Understanding Norco Addiction and Abuse

Last Updated: October 25, 2022

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Many people struggle with Norco addiction in Ohio. Norco contains the opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen and is the most commonly prescribed opioid regimen in the U.S., with more than 30 million prescriptions a year. However, when opioids are used beyond their prescribed recommendations, a person’s tolerance to the drug potentially increases, and dependence and addiction can soon follow.

What Is Hydrocodone Abuse?

Hydrocodone is an opioid that is most commonly prescribed with the analgesic acetaminophen. The combination has been sold under many different brand names, including:

  • Hycet
  • Lorcet
  • Norco
  • Verdrocet
  • Vicodin
  • Xodol
  • Zamicet

Although some brand names, including Norco, have been discontinued, hydrocodone/acetaminophen is still often called by these brand names.

Hydrocodone can also be prescribed alone in a long-acting formulation under the brand name Hysingla ER.

Because hydrocodone is an opioid, medication containing the drug can lead to dependence, abuse and addiction. As an opioid, hydrocodone affects the opioid receptors in the brain, relieving the user’s pain and triggering feelings of pleasure. Essentially, the reward system wants more, so opioid pain medication is monitored closely and prescribed with very specific instructions.

When opioid-based drugs like Norco are taken differently than prescribed by a doctor, the medicine becomes less effective. As a result, the person may feel motivated to continue misusing it further. More is taken to achieve a pleasurable sensation, and the cycle of increased tolerance, dependence and misuse grows.

What Is Norco?

Norco is an opioid-based prescription pain reliever taken by patients suffering from chronic or severe pain. Norco’s main ingredients are hydrocodone and acetaminophen. As an opioid, hydrocodone attaches to opioid receptors in the central nervous system and blocks pain sensations.

Norco can also create feelings of pleasure and euphoria in receptors throughout the body. After opioid use, these pleasure receptors in the nervous system can bring about intense cravings. Due to the pleasurable response and the likelihood of cravings, it can be easy for people to use more Norco than prescribed or seek it out for recreational use. This misuse can then lead to Norco addiction.

Norco Usage

Using opioid-based prescriptions like Norco often occurs when non-opioid medications cannot sufficiently treat a patient’s pain. Doctors usually prescribe the tablet to be taken every four to six hours as needed.

Because of Norco’s addictive nature, patients are recommended to follow some general guidelines:

  • Do not take Norco more frequently than prescribed
  • Do not take more Norco than your doctor has instructed
  • Never take Norco that does not belong to you
  • Do not let anyone else take Norco that has been prescribed for you

By following prescribed directions, patients will take the lowest dose of Norco possible for the shortest time needed. However, regular users should speak with their doctor before ending usage altogether.

Recommended Norco Dosage

Although the brand name Norco has been discontinued, there are multiple available strengths of hydrocodone and acetaminophen that are still available:

  • Hydrocodone 5 mg/acetaminophen 300 mg
  • Hydrocodone 5 mg/acetaminophen 325 mg
  • Hydrocodone 7.5 mg/acetaminophen 300 mg
  • Hydrocodone 7.5 mg/acetaminophen 325 mg
  • Hydrocodone 10 mg/acetaminophen 300 mg
  • Hydrocodone 10 mg/acetaminophen 325 mg

Dosage forms containing 5 mg of hydrocodone are usually prescribed to be taken as one to two tablets every four to six hours as needed, to a max of eight tablets a day.

In contrast, dosage forms containing 7.5 mg or 10 mg of hydrocodone are usually prescribed to be taken as one tablet every four to six hours as needed, to a max of six tablets daily.

Taking more than the prescribed dosage can lead to heart issues, respiratory failure, coma and death. Always consult with your doctor before adjusting your medical regimen.

Is Norco Addictive?

Norco is an addictive Schedule II controlled substance. Continued use of opioids such as hydrocodone leads to tolerance, dependence and addiction. The more opioid receptors in the brain activate, the less responsive they are to opioid use. When this tolerance increases, more of the opioid must be taken to achieve the same effect of pain relief (or pleasure). This cycle of increased use can quickly spiral into dependence and addiction.

While people may initially misuse Norco for the high or to relieve pain faster, over time, they can find themselves trapped in the cycle of continued misuse because of the impending withdrawal symptoms they’d have to face without the drug. As tolerance increases and dependency develops, stopping opioid use altogether will often lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms. This is why some people continue to take Norco even when they don’t need it.

Signs and Symptoms of Norco Addiction

An addiction to Norco can develop in anyone. Because Norco is so prone to abuse, addiction and dependence, it is easy to fall into an addiction. Because of this danger, catching a Norco addiction early is important.

Signs of a Norco addiction include:

  • Taking more Norco or taking it over a longer period than intended
  • Previous unsuccessful efforts to stop or cut back on Norco
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, taking or recovering from Norco
  • Cravings for Norco
  • Norco use, leading to a failure to fulfill other obligations 
  • Social or interpersonal problems due to using Norco
  • Giving up other activities because of Norco
  • Taking Norco, even when it is physically dangerous 
  • Taking Norco, even though you know doing so is harmful
  • Needing increasing amounts of Norco to achieve the same effects as before
  • Withdrawal effects when you try to stop or cut back on Norco

Some common side effects of Norco include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Back pain
  • Sleeping issues
  • Constipation
  • Shakiness
  • Swelling in the lower body
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Slowed breathing

Norco Withdrawal

When you regularly take a drug like Norco, your brain and body acclimate to its presence. Therefore, suddenly stopping the drug can cause unpleasant withdrawal effects as your body struggles to readjust.

Norco withdrawal usually starts within 12 hours of the dose, peaking within 24–48 hours and resolving over the next three to five days.

Symptoms can be hard to overcome on your own and can tempt people to give up their efforts to quit the drug. Norco withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Runny eyes and nose 
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Enlarged pupils 
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Goosebumps
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety

Although some people may want to try withdrawing from Norco at home, it is difficult to control withdrawal symptoms on your own without medical care. It is safer to undergo withdrawal in a medically supervised detox setting to avoid withdrawal symptoms and reduce relapse risk.

In medical detox, you receive round-the-clock care from doctors and nurses trained in managing Norco withdrawal. In addition, medications can be prescribed to help you avoid withdrawal symptoms and may include medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as medically appropriate.

Norco Addiction Treatment

When patients discontinue Norco use, doctors often taper them off their dosage over time. If you are dependent on or addicted to Norco, you should never stop usage suddenly. Ceasing drug consumption can lead to withdrawal symptoms, so it’s always important to speak with a medical professional before ending use.

Medical detox is used to purge the system of toxins and begin the treatment process. Medicine may then be used to relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

If you or a loved one are ready to address an addiction to Norco, hydrocodone or any other substance, contact The Recovery Village Columbus. Speak to a Recovery Advocate who can discuss how individualized treatment programs help you achieve a healthier future. Call today to start your recovery journey.

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