Hydrocodone, which may be sold under brands like Vicodin, Lorcet or Norco is a narcotic drug used primarily as a pain reliever. It is available widely in generic forms and often paired with acetaminophen to enhance pain relief. It is also occasionally sold in prescription cough syrups. The drug is a controlled substance, and is addictive, especially when used in a way not recommended by your doctor.
The method for creating hydrocodone was first developed in the 1920s, and the drug has been on the market since the 1940s in the US. It is often thought particularly effective for people who have trouble taking codeine. Some people may develop allergic reactions like itching to codeine, in which case, Vicodin® or other brands or generics can be an excellent alternative.
There are side effects to taking this medication. If you take it on an empty stomach, it may intensify its pain relieving effects but it makes some people severely nauseous. Other common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, and lightheadedness. Long-term use can also cause significant constipation. The medication is not recommended for nursing or pregnant women, and it also shouldn’t be used by people with breathing difficulties since it can reduce respiration. People who take carbamazepine (Tegretol®) for conditions like manic depression should use this medication only under doctor’s guidance.
One of the main things you should know about this medication, when used for pain relief, is that it usually contains acetaminophen. Due to risks to the liver if you take too much acetaminophen, you shouldn’t use other pain relievers that contain it when you take hydrocodone. Taking too much may cause you to take unsafe levels of acetaminophen. The amount of acetaminophen varies in prescription strengths, but may be equivalent to about 300-500 milligrams. This is approximately the same as one regular strength or one extra strength Tylenol®. Under a doctor’s guidelines, if pain is severe, you may be able to take a second plain tablet of Tylenol®, but not if you plan to take more than one hydrocodone pill within a six hour period.
Another important aspect of hydrocodone is its addictive nature. It should only be taken as directed and in recent years the drug has been increasingly abused. Any controlled substances should be used for their intended purpose only, and any remaining medication should be kept well away from children and teens who may be at high risk for prescription drug abuse. If you want to use a leftover prescription in the future, ask you doctor if it is appropriate to use the drug first.