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Effects of Hydrocodone

By Michelle Kulas ; Updated August 14, 2017

Hydrocodone is an opiate drug that is often prescribed for pain management. It is also a cough suppressant. Hydrocodone is prescribed as a combination medication, most often with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Common brand names for hydrocodone include Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet and Vicoprofen. While hydrocodone is prescribed for legitimate medical reasons, it is also sometimes abused and sold as a street drug. There are short- and long-term effects that hydrocodone causes in the body.

Common Side Effects

Most of the side effects that hydrocodone causes are mild and go away once your body adjusts to the medication. These include anxiety, nervousness, trouble sleeping, and fatigue or weakness. Other common side effects are gas, constipation, dry mouth, nausea, hand or foot swelling and a fast heartbeat. If these symptoms bother you or do not go away within several days on the medication, call your doctor.

Uncommon Side Effects

Less common side effects may also occur with hydrocodone. Some are mild and usually pass in time. These include mouth ulcers, throat irritation, headache, heartburn, irritability, tingling, runny nose and a general feeling of being ill. If these persist or are very bothersome, call your doctor.

Other less common side effects warrant a call to your doctor right away. These include blood in the stools, burning in the stomach, coughing with congestion in the chest, fast breathing, difficulty swallowing, difficulty urinating or loss of bladder control, shortness of breath, wheezing, and hives or itching.

Overdose Effects

Severe side effects may occur when too much of the medication is taken. If you suspect an overdose, get emergency help immediately. Symptoms of an overdose include blurry vision, mood changes, a slow heartbeat and slow respiration, a stiff neck and swelling of the face or extremities. Other symptoms of an overdose might be nausea and vomiting, severe stomach pain or marked drowsiness.

Long-Term Effects

Hydrocodone can cause dependence and addiction if misused. Misuse of hydrocodone may include taking too much medication at once, combining it with alcohol or other medications, taking it for a longer period of time than prescribed or taking it with no medical indication.

Hydrocodone that is made with acetaminophen, such as Vicodin, can cause liver damage if taken in high doses or for a long period of time. Always follow your doctor's directions when taking this or any prescription medication. If your prescription is not keeping your pain at a low enough level, do not take more hydrocodone than prescribed or take it for longer than your doctor recommends.

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