Vicodin (hydrocodone + acetaminophen) is a synthetic prescription opioid that is most commonly used as an analgesic following dental procedures or medical surgery.
As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, Vicodin can cause respiratory depression, which can lead to death when it is taken to excess.
Vicodin elevates levels of dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain, which creates feelings of euphoria. Many people seek out the drug for the feelings of calm and well-being it produces, which can be addictive.
Vicodin is taken in pill form for oral administration, but it is commonly abused through methods like snorting and plugging by people looking to get a more intense high.
When drugs are abused to increase their bioavailability, it increases the likelihood of negative long-term and short-term effects.
Side Effects Of Plugging Hydrocodone
Vicodin is most commonly taken as a suppository by dissolving crushed pills with water and inserting the solution into the rectum.
The effects of the drug are felt very quickly since it enters the body more directly through rectal blood vessels.
However, this more direct intake method increases the risk of overdose because a person may take more of the drug to feel the same effects before the body has processed the initial dose.
Whether taken according to good medical advice as a painkiller or through illicit methods like plugging, Vicodin can have intense short-term side effects.
Plugging opiates like Vicodin can lead to:
- slowed or irregular breathing
- itching and rash
- clouded thinking
- muscle stiffness
- chest tightness
- nausea and vomiting
- dry throat
- difficulty urinating
- narrowed pupils
- anxiety and depression
- mood swings
- hallucinations and paranoia
Plugging drugs like Vicodin or Norco carry additional risks for people that have pre-existing medical conditions and may increase the likelihood of infections or sexually transmitted infections.
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People with low blood platelets, impaired rectal blood circulation, chronic diarrhea, or anorectal diseases are at an especially high risk of lasting damage from plugging drugs.
Long-Term Effects Of Plugging Vicodin
When Vicodin or other opioids are abused, the long-term effects can be severe. The risk of heart, liver, and brain damage increases when Vicodin is used alongside other CNS depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines.
A notable long-term effect of Vicodin abuse is the heightened risk of liver and kidney damage due to acetaminophen toxicity. When a person uses Vicodin with other drugs or alcohol, the liver can be permanently damaged.
The resulting long-term risks of hydrocodone and acetaminophen abuse include the risk of organ damage, overdose, and addiction — along with dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
Risk Of Vicodin Overdose
Using Vicodin rectally alone or in combination with other substances can lower inhibitions, resulting in continuous substance intake that leads to overdose.
Overdose can also occur when a person stops using opioids for a period of time, where their tolerance for the drug then decreases.
If that person begins using Vicodin at the same levels that they are accustomed to, then their body may not be able to process all of the drugs in the system.
A person that has taken too much Vicodin or has used Vicodin with other depressants can experience overdose symptoms, including:
- extreme drowsiness
- low blood pressure
- slowed heart rate
- unconsciousness and coma
- cardiac arrest
- circulatory system collapse
- shallow or irregular breathing
- blue lips, fingernails, or skin
- narrow or widened pupils
- cold, clammy skin
The acetaminophen present in Vicodin can compound with the effects of hydrocodone when taken in large doses.
Acetaminophen overdose can result in:
- extreme sweating
- liver damage and abdominal pain
- vomiting and nausea
- problems with effective blood clotting
Norco Detox And Withdrawal
Whether taken as prescribed for chronic pain management from a healthcare professional or abused through plugging or snorting, people can develop tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
Emotional addiction may occur, which can cause strong cravings or psychological instability when a person does not have access to the drug.
This is distinct from physical dependence, which causes strong withdrawal symptoms when hydrocodone is not present.
Physical dependence means that a person’s body becomes reliant on the substance to feel “normal” in day-to-day activity. The physical and mental effects of withdrawal can be intense but can be managed through pharmaceutical and therapeutic treatments.
A person with a substance use disorder involving Vicodin may experience withdrawal symptoms, including:
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- muscle spasms and twitches
- feelings of panic
- body pain
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
A supervised inpatient detox from Vicodin can help manage these withdrawal symptoms. Certain benzodiazepines can help manage panic and anxiety, while treatments like methadone can help people taper off prescription opioids.
Partial opioid agonist treatments containing buprenorphine can activate opioid receptors without the high chance of overdose. This treatment, when combined with naloxone, prevents abuse.
Other continuous treatments can include opioid antagonists, such as naltrexone, which prevent a person from feeling the effects of an opioid like Vicodin if they use it. This method does increase the risk of overdose since it lowers a person’s opioid tolerance.
Oftentimes, during both inpatient and outpatient rehab, behavioral therapies accompany detox. These therapies help to give people cognitive tools to understand underlying factors, thought patterns, and behaviors that may trigger or perpetuate drug use.
Hydrocodone Abuse Treatment Options
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid substance abuse, we can help. Addiction and dependence on drugs like Vicodin can be overcome.
Our trained addiction treatment specialists will help you find the best rehab center for your needs. We can get you on the path of recovery with inpatient or outpatient treatment.
Call us today to learn more. We’re here to help.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse
- National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens — Prescription Pain Medications: Opioids
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Hydrocodone Combination Products