addiction is a growing crisis in the United States. While
illegal drugs like cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin
remain in the headlines many individuals may be surprised to know
that Vicodin addiction could lurk right behind them as one of the
most widely-abused drugs of addiction. In fact, the federal Drug
Enforcement Administration believes Vicodin may be the most abused
prescription drug in the country. Nationwide, its use has quadrupled
in the last ten years, while emergency room visits attributed to
Vicodin abuse soared 500 percent.
Vicodin® is a narcotic that can produce a calm, euphoric state
similar to heroin or morphine--and despite such important and obvious
benefits in pain relief, evidence is pointing to chronic addiction.
Pure hydrocodone, the narcotic in Vicodin, is a Schedule II substance,
closely controlled with restricted use. But very few prescription
drugs are pure hydrocodone. Instead, small amounts of are mixed with
other non-narcotic ingredients to create medicines like Vicodin and
Lortab. This means they can be classified under Schedule III with
fewer restrictions on their use and distribution.
Vicodin--one of more than 200 other products that contain hydrocodone--is
regulated by state and federal law, but it is not controlled as closely
as other powerful painkillers. The lack of regulation makes them vulnerable
to widespread abuse and addiction through forged prescriptions, theft,
over-prescription, and "doctor shopping." Vicodin pills have been
sold for $2 to $10 per tablet and $20 to $40 per 8 oz bottle on the
Subject to individual tolerance, many medical experts believe dependence
or addiction can occur within one to four weeks at higher doses of
Vicodin. Published reports of high profile movie stars, TV personalities
and professional athletes who are recovering from Vicodin addiction
are grim testimony to its debilitating effects.
Vicodin is structurally related to codeine and is approximately equal
in strength to morphine in producing opiate-like effects. The first
report that Vicodin produced a noticeable euphoria and symptoms of
addiction was published in 1923; the first report of Vicodin addiction
in the U.S. was published in 1961.
Every age group has been affected by the relative ease of Vicodin
availability and the perceived safety of these products by professionals.
Sometimes seen as a "white-collar" addiction, Vicodin abuse has increased
among all ethnic and economic groups. DAWN data demographics suggest
that the most likely Vicodin abuser is a 20-40 yr old, white, female,
who uses the drug because she is dependent or trying to commit suicide.
However, Vicodin-related deaths have been reported from every age
Examples of how severe Vicodin addiction has become:
- An estimated 7 million dosage units were diverted
in 1994 and over 11 million in 1997.
- In 1998 there were over 56 million new prescriptions
written for hydrocodone products like Vicodin and by
2000 there were over 89 million.
- From 1990 the average consumption nationwide has
increased by 300%. In the same period there has been
a 500% increase in the number of Emergency Department
visits attributed to Vicodin abuse with 19,221 visits
estimated in 2000.
In 1997, there were over 1.3 million Vicodin tablets seized and analyzed
by the DEA laboratory system.