Hydrocodone is a medication that is often prescribed to patients who are experiencing pain or in need of a cough suppressant. Unfortunately, since it is an opiate, individuals can become addicted to the substance. Here are some details about the medication that will help you decide if it is safe.

What are Opiates?

Opiates, the group in which hydrocodone belong, alters the way the nervous system and brain respond to pain and discomfort. The part of the brain that prompts a person to cough is also soothed by hydrocodone, which is why the medicine is prescribed to people with colds, the flu or whooping cough.

Because the medicine actually changes the activity of the brain, it should only be prescribed by a doctor. It is often prescribed with another medication for maximum pain relief and to avoid dependence on the medication. Hydrocodone should be administered cautiously to children, and children under the age of 6 should not use the medication, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.

How to Take

The medication can be administered in tablet form, a syrup, capsule, clear liquid or extended release capsule. A long-acting liquid of hydrocodone is also available. Hydrocodone should be taken every 4 to 6 hours, as needed; however, extended-release forms of the medicine can be taken every 12 hours; the tablets should be taken whole, without being chewed or crushed. When you’re prescribed hydrocodone, it’s best to take the medicine at the same time each day.

It’s not safe to decrease your hydrocodone dosage yourself-talk to your doctor if you feel you need less of the medication. Also, don’t ever take more of it than prescribed. Remember, the medication can be habit-forming. If you are starting to develop an intense desire to take the medication, contact your doctor immediately.


If you have an allergy to it, be sure to share this with your doctor. Other pain-relieving medicines like codeine or morphine, are often included in hydrocodone, so tell your doctor if you have allergies to any of these medications.

If you’re taking antidepressants, medicine for irritable bowel syndrome, allergy medicines, vitamins or supplements, share this information with your physician. These medications can all interfere with how well your body reacts to it.

Hydrocodone may not be safe for women who are pregnant or nursing. If you become pregnant while you’re taking it, notify your doctor right away.

Side Effects

Although it is effective for relieving pain, it is not without side effects. If you have any harmful symptoms that don’t subside or are very severe, it’s important to seek medical attention. Side effects include:

  • Fuzzy or cloudy thinking
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • A prolonged, abnormal feeling of sadness
  • Trouble urinating
  • Rash and itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Pupil narrowing
  • Tightening of the chest
  • Delayed or abnormal breathing

Storing and Disposal

Always keep hydrocodone in the container it was prescribed in. The bottle should always be closed tightly. Hydrocodone should be kept in a room that doesn’t become too hot or humid, so putting it in the bathroom medicine cabinet is not safe. It’s best to store the medicine in a place where your children won’t be able to reach it. You should be the only one with constant access to the medication, as you don’t want to place it anywhere that family members would mistake it for aspirin or ibuprofen and start taking it regularly, as hydrocodone can be addictive. When you need to dispose of the medication, ask your pharmacist for specific instructions.


Hydrocodone and any of the medications you’re prescribed that contain it are controlled substances. This means that you should only take the medication under the supervision of a doctor.

According to the Narconon International website, around five million people abuse painkillers every year in the U.S. The addiction inhibits the brain’s ability to stop taking the medication once the pain goes away. Some people may even start buying the pills illegally, or going to various doctors to get prescriptions for hydrocodone.

There are several symptoms associated with addiction to hydrocodone, in addition to the side effects listed above. Prolonged sleeping and waking up groggy and tired is a sign of hydrocodone addiction. If the skin turns blue or is clammy and cold, this could indicate a dependence on hydrocodone as well. Seizures, loss of consciousness, and even death can result from abusing it.

If you or someone who know has developed a dependence on hydrocodone, it’s very important to get help right away. Contact a drug counselor in your area, and call 911 if a friend or loved one stops breathing or is having a seizure as a result of taking the medication.

While hydrocodone can be a very beneficial medication for relieving pain, it should always be used with extreme caution.