What is Vicodin and Why is it So Dangerous?

What is Vicodin?

Vicodin is a prescription drug that is a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is an opioid that is generally prescribed as pain medication that works on brain cells to alter physical sensations and the body’s response to pain. Hydrocodone is a synthetic opioid that activates the same neuro-receptors in the brain as highly addictive drugs, like heroin.

Woman seated with hand on her head looking in pain

Acetaminophen is also a pain reliever. It is, however, much less potent when compared to the narcotic effects of hydrocodone (as it is a non-opioid drug). It enhances the pain-relieving effects of hydrocodone, and it is an antipyretic – which means it has fever-reducing properties. The ingredients basically work in tandem to block pain signals from the brain.

What is Vicodin Prescribed For?

Vicodin is prescribed for pain relief. The pain can stem from causes including accidents, age-related issues, and diseases.

General Information about Vicodin

Vicodin is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the DEA. It was increased from a Schedule III drug in October 2014. Vicodin has concerning abuse and addiction potential – one that can cause liver failure, brain damage, and death. This is why the DEA raised the risk levels surrounding this drug.

The FDA also curbed the manufacturing of Vicodin pills with more than 325 mg of acetaminophen in March 2014 to protect the public.

Vicodin also goes by other names – Norco, Hycet, Lortab, Lortab Elixir, Virdrocet, and Xodol.

Precautions to Be Taken

Precautions should be taken before using a Vicodin prescription. Since it is a combination of an opioid and a non-opioid, it tends to react with other drugs, substances, and medical conditions. Keep the prescribing doctor aware of all the conditions you suffering from. Patients who are allergic to Tylenol or people who have recently been under the influence of alcohol, tranquilizers, sedatives, or narcotic medications should stay away from Vicodin.

Alert your doctor of liver cirrhosis, alcohol dependency, kidney disease, drug addiction, heart conditions, low blood pressure, gallbladder or pancreatic disorders, dehydration, asthma, diarrhea, severe constipation, brain tumors, etc. These conditions themselves, or the drugs used to treat these disorders, might react negatively to Vicodin, which may result in dangerous consequences.

Woman with head on table with glass of alcohol beside her

The most common drugs that can have adverse effects are antifungal medicines, antibiotics, heart or blood pressure medication, seizure medication, HIV/ Hepatitis B drugs, cold and allergy drugs, motion sickness medication, diuretics, COPD medication, other opioid pain medicines, sedatives like diazepam, lorazepam, Xanax, Klonopin, Versed, muscle relaxers, etc.

Another concern is patients using Vicodin along with prescribed medication for mental health disorders like depression, insomnia, or anxiety.

This list of medications and disorders is by no means exhaustive – it’s always best to consult with a proficient doctor.

The most common symptoms of mixing Vicodin with other drugs are slow and shallow breathing, extreme dizziness, loss of consciousness, drowsiness, impaired judgment, nausea, and other undesirable effects.

Patients should never start, alter, or mix their dosages without prior approval from a registered physician.

The Dangers and Risks Associated With Vicodin

Vicodin is one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the world. Overdosing on Vicodin has several very dangerous side effects and can even be fatal.

Another thing to keep in mind is possible allergic reactions to Vicodin. Symptoms manifest in the form of swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and throat. These symptoms are typically accompanied by difficulty in breathing. The acetaminophen content can also cause skin allergies like rashes, redness, and severe blistering.

Side effects include coma, shallow or obstructed breathing, infertility, easy bruising, reduction of surface blood clotting speeds, missed or irregular menstrual periods, impotence, loss of virility, impaired brain functioning, loss of memory, confusion, dry mouth, indigestion, vomiting, and others.


The facts pertaining to Vicodin use may seem extreme, but it’s important to know all of the risks associated with any medication that contains an opioid. If a person in your life shows signs of addiction to Vicodin, it’s imperative to obtain professional help immediately.

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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