Lortab Addiction: Risks, Treatment, Recovery

Lortab is a prescription medication commonly prescribed for moderate to severe pain relief. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly 10 million people misused prescription pain relievers in 2020, contributing to the opioid crisis. This alarming number shows how important it is to understand the risks and causes of Lortab addiction.

Lortab addiction poses serious health risks, including respiratory depression, liver damage from excessive acetaminophen, and increased tolerance leading to higher doses. Chronic misuse can result in physical dependence, making it difficult to stop without professional help. Behavioral changes, such as neglecting responsibilities and engaging in risky activities, often accompany addiction.

Treating Lortab addiction involves medical and behavioral therapies. Medications like buprenorphine or methadone can manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings, while counseling and support groups address the psychological aspects of addiction. Recovery is a long-term process requiring ongoing support and lifestyle changes. With the right treatment plan, individuals can overcome addiction and regain control of their lives.

What is Lortab?

Lortab is a prescription drug that combines hydrocodone, an opioid pain reliever, with acetaminophen, a non-opioid pain reliever. The hydrocodone component works by altering the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain, while acetaminophen can reduce fever and enhance the pain-relieving effects of hydrocodone. It is very effective in treating moderate to severe pain which increases its appeal of becoming addictive. 

Hydrocodone was first synthesized in Germany in the early 1920s as part of efforts to create less addictive alternatives to morphine and codeine. It was introduced to the United States in 1943. Acetaminophen, known internationally as paracetamol, was discovered in the late 19th century and became widely used in the mid-20th century.

Lortab, combining these two components, was developed to provide effective pain relief while attempting to minimize the dosage of opioids. The combination was intended to balance efficacy with safety, but due to the high potential for abuse and addiction, hydrocodone combination products like Lortab were reclassified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2014 from Schedule III to Schedule II controlled substances, indicating a higher potential for abuse and stricter prescribing regulations.

The brand name Lortab is now only available as an oral elixir, which contains 10 mg of hydrocodone and 300 mg of acetaminophen per 15 mL. The tablet forms of Lortab are no longer sold under the brand name; instead, they are available as generic drugs. These generic tablets come in the following strengths:

  • Hydrocodone 5 mg, acetaminophen 325 mg
  • Hydrocodone 7.5 mg, acetaminophen 325 mg
  • Hydrocodone 10 mg, acetaminophen 325 mg

When taken in larger doses, this semi-synthetic opioid acts similarly to OxyContin which produces a euphoric high in users.

Lortab is known by several other names, primarily in its generic form or other brand names that contain similar active ingredients. According to Drugs.com and the Mayo Clinic, other names for Lortab include:

  • Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen: The generic name for Lortab.
  • Vicodin: Another brand name containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen.
  • Lorcet: A former brand name that also included hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

What Causes Lortab Addiction? 

Lortab works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, altering the perception of pain and producing a sense of euphoria. This euphoric effect leads to misuse, as individuals take higher doses than prescribed to achieve the same feeling. Over time, the body develops a tolerance to the drug, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effects, increasing the risk of addiction. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2019, approximately 1.6 million people in the United States had an opioid use disorder related to prescription pain relievers like Lortab thus showing the need for awareness with these types of medications. 

Here are 3 Factors Contributing to Lortab Addiction:

  1. Prescription Misuse: One of the primary factors leading to Lortab addiction is the misuse of prescriptions. Patients take the medication more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed, seeking pain relief or the euphoric effects of the drug. This misuse will quickly lead to dependence and addiction.
  2. Self-Medication: Individuals suffering from chronic pain, anxiety, or other mental health conditions self-medicate with Lortab, using it without medical guidance. This will lead to a cycle of misuse and increased tolerance, ultimately resulting in addiction.
  3. Prolonged Use: Long-term use of Lortab, even when taken as prescribed, leads to physical dependence. As the body adapts to the presence of the drug, stopping or reducing the dosage can cause withdrawal symptoms, prompting continued use and increasing the risk of addiction.

What are the Signs of Lortab Addiction?

