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What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is classified as a moderate pain reliever and is among the group of "narcotic" analgesics. Its combination with acetaminophen in certain medications enhances its overall effect and may be used to treat moderate to severe pain. It may also be used to treat cough in some cases.

How does Hydrocodone Work?

Hydrocodone is an opiate (narcotic) derived from codeine. This drug changes the way the brain and nervous system interpret and react to pain, thus reducing its severity. Hydrocodone provides relief from cough by selectively decreasing the activity of that part of the brain which causes coughing.

What are the Side-effects of Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an FDA approved drug. It has good tolerance but like all other drugs, Hydrocodone may also cause certain side-effects. Other than physiological and psychological drug dependence, common side effects include:

  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Anxiety, dizziness, lightheadedness, or drowsiness
  • Dry throat, constipation, or urinary retention
  • Abnormal mood fluctuations
  • Rash & itching
  • Narrowing of the pupils

Not very often, but Hydrocodone may also cause some serious side-effects like irregular breathing or feeling of tightness in the chest. In such cases, the drug should be immediately stopped and medical attention should be sought.

Can Hydrocodone Cause Liver Damage?

The answer is yes. Hydrocodone is not prescribed alone; it is usually coupled with acetaminophen, which is essentially metabolized in the liver and converted to inactive forms. However, minor quantities may pass through several pathways and be converted into such metabolites that are involved in hepatotoxicity or methemoglobinemia. Thus, chronic use of Hydrocodone may cause individuals to develop an increased risk of hepatic impairment, which may even result in liver failure and death. Other more serious complications include reactive plasmacytosis and leukemoid reaction.

Hydrocodone should be prescribed cautiously to individuals who are suffering from hepatic insufficiency. Hepatic functions should be clinically monitored in any individual who is taking Hydrocodone.

Furthermore, patients with a history of liver disease or alcohol/drug abuse must use Hydrocodone only if specifically prescribed and after complete hepatic profiling. Individuals should be instructed not to consume alcohol while taking drugs containing Hydrocodone-acetaminophen. Only the recommended dosage must be taken, since an overdose may lead to the development of drug-dependence and hepatic problems.

Who Should Not Use Hydrocodone?

In case of any of the following conditions, Hydrocodone should not be used as a pain or cough reliever:

  • Allergic to acetaminophen or Hydrocodone
  • History of drug or alcohol abuse; since Hydrocodone and acetaminophen may be habit-forming
  • History of thyroid, adrenal gland, liver, kidney, or lung disease
  • Prior head injury or intestinal disorders like IBD
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pregnancy and lactation (may cause breathing difficulties and/or withdrawal symptoms in new-born)
  • Parkinson's disease or seizures
  • Urinary problems or Urethral stricture (narrowing of the urethra)
  • Prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement of prostate gland in males)
  • Glaucoma

Hydrocodone with other drugs

There are certain medications that should not be taken while taking Hydrocodone. This is because taking two drugs at the same time may result in undesired effects. The drugs that are not supposed to be taken together with Hydrocodone include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Antidepressants (MAO inhibitors, SSRIs, etc.)
  • Antipsychotics
  • Sleeping pills (Sedatives)
  • Mood stabilizers

Doctors are concerned about their patient's health more than the patient himself. A doctor would only prescribe Hydrocodone to a patient if benefits of the drug outweigh adverse effects caused by that drug. While prescribing, doctor always calculates the correct dosage for you. If you keep taking the drug according to your doctor's prescription, it is very unlikely for the side effects to appear.

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