Painkiller Vicodin for Pain Management

Information About the Opioid Painkiller Vicodin

Vicodin pill
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Vicodin is the brand name for hydrocodone (5mg) combined with acetaminophen (500mg). Vicodin is an opioid analgesic used to treat moderate to severe pain. This painkiller may be prescribed for chronic pain in either short-acting or long-acting form. Vicodin is available only by a doctor’s prescription.

How Vicodin Works

Hydrocodone is thought to interact with the nervous system to change the way pain is perceived, though its exact mechanism of pain control are not completely understood.

Acetaminophen is also not completely understood, though it is thought to inhibit certain bodily substances that contribute to the sensation of pain.

Vicodin Adverse Effects

Because Vicodin is a narcotic, it has similar adverse effects to other opioid medications. These potentially include the following:

  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • mood changes
  • respiratory depression, including shallow or difficult breathing distress
  • anxiety and fear
  • addiction and/or dependence

Vicodin Use in Special Populations

Vicodin’s use should be closely monitored for the following groups:

  • pregnant or nursing women
  • people with head injuries or high intracranial pressure
  • those with opioid sensitivity
  • people with kidney or liver disease and/or dysfunction
  • seniors and children
  • people with a history of substance abuse

Vicodin Abuse and Overdose

Because of its effects on the nervous system, Vicodin is one of the most commonly abused prescription painkillers.

Vicodin also has the potential to be deadly if taken inappropriately. To avoid potential opioid overdose, Vicodin should not be taken with other nervous system depressants, including sleep aids, alcohol and certain antidepressants. Tablets should be taken only as directed and should never be crushed or chewed, which could release a potentially fatal dose.

More Information About Substance Dependence

Substance dependence happens because your brain function is altered and you lose control over your behaviors. People with dependence typically exhibit a genetic predisposition that is exacerbated by environmental factors. More specifically, environmental factors can trigger a change in brain chemistry, which results in dependence. Dependence is a lifelong problems that requires lifelong care and social support.

If you or someone you love struggles with substance dependence, it's imperative that you reach out to your physician or a specialist who specializes in substance abuse disorders and dependence. Here are some possible ways in which people receive help for substance dependence:

  • 12-step programs (Narcotics Anonymous)
  • substance abuse disorder clinics
  • family support
  • substance abuse follow-up

Finally, here are some links to useful resources:


    Medline Plus. Hydrocodone. Accessed 9/9/09.

    National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIDA InfoFacts: Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications. Accessed 9/9/09.

    National Institutes of Health. Vicodin (hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen) Tablet. Accessed 9/9/09.

    Usatine RP, Smith MA, Chumley HS, Mayeaux EJ, Jr.. Chapter 235. Substance Abuse Disorder. In: Usatine RP, Smith MA, Chumley HS, Mayeaux EJ, Jr.. eds. The Color Atlas of Family Medicine, 2e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2013. Accessed January 16, 2016.

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