Hydrocodone, known by the brand name Vicodin, was originally designed to help treat severe pain. The medication is extremely common in medicine cabinets all around the United States, and its popularity may be on the rise. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the milligram-per-person use of prescription opioids like Vicodin increased 402 percent between 1997 and 2007. As rates of use rise, so do rates of addiction. While there are effective treatments that can help ease addiction to help the person move forward and create a safe and sober life, hydrocodone users may need some convincing in order to stop use.
What is Hyrdocodone?
Since the drug is so common, it’s easy for addicts to find the medication and feed their addictions. Unlike heroin and cocaine, which might be expensive and difficult for an abuser to find, hydrocodone is often given away at little or no cost.
According to the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, 56 percent of users received prescription medications for free from friends and relatives. Where street drug users might be compelled to stop use because of the expense, people who abuse hydrocodone may face little or no negative financial impact from their abuse.
Hydrocodone is often considered safe by addicts, since the substance is not illegal and is prescribed by doctors. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration reports that two in five teens believe that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs, and three in ten believe that prescription medications don’t cause addiction. People who are in the grips of a hydrocodone addiction may not believe that their behavior is problematic, and they may not initiate treatment alone.
Additional Resource: Prescription Drug Myths and Rehab
Since people taking hydrocodone may not ask for help on their own, the family often must play a crucial role in an addiction program. An intervention is a good first step. Some families hire a professional to help them perform an intervention, while others rely on books and videos to teach them how to conduct the meeting.
Weeks before the intervention occurs, the family meets to outline the conversation. The family may decide who will speak first and may role-play in order to prepare for their speeches. During these conversations, families must be specific, and they must avoid placing blame. They may use phrases such as:
How to Speak to an Addict
- “I’m worried about your health.”
- “I notice that you drive while under the influence, and I am afraid you’ll hurt someone.”
- “Our doctor says you’re refilling your prescription twice as often as you should.”
- “When you’re under the influence, I find it difficult to talk to you.”
Parents of teens may be tempted to simply drive their teen to an inpatient facility for treatment, without holding an intervention. While experts agree that therapy works whether the addict asks for the treatment or not, it is important to lay the groundwork for treatment in an intervention, no matter the addict’s age. The teen may be able to build upon the statements provided in the intervention, and the family may be able to express their concern in a loving and helpful way in a proper intervention, and this might help the whole family heal.
At the end of the intervention, when the family members have aired their concerns and explained why they feel the addict needs treatment, the addicted person is asked to participate in a treatment program the family has selected.
People addicted to hydrocodone often benefit from inpatient treatment programs where they step away from their homes and neighborhoods, and focus on their addiction and strategies for getting better. Where Vicodin might be easy to find at home, it’s basically impossible to find in an inpatient program. This means the addict can truly remove the Vicodin from his or her system and begin to learn new habits that can support sobriety. Removing hydrocodone from the body is called detoxification, and it can be an uncomfortable process.
People who stop taking the medication can develop severe abdominal pain and cramping, along with depression and cravings for the drug. In an inpatient program, doctors can provide medications to help ease these symptoms, and medical staff can stand at the ready to assist if the symptoms grow worse.
Some patients benefit from taking a drug called buprenorphine, which is also an opiate. This drug doesn’t produce a euphoric state, and it’s nearly impossible to abuse the drug due to its chemical makeup, but it can ease some common withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, people addicted to hydrocodone start on high doses of the drug, and then they taper down to smaller and smaller doses as treatment progresses.
In some cases, the addicted person is given a narcotic medication called methadone to ease withdrawal symptoms. This medication has been used with great success in people who are addicted to heroin.Whether or not the doctor provides buprenorphine or methadone depends heavily on how much hydrocodone the person was taking before rehabilitation began. In addition, one study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment suggests that patients also influence the decision, as they may request one drug over another.Once the person has successfully removed hydrocodone from the system, with or without the use of drugs, that person is asked to participate in a series of counseling sessions. Addiction to hydrocodone is often a habit that people have developed due to a variety of other causes, such as:
- Underlying mental illness
- Poor relationships with family members
- Social pressures
In counseling sessions, the addict can learn more about why he or she takes drugs, and develop new methods to deal with those underlying problems. Some counselors also ask addicts to participate in group meetings the counselor holds with all addicted people currently in that doctor’s care. This can help the addict make new friendships and learn that addiction is both common and treatable.
After Inpatient Treatments
When an addict emerges from an inpatient treatment program, that person no longer has drugs in his or her system and he or she is armed with many tactics that can be used to keep addiction at bay. This doesn’t mean, however, that the fight is over. As mentioned, hydrocodone is plentiful, inexpensive and remarkably easy to obtain. Often, this means that people must participate in treatment programs for hydrocodone addiction for months or even years in order to ensure that the changes stick.
Some addicts continue to participate in counseling sessions once or multiple times per week, discussing the problems that have occurred since treatment stopped. At Michael’s House, we consider this an important part of the care we provide to our clients and we
encourage all recovering addicts to participate in these check-in sessions long after they’ve been released from our program. When an addict enters a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, he or she has the opportunity to listen to other addicts talk about their successes and failures with addiction problems, and they can share their own stories.
Other addicts prefer to deal with outpatient care on a more informal basis, and they may rely on community programs to help them stay sober. One of the most recognizable programs is Narcotics Anonymous. This program is run by recovering addicts for recovering addicts, and meetings are often free and open to the public.
Addicts are also asked to follow the 12 steps, which can be summarized as followed:
- The addict admits that he or she is powerless in the face of the addiction.
- A higher power can help the addict deal with the addiction.
- The addict agrees to give the control of the addiction to the higher power.
- The addict looks within, being honest.
- As a result of this search, the addict admits his or her faults to one other person or the higher power.
- The addict makes a pledge to remove these faults.
- The higher power is asked to remove these faults.
- The addict makes a list of all of the wrongs he or she has committed.
- Using this list, the addict makes amends for the wrongs.
- The addict continues this process of looking for wrongs and amending for them.
- The higher power is asked to continue to provide help.
- The addict talks about the program with others, in order to help them.
While the approach might sound soft and not based in science, it can have dramatic results for people struggling with addiction. According to an article published by the American Medical Association, people who participate in these programs have a much greater chance of recovery than people who do not.
It’s also important to remember that people who are in hydrocodone addiction recovery cannot take the drugs again, no matter what happens. Doctors may attempt to prescribe the medication if the recovering addict has an injury or undergoes a surgery; however, the addict must be completely honest about the addiction that has come before and ask for alternatives to the opioid medications.