Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid pain medication and is typically a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen when it is prescribed. Hydrocodone is the most widely prescribed pain medication in the United States with over 80 million prescriptions given out. Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic drug, and some brand names include Vicodin. The prescription is given to treat short-term pain and is not meant for long-term use. However, because of how addictive opioids are, most Americans who are prescribed hydrocodone struggle to get off the drug. The body becomes dependent on the drug and will develop a tolerance to its effects, thus requiring more to function. When someone stops taking hydrocodone, they experience painful withdrawal symptoms. Hydrocodone works by binding to the pain receptors in the brain. Once this happens, pain signals are weakened or blocked, and the body becomes accustomed to this feeling.
The average American with a hydrocodone addiction started misusing his or her prescription. The long-term abuse of hydrocodone changes the way the brain functions and does have lasting effects on mood and thought patterns. For example, daily long-term hydrocodone users will experience insomnia, liver or kidney disease, depression, and anxiety. There are many different brand names of hydrocodone, such as Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab. Each type of brand contains a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is a pain medication used in over the counter drugs and causes liver failure when too much is used. Millions of prescriptions for hydrocodone are given out to Americans each year. When hydrocodone was moved from a Schedule III drug to a Schedule II drug in 2014, there was a seven pill per patient prescribing rate increase. However, there was a significant drop in the number of prescriptions given and those being refilled. Each year millions of Americans use hydrocodone for non-medical reasons, and millions more become addicted to the drug.
Hydrocodone is being prescribed to Americans because it is recognized as being an effective pain medication and cough suppressant. Combination drugs such as hydrocodone/acetaminophen are heavily marketed in many states and are prescribed in large numbers. Between 2006 and 2012, America's largest drug companies saturated the country with over 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills. The Drug Enforcement Agency tracks the path of every single pain pill sold legally within the United States. Six companies distributed 75% of the pills during this time, and three companies manufactured roughly 88% of the opioids given to Americans. Between 2006 and 2012, three pharmaceutical companies distributed close to 38% of all the pain medication in the country. Unfortunately, there was a handful of states that received the highest concentration of pain medication per person. These states are West Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and many other states were struggling with a high number of opioid-related overdose deaths.