Vicodin contains a mixture of acetaminophen and the opioid painkiller hydrocodone. Like heroin, Vicodin has a high risk of addiction, accidental overdose, and death. It can also cause liver failure from an overdose of acetaminophen.
What is Vicodin?
Vicodin® is a prescription pain medication that contains a combination of hydrocodone (a narcotic opiate resembling codeine) and acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol® or paracetamol).
What is the Problem?
Acetaminophen is used to relieve pain and reduce fever. It is not addictive or habit-forming when taken for a long time — but acetaminophen may cause other life-threatening side effects when it is taken in large doses, including liver damage, liver failure, and death.
Overdosing on hydrocodone can cause slowed breathing or death, especially during the first 24-72 hours or treatment or any time the dose is increased. Drinking alcohol or taking other medications with Vicodin may increase the risk of death. Unlike acetaminophen, the hydrocodone in Vicodin is highly addictive and habit-forming.
How Does Vicodin Work?
Hydrocodone is an opiate, which means it attaches to opioid receptors in the body that control pain. This activates the brain’s “reward system” and causes feelings of pleasure, well-being, and euphoria. Hydrocodone is addictive. Taking too much can cause an overdose.
Symptoms of Vicodin Overdose
- Slow, shallow breathing or stopped breathing
- Smaller pupils (black circles in the middle of the eyes)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Decreased urge to breathe
Vicodin Addiction & Liver Failure
A person who uses Vicodin for more than a few days will develop a tolerance, which means their body requires a higher dose to experience the same effects. The problem is that acetaminophen is highly toxic — and taking even slightly more than the recommended daily dose of acetaminophen can rapidly cause liver failure or death.