Lortab addiction manifests through a range of physical, behavioral, and psychological symptoms. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 1.7 million people aged 12 or older had a pain reliever use disorder, which includes medications like Lortab. Recognizing the signs of Lortab addiction is important for early intervention and to avoid long-term addiction problems.

The Signs of Lortab Addiction

What are the Physical Symptoms of Lortab Addiction?

  1. Increased Tolerance: Needing higher doses of Lortab to achieve the same pain relief or euphoric effects.
  2. Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sweating, shaking, and anxiety when not using Lortab.
  3. Drowsiness: Excessive sleepiness or sedation, often beyond what is typical for the prescribed dosage.
  4. Constipation: Persistent constipation, a common side effect of opioid use.
  5. Respiratory Issues: Slow or shallow breathing, which can be dangerous and indicate overdose.

What are the Behavioral Changes Associated With Lortab Addiction?

  1. Doctor Shopping: Visiting multiple doctors to obtain additional prescriptions for Lortab.
  2. Neglecting Responsibilities: Ignoring personal, professional, or academic responsibilities due to Lortab use.
  3. Secrecy: Hiding Lortab use from family and friends, or being secretive about activities and whereabouts.
  4. Financial Problems: Spending significant amounts of money to obtain Lortab, possibly leading to financial issues.
  5. Social Withdrawal: Isolating from friends and family, losing interest in hobbies and social activities.

What are the Psychological Signs of Lortab Addiction?

  1. Obsessive Thoughts: Constantly thinking about obtaining and using Lortab.
  2. Mood Swings: Experiencing rapid and unpredictable changes in mood, including periods of depression or anxiety.
  3. Irritability: Becoming easily annoyed or angered, especially when access to Lortab is limited.
  4. Anxiety and Paranoia: Feeling anxious or paranoid, particularly about running out of medication.
  5. Lack of Control: Inability to stop using Lortab despite wanting to quit or recognizing its harmful effects.

What are the Risks of Lortab Addiction?

Lortab addiction carries significant risks that impact both short-term and long-term health. These risks include immediate dangers such as overdose and respiratory depression, as well as long-term consequences like liver damage, and heightened vulnerability to other substance interactions. 

According to the CDC, here is data on the misuse rates and overdose deaths for different opioids in the United States in 2021:

  • Prescription Opioids (e.g., Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen, Oxycodone): 3.45% of the population misused these medications, and they were involved in 24.3% of opioid overdose deaths.
  • Heroin: 0.28% of the population reported using heroin, which was involved in 32.4% of opioid overdose deaths.
  • Synthetic Opioids (e.g., Fentanyl): 0.3% of the population reported misusing fentanyl but it was involved in 75.1% of opioid overdose deaths.

This showcases that although overdose rates were lower with prescription opioids, the misuse of the drug is much higher than those rates of heroin and fentanyl.

What are the Short-Term Risks of Lortab Addiction?

  • Overdose: One of the most immediate and life-threatening risks of Lortab addiction is overdose. Signs of overdose include severe respiratory depression, extreme drowsiness, pinpoint pupils, and loss of consciousness. Overdose can be fatal if not treated promptly.
  • Respiratory Depression: Lortab can significantly slow down breathing, which can be dangerous and potentially fatal, especially at high doses or when mixed with other depressants.
  • Impaired Judgment and Coordination: Use of Lortab can lead to dizziness, confusion, and impaired motor skills, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.

What are the Long-Term Risks of Lortab Addiction?

  • Physical Dependence and Withdrawal: Long-term use of Lortab can lead to physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms, such as muscle aches, insomnia, agitation, and gastrointestinal distress, can occur if the drug is suddenly discontinued.
  • Liver Damage: Chronic use of Lortab, which contains acetaminophen, can cause severe liver damage, especially when taken in higher doses than prescribed or combined with alcohol.
  • Tolerance and Increased Dosage: Over time, the body builds a tolerance to Lortab, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effects. This increases the risk of overdose and other health complications.

What are the Dangers of Mixing Lortab with Other Substances?

Dangers of Mixing Lortab with Other Substances

What Happens when Mixing Alcohol and Lortab?

Combining Lortab with alcohol can enhance the sedative effects, leading to severe respiratory depression, liver damage, and an increased risk of overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over half of the 4.2 million Americans who misuse prescription opioids also engage in binge drinking, highlighting the substantial risk of mixing these substances.

