which may lead to severe dizziness.

The Effects Of Mixing Hydrocodone And Alcohol

Hydrocodone gives feelings that are very similar to those of alcohol! You get relaxed, feel pleasure, get light headed and feel drunk. So, taking alcohol and Hydrocodone together can make you very high or very drunk and there is a risk of overdose and even death.

This combination can affect your heart rate and breathe dramatically! A 2014 CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report found that alcohol was involved in almost 19% percent of opioid-related emergency room admissions and 22 percent of deaths caused by opioid overdose! So, very important note: Do Not Take Alcohol and Hydrocodone together!

Buying Hydrocodone Online

Hydrocodone should be prescribed by your doctor. It is not an OTC, so technically you can not buy it without a prescription! Also, the dosage should be recommended by your doctor based on your need and your body condition! Although a simple google search brings up a lot of online pharmacies that you may be able to order hydrocodone online, the authenticity of the pills you get is not guaranteed of course.

Hydrocodone Addiction And Abuse

Hydrocodone can be habit-forming If it is overused! Plain and simple! CDC found that in the United States, 91 people died of an opioid overdose every single day in 2015! Cases included overdoses with Methadone, Heroin, Hydrocodone, and some other prescription opioids.

So, opioid abuse is very common in the US. It’s interesting to realize that many drug addicts report that their substance abuse started after they received a prescription for hydrocodone, Oxycodone or similar painkillers from their doctors. Hydrocodone creates tolerance in the body. Over time, the patient requires more and more hydrocodone to receive the same benefit. At this point, it will be extremely difficult to end the consumption and therefore the patient becomes addicted!

Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Because Hydrocodone creates tolerance, to get the initial benefits, the body needs to take more. That’s why it won’t be easy to withdraw suddenly with no side effect. Hydrocodone withdrawal can be categorized as mild, moderate, moderately severe, and severe. This is something that should be determined by the primary care provider. They evaluate your opioid use history and also some possible symptoms you may have. Some of the withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness and inability to sleep
  • Teary eyes
  • Abnormal sweating
  • a runny nose (very common)
  • Muscle aches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • rapid heartbeat
  • high blood pressure

Are There Any Drugs That Can Replace Hydrocodone?

What if someone is not comfortable with taking Hydrocodone? After all, it’s an opioid and it may become habit-forming if not taken properly. Hydrocodone is a relatively strong painkiller. So, other painkillers could be used instead. Read on to check the alternatives!

Hydrocodone vs Oxycodone

Oxycodone is also an analgesic narcotic that is prescribed for those dealing with severe pain. It is an opioid, and it is stronger than Hydrocodone. Oxycodone (C18H21NO4) is very similar to Hydrocodone (C18H21NO3) chemically and structurally. Technically it has one more oxygen! Oxycodone is available under trade names of OxyContin, Troxyca, or Percocet. Oxycodone is very widely used and prescribed across the U.S. Oxycodone also may cause physical dependence, habit formation, and opioid addiction.

Alternatives To Hydrocodone

All medications that are considered painkillers could be alternatives to Hydrocodone. These alternatives though could be opioid (similar to Hydrocodone itself) or non-opioids! And obviously, their effectiveness in treating pain might be different!

Opioid Alternatives

Codeine, Morphine, and Oxycodone are opioid alternatives to Hydrocodone. Codeine is a weaker painkiller and is available in combination with acetaminophen (Tylenol 3 and 4). Morphine is also a very common strong painkiller that is prescribed for patients with chronic pains, cancer patients, and those with severe pain after surgeries. Oxycodone is very similar to Hydrocodone but stronger and possibly more addictive.

Non-opioid Alternatives

Non-opioid alternatives to Hydrocodone could be acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or Aspirin (Bayer). Obviously, these painkillers are not as effective as a strong opioid such as Hydrocodone but they may treat moderate pains, not chronic pains.

You may want to consider non-medication therapies depending on your condition. These include physical therapy, acupuncture or surgery. A very reasonable non-opioid alternative to Hydrocodone for chronic pains is (Cannabidiol) or CBD. CBD is a natural pain medication. Read on to know more!

CBD: The Natural Pain Medication


There are natural chemicals called cannabinoids to treat chronic pains which are relatively safe and non-toxic and they don’t cause addiction. They can be extracted from the cannabis plants. There are about 500 substances that could be extracted from the cannabis plant. Two of the most important substances that are isolated from cannabis plants are CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

While CBD is good for treating moderate to severe pains, it does not make you high! THC on the other hand, THC is psychoactive. There are several ways to extract cannabis oil that is rich in CBD. However, more careful ways are needed to separate CBD from THC. The Step by step extraction of CBT was first patented in 1940.

How Can CBD Helps With Pain

CBD interacts with receptors in the brain (similar to opioid painkillers) and immune system. Anti-inflammatory and painkilling effect are the results of this interaction which leads to pain reduction.

Where To Buy CBD

CBD is available in different forms such as oil, cream or pills. Variety of brands are available through Amazon and Groupon.

Why Choose CBD Over Hydrocodone?

CBD is not habit-forming, it is effective in treating moderate to severe pain and it’s natural. More important than that, It’s not addictive and it doesn’t need a doctor’s prescription. So, there must be enough reasons why choose CBD over Hydrocodone.

Hydrocodone is a strong painkiller, usually prescribed for moderate to severe pains, it’s not OTC and it needs a prescription. If overused, it causes addiction, severe side effects, and even death. There are both chemical and natural alternatives to Hydrocodone. While chemical alternatives might not have the same effect or might have worse side effects, CBD is a reasonable non-addictive natural alternative.

Farma Health Desk Editor