Vicodin and Lortab are both medications to relieve pain. They both contain hydrocodone which is a powerful narcotic; and acetaminophen (Tylenol). They are the same medication, manufactured by two different companies under different labels.
These medications are normally used for short term pain relief from injury. But, they can also be used for chronic pain and long term illness such as cancer. These medications are very effective and well received but should only be used as prescribed and under strict medical supervision. People assume because the medication is prescribed by their doctor and because it contains acetaminophen that they are permissible to use as often as they like. This is not true. These medications are addictive and are the most abused medications in the United States.
Hydrocodone is an opioid synthesized from codeine. It is a product of the opium poppy. When taken properly, these medications relieve pain, and work on the brain to give the patient a feeling of calm, well-being. This helps the effectiveness as a relaxed body will feel less pain. Then the hydrocodone and acetaminophen can do their jobs. Here-in lays the first hidden danger.
When a patient begins the medication, they feel better. They do not feel high, but they feel good. After taking the medication for a short time, your body requires more to maintain that same feeling and your brain is affected so it starts demanding more of the hydrocodone. You may feel your pain return. This is your body trying to force you to give it more hydrocodone. You advise your doctor that your medication is no longer working. He may increase the dose. Both Vicodin and Lortab come in varying strengths of hydrocodone and acetaminophen.
You feel great again and you settle in with your new dose. But soon that cycle repeats itself. Afraid to lose the medication, you take your medications sooner than you are supposed to. You stay in your state of euphonium, but you run out too soon and have to return to see your doctor.
At this point your doctor should see the signs of addiction. But sometimes they do not. Sometimes they continue to up the dose or change the times you can take the medication to keep you happy and pain free. What they should be doing is begin taking you off that medication and switching to a different pain killer or referring you to a pain clinic for long term pain relief.
The second hidden danger is the acetaminophen. As you take more and more of the medications, you are consuming more and more Tylenol. This is dangerous, as abuse or long term use can cause liver damage.
Addiction can sneak up on you. You do not want to be addicted and you thought going to your doctor was the only precaution needed. If you are addicted and it has happened millions of times, you begin to panic when the doctor mentions taking the drug from you. Now is the time to be honest and tell your doctor what you are going through. You can gauge how far into addiction you have fallen by your willingness to do this. If you are just beginning the struggle and you trust your doctor, the two of you can work together to get you away from the place you are going. At this point you are dependent on the medication but probably not fully addicted and you can be helped easily enough. Dependence says, “I need help getting off this.” Addiction says, “I need this and I will not give it up.” The land of addiction is a place you never thought you would enter.
Your entire world is now focused on getting the drug and you will buy it from wherever you can. You will borrow it. You will go to more than one doctor to get the prescriptions, risking legal problems. You will alter the way you take the medication. You will fake injury and exaggerate pain. You will even injure yourself on purpose and visit emergency rooms.
You will lie, cheat and even steal to get the medication. You will be so focused on getting more medication that you neglect your job, your children, your spouse and your friends. You no longer want to socialize. You become this pitiful person in so much “pain” that your entire day revolves around getting the next pill.
However, Vicodin and Lortab are medications which if used properly can give you back your life. If you are plagued with constant pain, you may need to be on a maintenance dose to keep you pain free most days. You must take the medication exactly as prescribed. You are a partner with your doctor. Communicate with each other and be very honest about how you feel. If he wants to reduce your medication levels, listen to him. He knows what he is doing. He may prescribe something else for break through pain. Your pain is important, but not as important as your overall health.
This medication is a tool. It is a method to help you return to normal. If abused it will give you a new normal and take you where you do not want to go. Pay attention to your body and work with your doctor. If he gives you Vicodin or Lortab, take it with confidence and take it with care. Do not take them together as they are the same medication.