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What is Hydrocodone?

Overview: Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opiod in the United States and is associated with more drug abuse and diversion than any other licit or illicit opioid. It is an orally active agent most frequently prescribed for the treatment of moderate to moderately severe pain. Its analgesic potency is similar to morphine. Hydrocodone is also an antitussive (cough suppressant) agent with an efficacy similar to that of codeine. There are numerous brand and generic hydrocodone products marketed in the United States. All are combination products. The most frequently prescribed combination is hydrocodone and acetaminophen (for example, Vicodin®, Lorcet®, and Lortab®). Other examples of combination products include those containing aspirin (Lortab ASA®), ibuprofen (Vicoprofen®) and antihistamines (Hycomine®).


Street Names: Hydro, Norco, Vikes


Looks Like: Hydrocodone has a chemical structure that is related to that of codeine and morphine. Hydrocodone combination products are formulated in tablets, capsules, and syrups.


Methods of Abuse: Most often these drugs are abused by oral rather than intravenous administration.


Affect on Mind: Hydrocodone, like most other opioids, induces euphoria, sedation and alters the perception of painful stimuli.


Affect on Body: Hydrocodone can cause drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, constipation, urinary retention and in higher amounts, depressed respiration. Long term use can lead to dependence and addiction. Withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, and vomiting.


Drugs Causing Similar Effects: Morphine, heroin, oxycodone, codeine, propoxyphene, fentanyl, and hydromorphone.


Overdose Effects: Like other opioids, hydrocodone overdose is associated with cold and clammy skin, severely constricted pupils, and slow breathing that can lead to a loss of consciousness and death. Large doses of hydrocodine in combiation with acetaminophen may cause severe liver damage.


*Above information and images below courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Administration (

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