As part of the combination opioid/narcotic/analgesic class of drugs, Vicodin is relatively new to the American market as a pharmaceutical used to treat moderate to severe pain following injury or surgery. But as new as it is to consumers, in the short time it’s been available and prescribed it’s quickly become one of the most abused drugs in the country. In fact, in 2009 and 2010 hydrocodone—the active chemical comprising Vicodin and generic versions of the medication—was the second most frequently reported opioid cited in local, state and federal criminal reports as well as in the illegal trafficking records of the Drug Enforcement Agency.
In terms of Vicodin addiction facts, since its debut 99 percent of Vicodin was consumed within the United States, and as of 2012 it was the most commonly opioid offered by health professionals, with some 142 million prescriptions dispensed. And because the chances for Vicodin addiction are so high given its chemical composition, in 2009 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised that it be removed from the market due to increasingly high likelihoods of overdoses as well as severe liver damage from the drug’s acetaminophen component.
In the most current statistics available addiction researchers and specialists estimate that the abuse rates of Vicodin have quadrupled over the last decade, with more than two million individuals suffering from severe addiction to the drug. Additionally, in 2009 alone it was reported that nearly 16 million Americans 12 and older used prescription Vicodin for a non-medical purpose at least once a year; in 2010 an average of six percent of children 18 and younger abused the drug; and Vicodin addiction costs our country more than $484 billion a year in healthcare, lost job wages, traffic accidents and in the criminal justice system.
Vicodin, like nearly all opioids, works by blocking pain receptors in the brain and, in the process, creating feelings of euphoria and extreme relaxation similar to morphine or even heroin. However, when a tolerance to the active ingredient in Vicodin—Hydrocodone—develops more and more of the drug is required to achieve the same feelings experienced when use first began. And serious Vicodin addicts have been known to take in excess of 25 pills a day in order to achieve the desired effects.
As Vicodin directly affects the central nervous system as a depressant, it naturally decreases heart rate and respiration, raising the chances for a lethal overdose from heart failure or stroke if too much of the drug is taken. And Vicodin is especially dangerous when combined with other drugs such as alcohol, greatly increasing the chances for a life-threatening complication. Additionally, the longer the drug is abused the more negative consequences are likely to be present with the user, including medical issues and problems with familial and social relationships as well as damage to career, financial and legal well-being.