Vicodin is one of the most widely prescribed prescription drug painkillers in the country, with 131 million doses prescribed in 2011. Unfortunately, many of these prescriptions are unnecessary, and they are producing an abundance of people suffering from Vicodin addiction. Consider this scenario, which plays out in one version or another on any given day in the U.S.

A waiter spills boiling water on his hand and heads to the emergency room for medical attention. Upon waiting to be seen by the doctor, the pain starts to subside. The burn doesn’t look so severe – surely nothing a little ice, antibiotic ointment and a gauze pad can’t cure. “Are you in pain?” the doctor asks. Yes, of course, there’s a little pain, but the waiter says it’s not too bad. The doctor bandages the wound up and writes a prescription for 50 Vicodin, the brand name for the mixture of acetaminophen and the opiate drug hydrocodone. The waiter doesn’t protest; he was expecting some prescription-strength Motrin, but this is his lucky day…

Or so he thinks. What he doesn’t know is that he’s about to become addicted to Vicodin.

Among Prescribed Opiates, Vicodin is King in the US

Painkiller addiction is a huge health problem in America, and Vicodin abuse plays a very large role. The United States accounts for about five percent of the world’s population, but it consumes around 80 percent of the world’s opium-based medicine. A staggering 99 percent of the hydrocodone on the entire planet is taken in the US.

Like an opioid, Vicodin can easily cause drug addiction. Side effects of Vicodin use (as well as Vicodin abuse effects) include:

  • Shallow breathing, slow heartbeat
  • Feeling light-headed, fainting
  • Confusion, fear, unusual thoughts or behavior
  • Seizure (convulsions)
  • Problems with urination
  • Nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

That’s a fairly terrifying list, which begs the question: why is it so freely prescribed?

“Vicodin is the most prescribed opioid mainly because it’s been incorrectly scheduled as a class III rather than a [class] II,” explains Andrew Kolodny, Chair of Psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, in an interview with ABC News. “Many states have prescribing regulations linked to DEA scheduling. But it is no less abuse-able or addictive than Oxycodone or heroin.”

His Biggest Victory was Getting Help for his Addiction

Image credit: Cliff1066 (Flickr)

One of the most famous cases of Vicodin addiction was the ordeal of former NFL quarterback Brett Favre. He became addicted to Vicodin in order to handle the substantial pains that come with playing a violent sport like football. However, his Vicodin abuse blossomed after the pain was gone, and Vicodin abuse effects soon became a huge problem for him.

Before long, he was popping as many as thirteen pills in one day. He was cajoling other teammates into giving him their pills. Then came the day when he had a very serious seizure–one of the most serious side effects of Vicodin abuse–that almost killed him. Luckily, the NFL has a good drug treatment program, and Favre began the process of Vicodin detox. He voluntarily admitted himself into the NFL substance abuse program in 1996.

Congress, FDA Make Moves to Reclassify Vicodin

Despite all of this doom and gloom, there is good news on the horizon. A bipartisan group of US congressmen is demanding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “act without delay” by restricting access to Vicodin and other hydrocodone products. In January 2013, an advisory panel to the FDA voted to reclassify hydrocodone products to a Schedule II drug, which will make it more difficult for clients to obtain and get refills for Vicodin.

For those who are suffering from Vicodin abuse effects, take a page out of Brett Favre’s playbook. Cornerstone Recovery Center, a drug treatment center in Fort Lauderdale, FL, has experienced counselors who can help clients get their lives back together. For more information about Cornerstone Recovery’s drug treatment services and programs, call 888-711-0354 or submit an online inquiry.