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Lortab Addiction & Misuse: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Aug 11, 2023 • 12 cited sources

Lortab addiction can lead to significant long-term health issues, including respiratory depression, gastrointestinal issues, overdose, and addiction. As with other opioids, Lortab overdose can be deadly.

Lortab is one of the medications used for alleviating severe pain, such as postsurgical pain or pain arising from injuries caused by accidents or other conditions like cancer treatment. Hydrocodone’s presence in its formula means there is a risk of developing an addiction if taking the drug long term. 

This is due to opioids’ ability to essentially hijack the brain’s reward system. Opioids like hydrocodone can cause respiratory issues, potentially leading to coma or  death. Therefore, patients must always follow the instructions given by medical professionals while using Lortab and other opioids.

Addiction to Lortab is treated with Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT). While it isn’t a cure for addiction, it allows people to successfully manage opioid use disorder (OUD) long term, allowing them to live healthy, fulfilling lives in recovery.

What Is Lortab & Why Is It Used?

Lortab is a prescription pain medication that contains two active ingredients: hydrocodone and acetaminophen.[1] It is used to treat different types of moderate to severe pain that might interfere with everyday activities.

Lortab contains two agents, hydrocodone and acetaminophen, that effectively relieve moderate to severe discomfort associated with injuries or chronic ailments such as arthritis. However beneficial it may seem, using Lortab at higher doses than prescribed can have serious ramifications on your health. 

Overuse of the drug can quickly develop into an addiction, and this generally requires professional assistance to treat. Overdosing on Lortab can lead to respiratory depression and even death.[2]

Because of these risks, it is vital that you only use this medication exactly as prescribed. Talk to a doctor if you believe it isn’t having the effect you want.

Is Lortab Addictive?

Yes, Lortab is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and hydrocodone is very addictive.[3] If Lortab is misused, it’s highly likely that tolerance will form, and this can quickly progress to an opioid use disorder.

Even under proper dosage guidance from health practitioners, some people may tolerate Lortab poorly and need escalated doses for effective treatment. The prescription of Lortab and other drugs that contain hydrocodone is a balancing act between the patient’s needs and the inherent risk of misuse and addiction these drugs have.

Some warning signs that one may be addicted to Lortab are taking more than prescribed amounts despite understanding that these higher doses are unnecessary for pain relief or experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping intake abruptly (although physical dependence isn’t always a sign of addiction). Some people may experience withdrawal symptoms if they lower their dosage of Lortab, even if they don’t stop taking it altogether.

To safeguard against OUD, follow all safety measures accompanying Lortab use. Only take the amount prescribed in the manner prescribed for the specified time frame.

People who misuse Lortab may crush and snort pills in an attempt to achieve a faster and stronger effect. Some may chew the pills to bypass time-release properties. Others may combine use with excessive alcohol intake.[4] All of these are signs of misuse. 

According to the DEA, hydrocodone-based medications, including Lortab, are the second most frequently encountered opioid pharmaceutical in drug evidence submitted to government drug labs.[5]

Common Names for Lortab

Lortab is a brand name for the opioid hydrocodone, which is also sold under the brand names Vicodin, Lorcet-HD, Hycodan, and Vicoprofen.

There are a variety of street names for hydrocodone, including fluff, hydros, vic, vike, and Watson-387.[6]

Lortab Addiction & Misuse

The interconnectedness between opioid use disorder and opioid misuse is unmistakable. Opioids induce sensations of euphoria and well-being when used excessively and outside prescription guidelines. They can also have this effect when used as prescribed, but they will generally do so to a lesser degree. 

Engaging in opioid use in order to feel euphoric, calmed, or sedated constitutes opioid misuse. This includes taking intentionally high doses of the drug or exceeding recommended usage time frames.

Repeated misuse of Lortab causes changes to occur inside the brain over time that make stopping consumption difficult. These changes include a heightened tolerance that requires higher dosages for similar effects along with painful withdrawal symptoms that are experienced when reducing use significantly. 

The brain can also learn to feel a compulsive need to misuse opioids, even when people logically know they’re hurting themselves through that use.[7] This is one of the most significant signs of an opioid use disorder.

