Lortab is a trademark name for the chemical formulation of a semi-synthetic narcotic pain reliever which is made up of two different pain drugs: hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Lortab is one of the 200 hydrocodone products on the market. The hydrocodone contained in the drug is an opioid and acts as a pain reliever, and its effects are similar to codeine. The acetaminophen is added to provide increased pain relief and to discourage recreational use of Lortab, as high doses of acetaminophen can cause potentially fatal liver toxicity. Lortab or its generic version hydrocodone/APAP is a medication that is used to treat pain and is only available through a prescription.
However, because Lortab contains hydrocodone and produces effects similar to heroin, the drug is commonly abused and diverted. Lortab and other prescription narcotics constitute the most-abused group of prescription drugs in the U.S. Addiction to Lortab can occur even if someone is taking the drug legitimately for pain. As a matter of fact, it is quite common for an individual to begin taking the drug legitimately and then have significant trouble getting off of Lortab when it comes time to do so. This is because hydrocodone's opioids attach to receptors in the brain, spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract to dull pain and also react with the pleasure center of the brain producing a feeling of euphoria or what is known to a drug addict as a "high". Because of these effects, the risk of both physical and psychological dependence to the drug is extremely high, and Lortab users may experience withdrawal symptoms after as few as 5-7 days of continuous use.
One of the problems is that Lortab and drugs like Lortab are extremely easy to get. An estimated 136 million prescriptions for hydrocodone products were dispensed in 2008 alone. Combine this with the illicit diversion of the drug and you can see why there is such a problem. The other problem is that prescription narcotics such as Lortab are often not perceived as dangerous as illicit street drugs, and don't carry the same stigma as heroin per se. But Lortab is sold on the same corner as heroin, and many opiate users who are withdrawing turn to drugs such as Lortab to stop withdrawal symptoms and get their high. Doctors and pharmacies get involved as well, and while it can be easy to obtain a prescription for Lortab, many players are involved in the illicit use of the drugs which further fuels the wide spread abuse of the drug.
Individuals who become addicted to Lortab will do just about anything to get more of the drug. They will typically engage in what is known as "doctor-shopping", and will go from doctor to doctor complaining on non-existent ailments in an attempt to get more prescriptions for the drug. Individuals will also go so far as to forge prescriptions, steal other's prescriptions which were prescribed for legitimate pain, and acquire Lortab via the Internet. Despite the efforts of law enforcement to prevent abuse, the illicit use of Lortab is at an all-time high.
Lortab is meant to be swallowed whole, but individuals who abuse the drug administer it in a variety of ways. It can be swallowed orally, like normal medication, or users can crush a Lortab tablet and either ingest or snort it, or inject diluted pills which causes a rapid and intense rush over a short period of time, much like heroin.
One of the reasons it is so hard to stop taking Lortab is because of the intense withdrawal symptoms that occur as a result of abrupt cessation of use. Just like heroin, many individuals who become hooked on the drug can't even feel "normal" without taking it every day, much less "high". They then have to figure out how to get and take more every day, or will quickly begin going through Lortab withdrawal. Withdrawal can occur when someone has been prescribed the drug legitimately or when someone abuses Lortab has developed a tolerance and dependence to it. Higher and higher dosages of Lortab are needed over time to achieve the desired effects and to stop withdrawal. Lortab withdrawal symptoms can be particularly uncomfortable and sometimes painful, similar to that of heroin withdrawal.
The severity and duration of Lortab withdrawal symptoms can vary, depending how much of the drug has been used over what time period. Lortab withdrawal typically begins within six to twelve hours of the last dose and symptoms may grow more intense over the next several days. Acute withdrawal symptoms subside gradually and are gone over a period of several weeks. Lortab withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Abdominal cramps
- Intense pain in the body
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle cramps with spasms
- Body chills
- Goose bumps
- Agitated and aggressive behavior
- Increased heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose and eye
- Loss of appetite
While Lortab withdrawal can be difficult, it can be overcome smoothly if an individual seeks help at a professional drug detox facility or drug rehab. A drug detox will remove any remnants of Lortab from the body, and drug treatment staff and medical professionals can make Lortab withdrawal a much safer and smoother process. Being in a drug rehab setting also makes it less likely that the individual will relapse back into use of the drug, as they will have the support system necessary to get through the process. The individual won't have any access to more Lortab, another important factor which can make recovery easier.
One of the dangers of abusing Lortab is that the individual is constantly putting themselves at risk of experiencing many unwanted and harmful side effects of the drug. Side effects can include hyperventilation, paranoia, severe weakness, stomach pain, dizziness, jaundice, bruising, constipation, muscle twitches, dry mouth, sweating, hot flashes, itching, tinnitus, hearing loss, clammy skin, hallucinations, unconsciousness, bleeding, and decreased urinating. Lortab also has depressant effects on the central nervous system, which could cause irritability. The most severe bad consequences of Lortab can occur when the drug is mixed with cocaine, amphetamines, methylphenidate, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, alcohol, and others.
Lortab overdose is more common that one would think, and can occur both in individuals who have been legitimately prescribed the drug, and in individuals who abuse it illegally. The signs and symptoms of a Lortab overdose are similar to that of a heroin overdose. The hydrocodone component in Lortab alone can cause an overdose, and is known to cause respiratory depression and other severe adverse reactions including pulmonary failure, liver/kidney failure, amnesia, seizures, blackouts, heart failure, heart attack, coma and jaundice. The individual will become extremely sleepy and may struggle to stay conscious. The most dangerous complication of Lortab overdose is that breathing can slow down, become extremely shallow, and may even stop. When combining Lortab with other substances such as alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, methylphenidate, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and other medications the risk of overdose is much higher.
The acetaminophen component in Lortab can also on its own cause a fatal overdose. High doses of acetaminophen can cause liver damage, and dosages should never exceed 4000 mg a day. Acetaminophen is processed only by the liver, when mixed with alcohol it can be fatal. This combination can seriously damage the kidneys, liver, and stomach lining.
Prescription drug abuse is at an all-time high, and abuse of Lortab is no exception. In 2002, an estimated 29.6 million Americans had used pain relievers such as Lortab non-medically in their lifetimes. By 2005 however, the number had increased to 32.7 million, and was second only to marijuana use in terms of past-year use. Of particular concern are Americans between the ages of 18 and 25, who consistently report higher lifetime nonmedical use of pain relievers such as Lortab than other age groups.
Also of significant concern is the growing rate of mortality of non-medical prescription narcotic users. Unintentional deaths involving prescription opioids increased over 100% in the early 2000's, and there were almost 50k hydrocodone (such as that contained in Lortab) mixture/comabo emergency room visits in 2004. And in 2007, hydrocodone was mentioned in 24,558 cases, 11,001 single exposures and 23 deaths according to The American Association of Poison Control Centers.
The sale of prescription narcotics in the U.S. is a $10 billion dollar per year market. This is big business for the drug companies and the drug dealers. There is a lot of money to be made off of other people's misery. Don't get caught up in the destructive cycle of Lortab addiction. If you need help, or know someone who does, there are effective drug rehab programs which treat Lortab addiction and help individuals overcome it every day. Being addicted to opiates or pharmaceutical semi-synthetic opioids such as Lortab is no way to live. Get the help you need today by contacting a drug treatment counselor in your area to get off of Lortab and get your life back.