What is the Interaction of Lortab with Benzodiazepines?

Mixing Lortab with benzodiazepines (such as Valium or Xanax) can amplify the depressant effects on the central nervous system, increasing the risk of severe respiratory depression, coma, and death. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that in 2021, nearly 14% of overdose deaths involving opioids also involved benzodiazepines. This co-use can cause significant impairment in cognitive and motor functions, making it a highly dangerous combination.

Is it Dangerous to Combine Lortab with Other Opioids?

Using Lortab with other opioids can exponentially increase the risk of overdose due to the compounded effects on the brain’s opioid receptors. According to Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, who collaborated with the FDA to issue the new warning, nearly one in three unintentional overdose deaths from prescription opioids also involve benzodiazepines.

What are Comprehensive Treatment Options for Lortab Addiction?

Treatment for Lortab is available and includes an array of different methods from medically assisted detox to holistic therapeutic approaches. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2021, an estimated 2.5 million people in the U.S. aged 18 or older had opioid use disorder, including those related to prescription opioids like Lortab. However, only 22% of these individuals received medications to treat their condition​. Effective treatment for Lortab addiction involves a combination of approaches tailored to the individual’s needs.

Medically-Assisted Detox

Medically-assisted detoxification is the first step in treatment, helping to manage withdrawal symptoms safely under professional supervision. This process often involves medications such as buprenorphine or methadone to reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient Rehab Programs

Inpatient rehab programs provide a structured environment where individuals can focus entirely on their recovery. These programs offer intensive therapy, medical care, and support, removing individuals from environments that may trigger substance use.

Outpatient Support and Counseling

Outpatient programs offer flexibility, allowing individuals to receive treatment while maintaining their daily responsibilities. These programs typically include individual counseling, group therapy, and educational sessions about addiction and recovery.

Behavioral Therapies and Support Groups

Behavioral therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI), address the psychological aspects of addiction. Support groups, like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide a community of peers who share similar experiences, offering mutual support and accountability.

How Can I Navigate Lortab Withdrawal and Detox?

Navigating withdrawal and detoxification from Lortab can be challenging, but it is a crucial first step in overcoming addiction. Understanding common withdrawal symptoms and the importance of medically supervised detoxification can help individuals manage this process safely and effectively.

Withdrawal from Lortab, a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, can cause a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the duration and intensity of Lortab use.

Physical SymptomsPsychological Symptoms
Muscle aches and painsAnxiety and agitation
Sweating and chillsIrritability
Nausea and vomitingDepression
DiarrheaIntense cravings for Lortab
Insomnia and restless sleepMood swings
Dilated pupilsDifficulty concentrating
Increased heart rate and blood pressure

Medically supervised detoxification is essential for managing Lortab withdrawal safely by monitoring vital signs and managing severe withdrawal symptoms, which are life-threatening if not properly addressed. Medications such as buprenorphine or methadone are prescribed to alleviate symptoms and reduce cravings. Emotional support is provided by counselors and support staff, helping individuals cope during this challenging time. 

A supervised detox program offers a structured environment that minimizes the risk of relapse by providing a safe space free from triggers. Detoxification is the first step in treatment, facilitating a smooth transition into comprehensive addiction programs that address the root causes of addiction and promote long-term recovery. With the right medical support and resources, individuals can successfully begin their journey to recovery.

What Happens After Rehab from Lortab Addiction?

Successfully completing a rehab program for Lortab addiction is a significant achievement, but it is just the beginning of the recovery journey. Post-treatment strategies are necessary for preventing relapse and maintaining long-term sobriety. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), relapse rates for substance use disorders are between 40% to 60%, similar to those of other chronic diseases like hypertension and asthma​. Therefore, a comprehensive aftercare plan is essential.

What are the Steps in the Recovery Process?

