Overview: Eminem got strung out on it; Courtney
Love did, too. And rumor has it that you’d have to include Melanie
Griffith and Foxy Brown on the A-list of stars who’ve had problems
with it. Meet Vicodin®, a drug that blends a synthetic narcotic,
hydrocodone bitartrate, with acetaminophen in a single package
that’s more potent (and potentially way more dangerous)
than either taken separately. A main reason why: Vicodin can
hook a user in as few as seven days.
Appearance: Most common: white, scored, oblong tablets,
imprinted with “Vicodin,” “Vicodin ES,” or
“Vicodin HP,” depending on dose. Other forms include
capsules and a liquid sold under such trade names as Hycodan®,
Lorcet®, Lortab®, Tussionex®, and Tylox®.
Street Names: Vike and Watson387, the imprint
on the generic pill.
Actions/Effects: Chemically similar to heroin, Vicodin
travels the same neurological pathways to block the perception
of pain. Vicodin also increases the activity of a key neurotransmitter,
dopamine, triggering such an intense euphoria that users keep
coming back for more — and still more, after that.
Medical Uses: Vicodin is prescribed to treat moderate
to severe pain, usually associated with cancer, surgery, or serious
Risks/Side Effects: Vicodin can cause dizziness and induce
sleep, while impairing motor skills. Other common side effects
include dry mouth, nausea, constipation, and increased perspiration.
Overdoses involving Vicodin can be life-threatening, especially
if used with alcohol or other depressant drugs. Overdose symptoms
include constricted pupils, confusion, slowed breathing, and
unconsciousness. Long-term use of acetaminophen is also linked
to an increased risk of liver damage or failure.
Addiction Potential: The risk of both physical and psychological
dependence on Vicodin is high. Users may experience withdrawal
symptoms after as few as 5-7 days of continuous use. Withdrawal
symptoms include chills, irritability, severe anxiety, headaches,
Trends: Vicodin use has soared in recent years, partly
fueled by the fame of its star user base. In 2010, the number
of high school seniors reporting use during the previous year
stood at 8.0 percent.
Demographics: Vicodin and other prescription narcotics
constitute the most-abused group of prescription drugs, according
to the National Household Survey, released in 2010. Of the 7
million Americans who reported misusing prescription drugs in
the previous year, 5.3 million misused prescription pain relievers.