Vicodin pills contain a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. The pills can be amazing tools in the fight against pain, as the two ingredients work against pain receptors in slightly different ways. While the drug formulation can be powerful, it can also be dangerous. For example, one of these ingredients, hydrocodone, is placed in a class of medications called opioids, and these drugs have proven to be extremely habit-forming.
While the drug might be considered dangerous from an addiction standpoint, it is also remarkably ubiquitous. This is slightly surprising, as Vicodin was originally created for use in moderate to severe pain that didn’t respond to any other form of pain medication. Now, the drug is considered a front-line medication in the fight against mild to moderate pain and often, it’s the primary medication doctors turn to at the first report of pain from patients.
Creating an addictive medication and making it widely available can spell disaster for teens. They are curious creatures, willing to take risks in order to experience sensations they think will be pleasurable or somehow outside the realm of normal life. Teens who experiment with Vicodin run a very real risk of developing an addiction, due to the drug’s strength and the persistent changes it causes within the developing brain.
A Cheap High
Where teens might abuse stimulant medications to stay awake, or depressant medications to help them sleep, they use Vicodin for one main reason: They want to experience a high. It’s a common craving for teens. In fact, according to a website produced by the California Courts, one in five teens abused prescription medications like Vicodin in 2006 in order to get high.
Teens may swallow the pills but if they crush the pills and snort them, they may feel the effects of the drug even faster. As soon as the molecules of the drug hit the mucous membranes of the nose, they can quickly gain access to the bloodstream and then the brain. Once there, the hydrocodone molecules attach to specific opioid receptors in the brain and cause a release of feel-good chemicals. Teens can quickly become addicted to this release of chemicals flooding their brains.
Where Do They Get It?
Teens with an addiction to Vicodin need a steady supply of the drug, and they may need to take incredibly high doses of the drug each and every day. Without this sort of constant exposure, the brain can become convinced that a medical emergency is occurring, and set off a chain reaction of unpleasant symptoms.
Most addicts will do almost anything to keep those symptoms of withdrawal from kicking in.
According to a study highlighted in Medscape, some teens visit doctors in order to refill prescriptions for the drugs they’re addicted to. Amazingly, they seem to be able to gain access to these prescriptions. In this study, at least one teen participant had received 59 prescriptions over a two-year period. Some doctors may truly believe that the teens are in pain, and they may prescribe accordingly, but other doctors seem to be paying little attention to the addictive potential in their patients, and they allow the abuse to continue under their watch. Of the teens included in this study, 63 abused hydrocodone, making it the most popular drug of abuse among this population.
Teens who don’t want to visit the doctor or pay to refill a prescription still have choices. In fact, according to a report produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 70 percent of teens obtained their painkiller of choice from a friend or family member.
They have many ways they can do this, including:
Stealing from the family medicine cabinet
Stealing from medicine cabinets of friends or relatives
Buying Vicodin from enterprising students at school
Buying Vicodin from unscrupulous siblings or cousins
The possibilities truly are endless, as the drug is so widely available. A teen who endures a dental procedure, for example, might be given an entire bottle of Vicodin, and then only need the pills for one or two days. That teen could sell his pills to willing addicts at school, raising extra cash to pay for the things he really wants. This happens more often than most parents would like to admit.
Why Can’t They Stop?
Teens who are addicted to Vicodin may begin to demonstrate a wide variety of unpleasant behaviors. They may:
Lie about their drug use
Steal money or drugs
Withdraw from their friends and family members
Stop attending class
Become secretive and hostile
Seem sleepy and sad, almost all of the time
It can be difficult for parents to watch this sort of change take over the child they love, and they may wonder why the child can’t simply stop using drugs and revert back to the healthy person they once knew. The answer may be similarly difficult to hear. Teens deep in the throes of an addiction have a compulsive need for drugs that they cannot control. They may desperately want to stop using Vicodin, but they may be simply unable to do so. In fact, they may have even tried to stop using Vicodin, and then experienced terrible flu-like symptoms for days or weeks, along with a crushing need to take the drugs again, and this may have pushed the teens back into drug use.
Confronting a teen with evidence of a Vicodin addiction is never easy, but it may be the wisest thing a parent could do. The child may truly need help, and simply be unable to see that anyone else notices the problem, or has a reasonable solution. In other words, ignoring the problem may seem easier, but it may make the problem grow even stronger.
Once you have confronted your child, we’re here to help you take the next step together. At Teen Rehab, we can help the two of you find the right treatment program to address the Vicodin addiction, and ease the problem before it has a chance to grow stronger. Recovery from Vicodin abuse and addiction may be difficult, and it may take a lifetime of work to keep under control, but recovery is possible. Please contact us and take that important first step with your child.
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