Hydrocodone (e.g., Norco, Vicodin) is an opioid prescription painkiller commonly prescribed to treat moderate-severe pain. For persons 18 years and older and weighing 100+ pounds, the maximum dosage for this purpose is 2.5 or 5 mg of hydrocodone, also containing 300 mg or 325 mg acetaminophen. No more than two tablets are to be taken every 4-6 hours as needed, for a maximum of 8 tablets per day.
The above dosing schedule is also prudent for tablets containing 7.5 or 10 mg hydrocodone, except the maximum is six tablets per day.
Taking more than the maximum amount of hydrocodone per dosing episode or day is considered abuse. Depending on tolerance and other factors, such as age, weight, metabolic rate, and the presence of other substances, this may or may not lead to an overdose. This condition can cause the following severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms:
- Profuse sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme drowsiness
- Slowed or stopped breathing
- Slow or absent pulse
- Low blood pressure
- Limpness/muscle weakness
- Pale or cold/clammy skin
- Bluish lips and fingers
- Liver damage/failure
Persons who suspect that they or someone they know has taken too much hydrocodone should call their health provider or the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222. Critically, if symptoms are severe, individuals are urged to contact 911 or visit the nearest emergency department immediately.
If 911 has been called for another person, keep the victim upright and awake if at all possible. If their breathing is weak, delayed, or stopped, a trained individual can perform rescue breathing, and others may be instructed on how to do so by the emergency services operator. If naloxone is available, in the event of an opioid overdose, it can be administered.
Once medical personnel arrives, report all pertinent information available, such as the drug(s) used, how much and when, route of administration, evolving symptoms, etc. They will immediately take over potential life-saving measures, and even if the person appears to be recovering, they will likely be rushed to the nearest emergency room.
Risk Factors for Overdose
Factors that can increase a person’s s risk of experiencing an overdose include the following:
1) Using hydrocodone medications in any way other than intended. This can include crushing and snorting the residual powder, liquifying and injecting them, or taking higher doses than prescribed.
2) Using hydrocodone for recreational purposes without a prescription or as directed by a licensed health provider.
3) Using increasing doses of hydrocodone. With extended abuse, hydrocodone users often develop a tolerance, and they will begin to require higher and higher amounts to experience the desired effects. Escalating doses may eventually result in the person taking enough hydrocodone to experience a severe overdose.
4) Using hydrocodone in high amounts after an extended period of abstinence. After prolonged discontinuation, the individual’s tolerance may become significantly lower. Returning to the pre-abstinence dose can place the user at a much higher likelihood of overdose.
5) Combining hydrocodone products with other drugs or alcohol may lead to counteracting or intensifying effects, possibly producing even more dangerous symptoms.
A Word on Acetaminophen Overdose
As noted, hydrocodone is commonly found in combination products, such as Norco and Vicodin, that also contain acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Unfortunately, this medication can have severe and potentially lethal consequences on its own (e.g., liver damage and failure) if used in excessive amounts.
According to health experts, adults should not take more than 3,000 mg of acetaminophen per, and less for those over 65 years of age. Taking more, especially over 7,000 mg, can lead to severe overdose symptoms. Moreover, taking even ten tablets of hydrocodone products that contain 300-325 mg of acetaminophen per day can be problematic, and 20 tablets could prove lethal.
Professional Treatment for Drug Addiction Is Available
An addiction to prescription painkillers, illicit drugs, or alcohol can result in long-term physical and mental health problems and the potential for life-threatening effects, including overdose. Therefore, individuals who are abusing intoxicating substances and have attempted to quit multiple times and failed are urged to seek professional addiction treatment as soon as possible.
Just Believe Recovery is a specialized addiction rehab center that offers a comprehensive, individualized approach to treatment in residential and intensive outpatient formats that include a wide variety of evidence-based services, including the following:
- Medical detox
- Individual counseling
- Family counseling
- 12-step peer group support
- Substance abuse education
- Health and wellness education
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Relapse prevention
- Art and music therapy
- Aftercare planning
- Alumni events