Lortab Misuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

Opioid use disorder often co-occurs with other mental health issues.[8] This is known as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis. Some of the most common mental health disorders that co-occur with opioid use disorder include the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia

The co-occurrence of OUD and another mental health disorder can be particularly challenging to treat, as both conditions can exacerbate one another.[9] Therefore, treatment approaches need to address both the substance use disorder and the underlying mental health condition simultaneously to ensure the best possible outcome for the individual. If only one issue is treated, relapse is very likely.

Signs & Symptoms of Lortab Misuse

There are several signs that may indicate someone is misusing Lortab, including these:

  • Taking larger doses than prescribed: If you are taking higher doses of Lortab than prescribed or taking it more frequently, it indicates misuse.
  • Using Lortab without a prescription: If you are taking the medication and don’t have a legitimate prescription for Lortab that is current, this is misuse.
  • Visiting multiple doctors to get Lortab: If you visit more than one doctor in an effort to get additional prescriptions for Lortab, this is a clear sign of an opioid misuse problem.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: If you have declining performance at work or school, or in regard to family obligations or other areas of life, because of Lortab use, it is a sign of an OUD.
  • Changes in behavior or mood: Big changes in behavior or mood, such as becoming more withdrawn, irritable, or anxious, can indicate opioid misuse.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: After physical dependence has formed, withdrawal symptoms will occur when trying to stop Lortab use. These include nausea, sweating, shaking, anxiety and overall discomfort.

Fundamentally, addiction is often signaled by continued misuse of a drug even as negative consequences become more obvious and more severe. When a person feels compelled to misuse drugs and cannot easily stop that use even when they start to have social, financial, or legal problems, professional help is generally needed. 

MAT & Recovery

Recovering from opioid use disorder can be challenging, but there are proven treatments that have helped countless individuals achieve lasting sobriety. Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) is one such option that has been widely utilized in recent years due to its effectiveness in reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioids.[10] It is considered the gold standard in treatment for Lortab addiction.[11]

With MAT, you’ll take a medication like Suboxone daily. The buprenorphine in Suboxone keeps withdrawal symptoms and cravings under control, so you can focus on other aspects of your recovery and building a new life. It is a life-saving medication that enables countless people to avoid opioid overdose and embrace a better future.

With treatment providers like Bicycle Health, MAT is more accessible than ever before.[12] You can access MAT no matter where you live via our telemedicine addiction treatment model. You’ll meet with an addiction treatment doctor virtually via a smartphone or computer, and you can then pick up your prescription at your local pharmacy.

Reach out today to learn more about our services and whether MAT is right for you. With the right support, you can leave Lortab misuse behind you.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Hydrocodone. U.S. National Library of Medicine. January 2021. Accessed April 2023.
  2. Drug Overdose Death Rates. National Institute on Drug Abuse. February 2023. Accessed April 2023.
  3. Extended-Release Hydrocodone – Gift or Curse? Drug Enforcement Administration. January 2013. Accessed April 2023.
  4. Alcohol and Opioid Use, Co-Use, and Chronic Pain in the Context of the Opioid Epidemic: A Critical Review. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research March 2018. Accessed April 2023.
  5. Hydrocodone. Drug Enforcement Administration. October 2019. Accessed April 2023.
  6. Hydrocodone. U.S. National Library of Medicine. April 2022. Accessed April 2023.
  7. Addiction: Choice or Compulsion? Frontiers in Psychiatry August 2013. Accessed April 2023.
  8. Opioid Addiction with Psychiatric Comorbidities. PCSS September 2021. Accessed May 2023.
  9. Co-Occurring Disorders and Other Health Conditions. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. March 2023. Accessed April 2023.
  10. Medications for Substance Use Disorders. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed April 2023.
  11. Effects of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Use Disorder on Functional Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Rand Health Quarterly. June 2020. Accessed April 2023.
  12. A Roadblock to Life-Saving Addiction Treatment Is Gone. Now What? NPR. March 2023. Accessed April 2023.

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