Vicodin was a prescription medication commonly used in the treatment of pain. It contains two active ingredients: hydrocodone and acetaminophen, which work together to reduce the intensity of pain and provide relief for patients.

Hydrocodone is an opioid — as such, Vicodin is commonly used as a recreational substance due to its ability to produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria.

Vicodin’s Medical Usage

Vicodin was commonly prescribed for people experiencing moderate to severe pain. As an opioid, it carried a significant risk of addiction if used for extended periods. This means that Vicodin is a controlled substance in the United States and was typically prescribed in limited amounts. Although it is no longer a marketed product in the United States, there are still remaining prescriptions out there.

This pain reliever came in varying strengths and formulations. Different forms of Vicodin have different amounts of its active ingredients, which are listed in milligrams. The dosage of hydrocodone is always listed first, followed by the dosage of acetaminophen. Different formulations include:

  • Vicodin: 5 mg / 300 mg
  • Vicodin ES: 7.5 mg / 300 mg
  • Vicodin HP: 10 mg / 300 mg
The generic form of Vicodin is sold as hydrocodone/acetaminophen. Generic Vicodin also comes in different dosages of the active ingredients.

Hydrocodone/acetaminophen pain relievers are also sold under the brand names Norco, Lorcet, and Zamicet.

Vicodin’s Drug Action

As a combination drug, Vicodin has two distinct mechanisms of action. Hydrocodone, as an opioid, helps to relieve pain by latching on to opioid receptors in the brain. When a pain signal is sent from the body to the brain, hydrocodone can block part of the signal from getting through, providing significant relief.

The drug action of acetaminophen is less well understood, but scientists believe that it generally increases a person’s pain threshold. The pain threshold is the minimum point that somebody will begin to feel pain as a result of pressure, heat, or injury. When this threshold is higher, one’s subjective experience of pain diminishes.

Recreational Vicodin Use

Hydrocodone is the ingredient within Vicodin that is usually sought out for recreational use. This opioid has very similar effects to other drugs like heroin, morphine, and codeine. It produces several effects that people find pleasurable:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Pain relief
  • Relaxed inhibitions
  • A sense of well-being
However, using Vicodin recreationally is risky. Hydrocodone has a high potential for abuse, and regular Vicodin use puts people in danger of experiencing many harmful side effects.

Vicodin Dangers and Risks

Using Vicodin for any reason, whether medical or recreational, has potential dangers and consequences. Vicodin dangers are further increased if someone uses this drug in combination with other medications, has a family history of substance abuse, or has a co-occurring mental illness.

Before taking Vicodin, it is important to be aware of these potential side effects and learn how they can be avoided or mitigated.

Side Effects of Vicodin

The side effects of Vicodin can range from minor discomfort to severe medical complications. Some of the more common side effects of Vicodin include:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
These side effects aren’t necessarily a cause for concern and are to be expected to some degree — especially if you’re taking Vicodin for the first time. Significant discomfort can occur while taking this drug, but as with any medication, should only be taken as prescribed by a doctor.

Severe side effects of Vicodin include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rash
If you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking Vicodin immediately and reach out to your medical provider. These effects could indicate an allergic reaction or particular drug sensitivity, making this medication unsafe to use.

The last notable side effect of Vicodin is its potential to cause damage to the liver. This is particularly of concern for people who take high doses of Vicodin for extended periods. Liver damage is caused by the acetaminophen contained within Vicodin pills.

Taking more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen a day places undue stress on the liver and may result in permanent damage.

When taking Vicodin, it’s important to monitor your daily acetaminophen intake. This drug is also found in several other medications, including over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol and Excedrin. Exceeding the daily limit puts people at risk of liver damage that cannot be cured.

Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin has a high potential for addiction, primarily due to the opioid hydrocodone in the medication. Addiction can occur even when Vicodin is taken as prescribed, but the risk of developing a substance use disorder increases if someone takes higher doses of Vicodin, mixes Vicodin with other drugs, or takes Vicodin for extended periods of time.

The consequences of a substance use disorder can be devastating. Addiction creates lasting changes in the brain that make it hard to cut down or stop Vicodin use, causes a loss of interest in other activities, and can lead to job and relationship loss.

People who have become addicted to Vicodin will often need the support of professional addiction treatment services in order to recover.

Vicodin Overdose

The last danger of Vicodin use is the potential for overdose. Vicodin overdose can occur when someone takes too much Vicodin at once or combines Vicodin with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines. Below are the signs of Vicodin overdose:

  • Blue lips and fingers
  • Minimal consciousness or lost consciousness
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Vomiting
If you suspect somebody has overdosed on Vicodin, call emergency medical services immediately. If available, the drug naloxone (also sold under the brand name Narcan) can reverse an opioid overdose: administer this drug per its instructions immediately and repeatedly until paramedics arrive.

Vicodin overdose can be fatal, but emergency medical treatment may be able to save the person’s life if they arrive in time.

Street Value of Vicodin

The street price of Vicodin varies significantly throughout the United States. Using the RADARS System, StreetRx combines anonymous, crowdsourced data on Vicodin prices to help people determine the street value of Vicodin in their area.

The street price of Vicodin depends primarily on the dosage of hydrocodone that each pill contains, and prices per milligram of hydrocodone range between $0.50 and $1.50. That means a 5 mg / 300 mg Vicodin pill can cost between $2.50 and $7.50, with a $5.00 cost being about average.

If you’ve seen new Vicodin prices in your area, contribute to the StreetRx program by anonymously providing information on the dosage and cost.

NIH: Opioid Information