The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, calls prescription drug abuse, and particularly opioid painkiller abuse, an epidemic in this country, as 44 people die every day from a prescription opioid overdose.
Opioid narcotics are prescribed to help moderate pain symptoms as they serve to block pain receptors in the brain and promote feelings of calm and relaxation.
Norco is a brand name of the combination of the opioid hydrocodone and the over-the-counter pain medication acetaminophen. It is prescribed in tablet form to relieve moderate to severe pain or as a cough suppressant. Norco comes in either a 7.5 mg hydrocodone/325 mg acetaminophen combination or a 10 mg hydrocodone/ 325 mg acetaminophen combination. It is meant to be taken one tablet at a time in either four- or six-hour intervals as needed and not to exceed six tablets a day. Other commonly recognized brand names with the same two main ingredients are Lortab and Vicodin. Hydrocodone/acetaminophen products are also available in a generic form.
Norco, and other opioids, may be highly addictive even when used as directed, and they are not generally recommended for long-term use. Recently, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassified hydrocodone combination products from Schedule III to the more controlled and regulated Schedule II classification due to their high potential for abuse, diversion, and dependency.
Those who abuse the drug often crush Norco tablets, and the resulting powder can be snorted, smoked or dissolved and injected. This is highly dangerous as it subverts the intended method of ingesting and absorbing the drug through the stomach, sending it instead directly across the blood-brain barrier and increasing the risks for overdose and dependency.
Anytime a prescription medication is taken for recreational, or non-medical reasons, it is considered abuse. The CDC reports that over two million Americans at least 12 years old or older were dependent on or abused opioid pain relievers in 2013.
Dangers of Norco Abuse
Opioid narcotics may produce a rush of euphoria when abused, circumventing the natural reward pathways in the brain and creating a pleasant high that users may be eager to reproduce. The hydrocodone in Norco activates opioid receptors in the brain, which in turn stimulates the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine that is partly responsible for natural feelings of pleasure.
Over time, the user may develop a tolerance to the drug’s effects, requiring him to take more of it in order to get the same desired results. The brain will then start to depend on Norco to stimulate dopamine production, making it harder for the body to naturally produce it and disrupting the motivation and reward circuitry. In order to feel normal, the brain may now expect the drug’s presence, and when it is removed, the user may experience drug cravings and uncomfortable flu-like symptoms. In addition, he may feel anxious, depressed, restless, have trouble sleeping, and be irritable and jumpy. These are withdrawal symptoms that accompany physical and psychological dependency to opioid drugs like Norco and may lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior and a loss of control over its abuse, which are components of addiction.
Tolerance and withdrawal side effects, along with multiple unsuccessful attempts to stop using and the perpetuation of drug abuse even when knowing that it may cause great personal or physical harm, are physical symptoms of addiction. Addiction is often further recognizable by psychological symptoms, such as a shift in personality, social withdrawal, an increase in risky behavior related to Norco abuse, and the inability to fulfill school, work or home obligations.
In addition to the potential for developing a tolerance, dependency, or addiction to Norco, abusing it can have many potential risk factors and side effects, including:
- Trouble breathing
- Slowed heart rate
- Faint feeling
- Loss of appetite
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Quick to bleed or bruise
- Dark urine
- Skin rashes
- Ringing in the ears
- Mood swings
Mixing other drugs with alcohol may intensify the effects of both substances and cause a dangerous adverse reaction. Norco slows respiration and heart rate, which can be fatal in the case of an overdose. Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in America in 2013, according to the CDC, and prescription opioids alone killed 16,235 people in the United States. A Norco overdose is a medical emergency. If you notice muscle weakness, extreme drowsiness, very low blood pressure, a slow heartbeat, shallow breathing, cold skin, stomach pain or vomiting, yellowing of the skin, dark urine, mental confusion, or a loss of consciousness, seek immediate medical attention.
Getting Help for a Norco Addiction
It is never recommended to stop taking Norco without medical supervision or intervention, regardless if you are taking it legitimately or recreationally. Suddenly depriving the body of an opioid can induce withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings that can be both emotionally and physically difficult to manage without help. Often, a medical professional may set you up on a tapering, or weaning off, schedule that slowly reduces the doses of Norco in a controlled manner until the user is drug-free.
Medical detox, which utilizes adjunct medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings, may be the optimal place to help purge the toxins from the system in a supervised and supportive environment with medical care available. After the body reaches a level of physical stabilization, the individual can focus on mental health and emotional regulation.
Evidence-based treatment models utilize scientifically proven methods coupled with clinical expertise and individual treatment desires and requirements in order to promote a long and successful recovery from substance abuse and dependency. Addiction makes fundamental changes in the chemical makeup of the brain. Treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have been proven to effectively reverse some of the damage and positively influence dysfunctions in the central nervous system, promoting constructive brain activity, as reported in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. CBT may change some of the chemical pathways in the brain that were disrupted by substance abuse by helping the individual to develop positive visions of the self and bolstering self-confidence levels. Negative thoughts are transformed into more positive ones, helping the individual to better cope with stress and potential triggers to self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse.
Educating yourself on what constitutes addiction and understanding the danger signs of Norco abuse can help you or your loved one get the necessary treatment for a sustained recovery. Those with a prescription for Norco may take more than their intended dose, continue taking the drug beyond its medicinal scope, or seek prescriptions when they are no longer necessary, which all indicate problematic prescription drug abuse. Some may even visit different doctors in order to obtain Norco prescriptions. The most common sources of prescription painkillers, however, are friends or relatives – 53 percent of prescription pain reliever abusers obtain the drugs this way, according to the NSDUH. Prescription drugs may also be bought or stolen from a relative or friend, purchased from a stranger, or even off the Internet, although these methods are less common.
Adolescents aged 12 to 17 and young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are potentially the most at risk for initiating the abuse of prescription medications, according to the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network (ATTC).
If you suspect prescription drug abuse or dependency, we can help you to determine the best course of action. Contact us today to learn more about intervention and treatment.