Vicodin Drug Facts
Vicodin is a narcotic that can produce a calm, euphoric state similar to heroin or morphine–and despite such important and obvious benefits in pain relief, evidence is pointing to chronic addiction. Pure hydrocodone, the narcotic in Vicodin, is a Schedule II substance, closely controlled with restricted use. But very few prescription drugs are pure hydrocodone. Instead, small amounts of are mixed with other non-narcotic ingredients to create medicines like Vicodin and Lortab. This means they can be classified under Schedule III with fewer restrictions on their use and distribution.
Vicodin addiction is a growing crisis in the United States. While illegal drugs like cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin remain in the headlines many individuals may be surprised to know that Vicodin addiction could lurk right behind them as one of the most widely-abused drugs of addiction. In fact, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration believes Vicodin may be the most abused prescription drug in the country. Nationwide, its use has quadrupled in the last ten years, while emergency room visits attributed to Vicodin abuse soared 500 percent.
Subject to individual tolerance, many medical experts believe dependence or addiction can occur within one to four weeks at higher doses of Vicodin. Published reports of high profile movie stars, TV personalities and professional athletes who are recovering from Vicodin addiction are grim testimony to its debilitating effects.
Vicodin (one of more than 200 products that contain hydrocodone) is regulated by state and federal law, but it is not controlled as closely as other powerful painkillers. The lack of regulation makes them vulnerable to widespread abuse and addiction through forged prescriptions, theft, over-prescription, and “doctor shopping.” Vicodin pills have been sold for $2 to $10 per tablet and $20 to $40 per 8 oz bottle on the street.
Vicodin is structurally related to Codeine and is approximately equal in strength to morphine in producing opiate-like effects. The first report that Vicodin produced a noticeable euphoria and symptoms of addiction was published in 1923; the first report of Vicodin addiction in the U.S. was published in 1961.
Every age group has been affected by the relative ease of Vicodin availability and the perceived safety of these products by professionals. Sometimes seen as a “white-collar” addiction, Vicodin abuse has increased among all ethnic and economic groups. DAWN data demographics suggest that the most likely Vicodin abuser is a 20-40 yr old, white, female, who uses the drug because she is dependent or trying to commit suicide. However, Vicodin-related deaths have been reported from every age grouping.
Examples of how severe Vicodin addiction has become:
- An estimated 7 million dosage units were diverted in 1994 and over 11 million in 1997.
- In 1998 physicians were writing over 56 million new prescriptions for hydrocodone products like Vicodin and by 2000 over 89 million were written.
- From 1990 the average consumption nationwide has increased by 300%. In the same period there has been a 500% increase in the number of Emergency Department visits attributed to Vicodin abuse with 19,221 visits estimated in 2000.
In 1997, there were over 1.3 million Vicodin tablets seized and analyzed by the DEA laboratory system.
Source: National Institute on Drug Addiction
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