Prescription drug abuse is a major problem in the United States today. According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 7 million people non-medically used prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs in 2009. Many people have misconceptions about the safety of these drugs – they assume that prescription drugs are safe to take under any circumstance as they are prescribed by doctors. But the truth is that these drugs act directly or indirectly on the brain that is affected by other illicit substances. Prescription drug abuse, as any other illicit drug abuse, can lead an abuser to a variety of adverse health effects.
One of the most widely prescribed and frequently abused pain relievers is vicodin. It is mostly abused by adolescents. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly 1 in 10 high school seniors use Vicodin non-medically. Vicodin is a trademarked brand, narcotic pain reliever containing hydrocodone and paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen). In the United States, Vicodin is considered as a Schedule III drug – classified as potentially causing moderate or low physical dependence, or a high psychological dependence if not used properly.
Vicodin is an effective pain reliever when used properly as per doctor’s prescription. But careless or deliberate use of Vicodin can result in dangerous consequences. Some of the common side effects of Vicodin abuse include dizziness, light-headedness, constipation, vomiting, nausea, drowsiness etc. Vicodin abuse has the potential to cause more dangerous effects such as:
Liver damage or failure
As discussed before, Vicodin contains acetaminophen (Tylenol), which can cause liver damage and failure, if used for longer periods of time. In some cases, it becomes very important for an abuser to transplant a liver to avoid death. According to Food and Drug Administration (FDA), toxic doses of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in vicodin is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
Altered mental status
Vicodin acts on the central nervous system as any other illicit drug. It alters mental status resulting in dizziness, light-headedness, mental clouding, lethargy, anxiety, fear, dysphoria, psychic dependence, mood changes etc.
Shallow breathing and slow heart beat
Vicodin abuse has many negative effects on the respiratory system of the abuser. Some side effects of abusing this drug include shallow breathing and slow heartbeat. Taking a large single dose of this harmful drug can also lead to death as it acts directly on the brain stem respiratory center.
Vicodin is a powerful narcotic pain relieving medication. Vicodin abuse slows the heart and weakens the pumping action of the heart of the abuser and may precipitate fainting.
One of the dangerous effects of vicodin abuse includes seizures or convulsions. Since vicodin binds with receptors in the brain and spinal cord, it may sometimes trigger abnormal excessive neuronal activity causing seizures or fits.
Problems with urination
Vicodin abuse poses dangers to urinary system also. Vicodin abusers suffer from problems with urination, typically described to be a burning or stinging sensation while urinating. Sometimes it may impair urination and cause obstruction.
Confusion and fear
Vicodin impacts the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language causing severe confusion. Other side effects include hallucinations, changes in behavior, isolation, fear, unusual thoughts etc. If taken together with other drugs or alcohol, it can produce compounding dangerous effects. Along with confusion, it can cause sedation and impact mental and physical functioning of the abuser.
One of the major dangers of vicodin abuse is jaundice. Jaundice, also known as Icterus is a yellowish pigmentation of the skin, whites of the eyes, and other mucous membranes caused by increased levels of bilirubin in the blood. Jaundice can cause pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. If neglected, it can lead to death.
Vicodin abuse and addiction is a serious issue like any other illicit drug abuse and should not be taken lightly. Lack of awareness or attention to vicodin abuse can lead to serious negative effects, which can lead to death. Apart from the foregoing physical and mental consequences, vicodin addiction can also lead to deterioration in personal relationships, employment and financial status of the abuser. Therefore, it is advised to detect vicodin abusers using a reliable drug testing kit in early stages to avoid a possible devastating outcome.