Is Hydrocodone an Opiate?

image of pills

Hydrocodone is an opiate that presents a high risk of abuse and addiction. Commonly prescribed for the short term management of pain, hydrocodone can cause dependence even when used as prescribed.

Share This Post

If you turned on the news any time in the first two decades of the 21st century, there’s a good chance you heard a story about the opioid abuse epidemic gripping the United States.

Between 1999 and 2018, more than 450,000 people died of an opioid overdose, including opioids obtained by prescription and via illicit channels.

Medications like hydrocodone, which have a legitimate medical purpose, can present a high risk of abuse and addiction even when used properly.

If you’re concerned about hydrocodone use in yourself or a loved one, we have compiled all of the addiction and abuse information you need to know.

Is hydrocodone an opiate?

Hydrocodone is an opioid drug that belongs to a class of medications called narcotic analgesics. Narcotic analgesics work by binding to protein receptors in the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, called opioid receptors.

Drugs like hydrocodone intercept pain signals heading to the brain and alter your perception of pain and your body’s response to pain.

As a result, drugs like hydrocodone are primarily used for the treatment of short-term pain, including pain that may occur after an acute injury, such as a broken bone, or during recovery from surgery.

Hydrocodone is sold as a prescription in a pure form under the brand names Hysingla ER and Zohydro ER. In its pure form, hydrocodone is considered a Schedule II controlled drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

More commonly, it is combined with other medications and sold under a wide variety of brand names, including Norco, Lortab, and Vicodin.

Hydrocodone is one of the most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers and is generally intended for short-term treatment of moderate to severe pain.

Opioids like hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone can also be used to treat chronic pain. Other opioid pain medications with a high risk of addiction include fentanyl (Duragesic), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and oxycodone (OxyContin).

Why do people become addicted to hydrocodone?

Addictions to hydrocodone most commonly occur when a person starts out taking the drug for a legitimate medical purpose, such as short-term pain management.

Patients become reliant on the medication and start taking more and more of the drug in order to achieve a euphoric “high” from the drug after their pain subsides.

Therefore, patients should only use hydrocodone for a short time and only in the amount prescribed, as using the drug for longer than prescribed or at a higher dose than prescribed increases the risk of dependence. 

The longer you take hydrocodone, the more likely you are to build a tolerance to the drug and become addicted to the medication.

When patients build up a tolerance to hydrocodone, they need more of the drug in order to achieve the same effects.

What are the signs of hydrocodone abuse?

Substance abuse disorder is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) based on the appearance of 11 different symptoms.

Behavioral, psychological, and physical symptoms all play a role in indicating a possible substance abuse disorder. In the case of hydrocodone, the disorder is classified as opioid use disorder. 

Patients must demonstrate at least two of the 11 symptoms of the disorder within a one-year period of time in order to be considered as having a substance abuse disorder.

Depending on the number of symptoms present, the opioid use disorder can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of opioid use disorder of hydrocodone include:

  • A strong desire to stop taking hydrocodone with an inability to decrease the use of the drug
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining hydrocodone, using the drug, and recovering from the use of the drug 
  • Continued use of hydrocodone despite the abuse of the drug causing problems in relationships or social settings
  • Neglecting priorities such as work, school, family, and friends in order to use hydrocodone 
  • Strong cravings or urges to take hydrocodone
  • Taking a higher dose or higher volume of the drug or using hydrocodone for a longer period of time than the medication is prescribed
  • Being unable to carry out daily tasks and responsibilities as a result of hydrocodone use
  • Continued use of hydrocodone even when use of the drug is causing a physical or psychological problem or making a physical or psychological problem worse
  • Continued use of hydrocodone even after becoming involved in dangerous situations while using the drug, such as having risky sex, driving under the influence, or other concerning behaviors
  • Developing a tolerance to hydrocodone and needing to use more of the drug to achieve the same effects
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped abruptly or slowly decreased over time

What are the signs of hydrocodone addiction?

Like all opioids, hydrocodone is associated with a significant risk of addiction, particularly in people who have previously struggled with substance abuse. Early signs of hydrocodone use include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness

 Hydrocodone abuse has been associated with the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Seizures 
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle discomfort
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slow heart rate

In addition to the symptoms listed above, people who are abusing hydrocodone may also exhibit the following signs: 

  • Difficulty focusing, noticeably slower walk, and bumping into things as a result of blurred vision 
  • Difficulty keeping a conversation on track due to confusion 
  • Withdrawing from loved ones, unkempt appearance, or appearing sad due to depression
  • Complaining of headaches

What are the symptoms of hydrocodone overdose?

Like other opioids, it is possible to overdose on hydrocodone.

Each person handles hydrocodone overdose differently, but a number of different signs and symptoms are commonly associated with hydrocodone overdose. Signs and symptoms include: 

  • Extremely small pupils
  • Stomach or intestinal tract spasms
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weak pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow, labored breathing
  • Fingernails and lips turning blue
  • Coma
  • Seizures

Overdosing on hydrocodone or other opioids can be fatal, so people experiencing symptoms of hydrocodone overdose must receive emergency medical help.

Narcan, also known under the generic name naloxone, is a prescription drug that is used to reverse the symptoms of opioid overdose.

If you or someone you love is currently abusing hydrocodone or another opioid, be sure to keep Narcan readily available in case of overdose.

Narcan is capable of reversing the dangerous side effects of an opioid overdose, but patients must still receive follow up medical care in order to avoid a potentially fatal emergency. 

Does hydrocodone dependence cause withdrawal symptoms?

Patients who abuse hydrocodone and become dependent on the medication will eventually develop an addiction to the drug.

