Drugs can be beneficial substances at times. Some drugs, like hydrocodone, can provide a user with something they desperately need, like pain relief. However, many drugs are powerful but addictive. This often makes it more likely that a person will abuse a drug and develop an addiction. In many cases, consuming a drug like hydrocodone can even lead a person to a much more dangerous drug like heroin. 


Understanding how hydrocodone use can lead to heroin addiction begins with an understanding of what hydrocodone is, what it is used for, and what drawbacks the drug has. 

What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is a depressant drug typically prescribed in order to treat a person’s severe pain. This substance is an effective pain reliever because it is an opioid. Any opioid drug contains the ingredient opium, a substance that can attach itself to pain receptors and block the signals sent between a person’s brain and body. However, hydrocodone, like other opioid drugs, does not help a person recover from what is causing their pain; it only provides a user with relief from pain.  

Using Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is available to users in the form of an extended-release capsule or an extended-release tablet for a person to take by mouth. Most often, the capsule is consumed every 12 hours while the tablet is consumed once a day. However, a doctor or other medical professional may modify the typical hydrocodone dosage and use directions depending on a patient’s unique needs.  

Side Effects of Hydrocodone

Like nearly any other drug, hydrocodone use can lead to some minor as well as some serious side effects.

The minor side effects of hydrocodone use often include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Muscle tightening 
  • Frequent, difficult, or painful urination
  • Ringing in one’s ears
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Foot, ankle, or leg swelling
  • Uncontrollable shaking 

The serious side effects of hydrocodone use include: 

  • Chest pain
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shivering
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Irregular menstruation 
  • Swelling of eyes, face, lips, tongue, and/or throat
  • Changes in heartbeat
  • Hives

What is Heroin?

Like hydrocodone and other prescription opioids, heroin is a depressant, opioid drug. However, heroin is a significantly more powerful and more addictive drug, which makes it even more effective at relieving pain. Unlike hydrocodone, heroin is produced and distributed illegally. It usually takes the form of an off-white powder or a sticky, black tar-like substance. Heroin can be consumed in a number of ways, but injections are the most common consumption method. 

Effects of Heroin

When consumed, heroin leads a user to experience several significant effects on their body and mind. Like hydrocodone, the opium in heroin blocks pain receptors in the body and interrupts pain signals. However, heroin is also a powerful depressant, so it will slow functions in the brain and body when consumed. This means that heroin abuse can leave a person who consumes it feeling physically and mentally numb. Heroin can also cause a person to experience feelings of euphoria.

What is Heroin Addiction? 

Heroin addiction is a condition that develops in which a person possesses an impaired ability to stop or control their abuse of heroin. However, addiction typically affects every individual differently and has different levels of severity. There are numerous factors that can contribute to the development of heroin addiction. The most important factors include a person’s genetics, perception of illegal drugs, environment, mental health, and if they have abused other substances.

In any case, though, an addiction to a substance like heroin develops over a prolonged period of time. As a person abuses heroin, their body is forced to adapt to the substance’s consistent presence. Eventually, a person’s body becomes physically and mentally dependent on heroin in order to function in everyday life. From this, the brain will slowly restructure itself, making a heroin abuser more likely to engage in addictive behaviors, including abusing heroin. This makes the body more likely to receive the substance it believes it needs.   

How Hydrocodone Use can Lead to Heroin Addiction 

Sadly, using an addictive opioid like hydrocodone can sometimes lead to heroin addiction. There are several reasons why a situation like this may occur, but it is usually due to hydrocodone no longer meeting a user’s needs and expectations. 

Hydrocodone is a beneficial, pain-relieving substance. However, when used over extended periods of time to relieve pain, the body will slowly develop a tolerance. In doing so, hydrocodone will become less effective for a user. Since hydrocodone does not aid in recovery from pain, an individual’s pain may still be bothering or harming them even after hydrocodone becomes less effective. To soothe this pain, a person may choose to consume a stronger and more effective opioid like heroin.

Unfortunately, a change from consuming hydrocodone to heroin is likely to lead to the development of heroin addiction. This is why it is necessary for a person taking an opioid like hydrocodone to consistently communicate with their doctor or other medical professionals to recover as well as relieve their serious pain. A doctor may also be able to provide alternative substances or methods for pain relief when a drug like hydrocodone is losing its effectiveness. This can help a person avoid developing an addiction to heroin.      

Effectively Treating an Addiction

Treating heroin addiction or any other kind of addiction can be challenging. Fortunately, it is possible. Across the United States, there are hundreds of rehabilitation facilities. These facilities offer proven treatments for opioid addiction and often utilize a combination of medications and behavioral therapy to help a person recover from the mental and physical aspects of addiction. Most facilities will also tailor their treatment programs to fit the unique needs of their patients.

Searching for Professional Addiction Treatment?

If you or a loved one is consuming opioids like hydrocodone or living with an opioid and in need of recovery, Knoxville Recovery Center is here to help! Our team of addiction specialists provides our patients with a number of proven and effective addiction treatments. Contact us to learn more today!

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