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Acetaminophen’s Role in Vicodin

Acetaminophen's Role in Vicodin

Taken together, acetaminophen and hydrocodone is very effective in reducing moderate to severely moderate pain

Vicodin is a combination medication containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Many wonder why a pain reliever like acetaminophen is in Vicodin, since hydrocodone already acts as pain reliever. Both elements in Vicodin affect the body in distinctly different ways, but work together to provide effective pain management.

How Do Acetaminophen and Hydrocodone Work in Vicodin?

Acetaminophen is an analgesic, which is non-narcotic. It works by elevating the threshold for pain, meaning that pain must be more intense for it to register in the pain receptors.

Hydrocodone is a pain reliever and cough suppressant similar in affect to codeine. It blocks the nerve cell receptors responsible for the pain sensation.

Taken together, this medication combination is very effective in reducing moderate to severely moderate pain. This is particularly true because each drug impacts the mechanism of pain in the body in separate ways, thus reducing pain in a multifunctional way.

Understanding the Health Risks of Vicodin

Because Vicodin contains acetaminophen, long-term use of this medication can cause liver damage and other health risks. For this reason, it is important to inform your physician if you have any of the following health risks:

  • Liver disease or cirrhosis
  • Consuming at least three alcoholic beverages daily
  • Kidney disease
  • Asthma, COPD, sleep apnea, or other breath disorders
  • Diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, bowel obstructions or severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure or chronic dehydration
  • An ileostomy or colostomy
  • A history of stroke, brain tumor or head injury

Further, Vicodin is more likely to cause breathing problems in the severely ill, the malnourished, and older adults. It is unwise to drink alcohol, operate heavy machinery, or drive while taking Vicodin, particularly before you understand how the medication will specifically impact you.

Know the Side Effects of Vicodin

Though rare, some individuals do have allergic reactions to Vicodin, or specifically to the acetaminophen contained in the Vicodin. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you must stop taking Vicodin and seek medical attention immediately:

  • Hives
  • A blistering, peeling rash that spreads over your body
  • Swelling of the face, mouth, throat, or lips
  • Difficulty breathing

The most common side effects of Vicodin include drowsiness, blurred vision, and headache. Other side effects observed by those taking Vicodin are an upset stomach, constipation, and dry mouth. None of these side effects should cause any concern, should you experience them.

However, several other side effects are worrisome. If you experience any of these, you should call your doctor as soon as possible:

  • A consistently light-headed feeling, as though you might pass out
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Easy bruising or bleeding compared to your normal experience
  • Shallow breathing or a slowed heartbeat
  • Confusion or highly unusual or erratic thoughts or behavior
  • Nausea or intense upper abdomen pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching or nausea
  • Dark urine or clay colored stool

Furthermore, if you are taking Vicodin more frequently or at higher doses than prescribed, you may be developing a dependence that can lead to a dangerous addiction.

Know the Symptoms of Addiction to Vicodin

Vicodin can be a highly addictive substance. Many mistakenly believe that a prescription drugs does not leave one vulnerable to drug addiction, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Recent statistics teach us that 52 million people in the US have used prescription drugs in a way other than prescribed. If you don’t carefully and actively monitor yourself for symptoms of addiction, you could end up abusing Vicodin.

There are physical, behavioral, and psychological warning signs of addiction. It would be wise to self-monitor for all of these in your life if you use Vicodin to manage your pain. Some physical warning signs include bloodshot eyes, changes in sleep patterns, and sudden weight loss or weight gain. An individual beginning to struggle with an addiction might also begin to appear unkempt or have trouble maintaining either his balance or clear speech patterns.

Behaviorally, the classic sign of addiction is a negative shift in work or school attendance, or a loss of interest in activities one previously enjoyed. There may also be a sudden shift in friends, and an unwillingness to explain his or her activities for significant periods of time.

Psychological warning signs include a sudden change in attitude or personality, or periods of hyperactivity or lethargy. The individual may appear paranoid or anxious without reason, or be unable to focus.

Vicodin Addiction Treatment

Because hydrocodone is a narcotic, the risk of addiction is high. This should not prevent an individual with ongoing pain from taking Vicodin, but users should definitely be aware of this reality and prepare accordingly. It is also of note that the withdrawal symptoms from Vicodin can generally be minimized by titrating off the medication slowly, rather than stopping suddenly.

The bottom line is this: addiction is always a risk, and one you must remain vigilant against in every way.

The cost of addiction is too high. If this is where you are right now, the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. We can help you. We can answer your questions. The admission counselors at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can help you learn more about addiction. They can help you find your way.

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