Patients can become both physically and psychologically dependent on the drug. One of the earliest signs of addiction to hydrocodone is increased tolerance of the drug.

Patients who use hydrocodone for an extended period of time or at a higher dose than recommended will eventually need to take more and more of the drug to experience the intended effects.

As a patient’s dose increases, so does their likelihood of experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the use of hydrocodone is discontinued or decreased abruptly. Withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with discontinuation of hydrocodone include:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation
  • Increased tearing
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Yawning

As a person’s addiction and dependence on hydrocodone become more severe, they may experience increasingly painful symptoms of withdrawal, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goosebumps
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diarrhea

The symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal can cause extreme discomfort and make a patient feel very sick. As a result, patients who have developed a dependence on hydrocodone should consult with a medical professional when discontinuing or reducing their use of the drug.

A safe medical detox is the best way to minimize uncomfortable and potentially dangerous side effects of withdrawal and increase your likelihood of successfully transitioning off of hydrocodone.

Patients with opioid addictions, including addiction to hydrocodone, may need to use medications like Suboxone (buprenorphine) as a gateway to recovery. Use of these maintenance medications can help increase the likelihood of successfully discontinuing use of hydrocodone and minimize the risk of a relapse. 


Hydrocodone is an FDA-approved prescription opioid, a class of drugs that presents a high risk of abuse and addiction. Opioid overdose deaths are on the rise, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Look out for signs of hydrocodone abuse or addiction, such as inability to decrease use of the medication, dizziness or lightheadedness, weight changes, and extreme drowsiness.

If you or someone you know may be addicted to hydrocodone, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a free helpline that can help connect you to recovery resources and addiction treatment that can help you or your loved one recover safely.

References, Studies and Sources:

medically reviewed and fact checked
Sesame Care

Find the best price for great doctors and specialists

  • Thousands of doctors and specialists
  • $13,000,000+ saved by patients
  • 95% patient satisfaction
  • 4.3 on TrustPilot

Popular Destinations

Recent Articles

Turn On, Tune In, and…. Heal Your Brain? Psychedelics Return as Potential Therapy for Mental Health Disorders

Before they fell out of favor over half a century ago, psychedelic drugs, like psilocybin and LSD, were studied for various psychiatric diseases such as alcoholism and heroin addiction. Due to promising results and governmental approval to utilize therapy, there is a growing interest in the pharmacologic properties of these drugs. The use of psychedelic therapy offers new hope in individuals who are often left with limited choices due to side effects or treatment failure.

Read More »

Hydrocodone vs Oxycodone: The Difference Explained

Hydrocodone and oxycodone are prescription opioid painkillers that are effective medications to treat moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone is more likely to cause side effects like drowsiness and dizziness, while hydrocodone is more likely to cause stomach upset and constipation.

Read More »

Share On:

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

Inner Knee Pain: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

The inner knee is a joint where the femur meets the tibia. It's one of many joints in your body, and can sometimes be

Aleve vs Ibuprofen: What’s the difference?

We all have muscle aches and pains every once in a while, and sometimes, the pain gets to be enough that we need to

Questions About Pain on the Left Side of My Body

Do you have pain on the left side of your body? You're not alone. The left side of your body is home to many

Cove Migraine Review: Are These Medications Effective?

Cove is a telemedicine company that provides personalized treatment for migraine sufferers, but are their medications effective? We provide you with an honest review.

Meloxicam Side Effects: What Are They?

People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis deal with daily, chronic pain that can have a serious impact on their quality of life.

Aleve vs Advil: What are the Main Differences?

Although Aleve and Advil are available over the counter, they’re not without risk. Recent studies have concluded that approximately 15 percent of American adults

To Take or Not to Take: Osteoarthritis Supplements

Are you one of the over 30 million Americans suffering from osteoarthritis? Or maybe you know someone who is? Do you or someone you

Meloxicam Side Effects: What Are They?

People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis deal with daily, chronic pain that can have a serious impact on their quality of life.

What Do Muscle Relaxers Do?

If you’ve ever struggled with lower back pain, had certain types of surgery, or are affected by certain chronic muscular conditions like multiple sclerosis,

What’s The Best Over the Counter Migraine Medicine?

We’re revealing the best over the counter migraine medicine to help you in your selection. Read on for more details.

Narcan: The Nasal Spray that Could Save Your Life

Opioids (sometimes called narcotics) are a type of medicine that decreases the feelings of pain. Healthcare providers may prescribe opioids to lessen pain from:

New Treatment Option for Acute Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches affect 12% of the population in the United States. During an acute migraine headache, symptoms can get severe enough where it becomes

Ocular Migraine Treatment: What You Need to Know

If you’ve experienced the pain of a migraine, you know how strainful it can be. Find out the best ocular migraine treatment and more

To Take or Not to Take: Osteoarthritis and Supplements

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” and affects over 30 million Americans. There are a variety of

What Is Plantar Fasciitis? The Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatment Options

Plantar fasciitis is a common foot injury that can cause pain and discomfort. The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs

Joint Pain Medication: Common Side Effects

Being aware of the potential side effects associated with joint pain medication can help you decide which drug is right for you. Learn more

Hydrocodone vs Oxycodone: The Difference Explained

Hydrocodone and oxycodone are prescription opioid painkillers that are effective medications to treat moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone is more likely to cause side

Gabapentin Side Effects: What Are They?

Gabapentin is in a class all its own when it comes to medications – literally. The medication belongs to a class of drugs named

What are Rebound Headaches?

Rebound headaches, also called medication overuse headaches, can occur if you take certain pain relievers above their recommended dosages. Learn about what causes rebound

What’s The Best Over the Counter Migraine Medicine?

We’re revealing the best over the counter migraine medicine to help you in your selection. Read on for more details.