Like other narcotics based on opium, Hydrocodone, causes a feeling of euphoria and a pleasant drowsiness. These properties are outside of the legitimate medical use for pain relief. A semi-synthetic derivative, the substance is found in Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab and other prescription medications.
Because hydrocodone containing medications originate in the pharmaceutical industry, some connection to the legal manufacture and supply chain is necessary. Hydrocodone isn’t made in basements or produced outside the pharmaceutical industry. Called diversion, addicts must find a way to get the drug from legal sources.
- Doctor shopping
- This is the practice of seeing multiple doctors for the same, sometimes legitimate, complaint to get multiple prescriptions for pain medication. Because pharmacies, insurance companies and the DEA are aware of this practice, many addicts will get prescriptions filled for cash and use more than one pharmacy.
- Online clinics
- This involves contacting a mail-order style pharmacy and obtaining the drugs by claiming to have a medical condition. Again, multiple sources may be developed to ensure an uninterrupted supply.
- Direct diversion
- This involves either stealing the drugs from the workplace or from someone who has a legal prescription. Theft by medical or pharmacy personnel is a continuing problem.
- Foreign supply
- Those who live close to a border may obtain drugs where they are less controlled. Mexico is one destination where patients may doctor shop to get a stockpile, either for sale or personal use.
- Once a drug has left the control of legal channels, it can be traded or sold within the drug community. Someone who has a connection for one drug (ie. Vicodin) may trade or sell it to get their preferred substance. The drug using community in any particular area may be a sophisticated network of contacts, suppliers, and users.
Commonly, addicts will hoard their supply. They have either experienced the problems that come with hydrocodone withdrawal or the psychological addiction compels them to maintain a supply. Sometimes this comes at a cost – either monetary or a cost to relationships. For instance, an addict will require enough pills to take when they travel. One of the hydorodone symptoms of addiction is the anxiety that arises, even before a supply runs out, that no more pills will be available when needed. This becomes a great concern, above and beyond the value of the drug to reduce pain. Any suggestion that they may have too many, or be using too often, will result in an exaggerated push-back response.
Often, drug use is discovered because the stash is found by an unsuspecting employer or housemate. Typically, pills will be in an unlabeled bottle or container – or even a pill bottle with mismatched patient information.
Other Hydrocodone addiction symptoms
While using, most addicts will appear normal, although new users may be overly drowsy, inattentive, or ‘stoned’. Because addicts primarily use hydrocodone to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay, their problem is most obvious when either one of two things happen:
- They show signs of hydrocodone withdrawal when they cannot obtain the drug. This could show up as poor work attendance, nausea, irritability, over-sleeping (using sleep to avoid feeling withdrawal symptoms), insomnia (as withdrawal progresses) and an intense craving for the drug. This latter can lead to…
- Inappropriate drug seeking behaviors – out of control and sometimes ridiculous attempts to obtain medications as fast as possible. This may include lying to get early refills (“I accidentally dropped my pills down the toilet.”); stealing other’s prescriptions (even for related drugs); forging prescriptions or calling in bogus refills; faking symptoms to either get a new supply or convince their doctor to increase their dosage, or even making up a medical condition altogether to fool emergency room personnel.
The ultimate consequence of the second track is arrest. This is largely how addiction is identified and treatment is enforced – by the courts subsequent to arrest for possession of narcotics.
photo by Paul Bodea