  1. Post-Treatment Counseling: Continuing therapy after rehab helps address underlying issues that contributed to addiction. Individual and group counseling can provide ongoing support and accountability.
  2. Support Groups: Joining support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or other 12-step programs can offer a sense of community and shared experiences. These groups provide a network of peers who understand the challenges of recovery.
  3. Lifestyle Adjustments: Adopting a healthy lifestyle is critical. This includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and stress management techniques. Engaging in hobbies and activities that do not involve substance use can also be beneficial.
  4. Regular Monitoring and Check-Ins: Regular check-ins with healthcare providers and therapists can help track progress and address any issues early. Monitoring can include drug tests and mental health assessments to ensure ongoing recovery.

What is the Importance of Aftercare Services?

Aftercare is a component of the addiction recovery process, providing ongoing support to individuals transitioning from intensive treatment to everyday life. It helps prevent relapse by offering continuous emotional and psychological support, which is essential given the chronic nature of addiction. Aftercare programs often include therapy, counseling, support groups, and sometimes medication management, all tailored to address the unique challenges faced during long-term recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), aftercare significantly increases the chances of sustained sobriety by helping individuals develop coping strategies, build a supportive network, and manage triggers and stressors effectively. This ongoing support not only promotes lasting recovery but also improves overall quality of life, reducing the risk of returning to substance use

How to Support a Loved One with Lortab Addiction?

Supporting a loved one with Lortab addiction involves recognizing the signs of addiction, providing compassionate support, and encouraging professional treatment. Begin by educating yourself about Lortab addiction, its effects, and available treatment options. This knowledge will enable you to understand what your loved one is experiencing and how best to support them. Open communication is vital, create a safe and non-judgmental space for your loved one to talk about their struggles. Use “I” statements to express your concerns without blaming or criticizing them.

Encourage your loved one to seek professional help, offering assistance with finding treatment programs or accompanying them to appointments. Set clear boundaries to protect your well-being and avoiding enabling behaviors such as providing money or covering up for their addiction-related issues are essential steps​. Offering practical support, like helping with daily tasks, can also allow your loved one to focus more on their recovery.

What are Signs of A Lortab Overdose?

Signs of Lortab overdose include extreme drowsiness, slow or difficult breathing, severe muscle weakness, cold and clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, fainting, or coma. Overdose can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. The combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen can lead to severe respiratory depression and liver damage.

What are the Street Names for Lortab?

Lortab is often referred to by various street names. According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), common street names for Lortab include:

  • Vike
  • Watson-387
  • Norco
  • Hydros
  • Tabs

How Long does Lortab Stay in Your System?

Lortab is detected in the body for varying durations depending on the type of test. Hydrocodone, the active opioid in Lortab, can be detected in urine for up to 3-4 days, in blood for up to 24 hours, and in hair for up to 90 days. The duration can vary based on individual factors such as metabolism, age, liver function, and dosage.

What is the Difference Between Lortab (Vicodin) and Percocet?

Lortab (Vicodin) and Percocet are both prescription pain medications but differ in their composition. Lortab (Vicodin) combines hydrocodone with acetaminophen, while Percocet combines oxycodone with acetaminophen. Hydrocodone and oxycodone are both opioids, but oxycodone is generally considered more potent. Both medications are used to treat moderate to severe pain but have different potency levels and potential side effects.

How Does Lortab Addiction Impact Mental Health?

Lortab addiction significantly impacts mental health, leading to conditions such as depression, anxiety, and mood swings. According to the American Psychological Association, prolonged use can alter brain chemistry, resulting in heightened psychological dependence and emotional instability. These mental health issues often exacerbate the challenges of overcoming addiction.

Treating the mental health aspects of addiction typically requires a comprehensive approach, including counseling and support available through residential rehab. Similar to treating Ativan addiction, addressing both the psychological and physical aspects is crucial for successful recovery.

The Grove Editorial Team is a dynamic group of professionals at The Grove, a leading addiction treatment center in Indianapolis, Indiana. Comprising experienced therapists, medical experts, and dedicated support staff, this team brings a wealth of knowledge and compassionate insight into the complexities of addiction and recovery. Their collective expertise shines through in each article, offering readers valuable guidance, the latest in addiction science, and inspiring stories of healing and transformation. The Grove Editorial Team is committed to educating, supporting, and empowering individuals and families on their journey toward a healthier, substance-free life.

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