Vicodin addiction doesn’t tend to take place over night. Rather, a series of reactions and dynamics generally account for the progression of Vicodin addiction – from prescription use or experimentation to physical and psychological addiction. By understanding the forces of drug tolerance, self-medication, operant conditioning and neurochemical changes initiated by opiates ingested by the body, greater comprehension of the progression of Vicodin addiction can be obtained.
How Vicodin Addiction Starts
Regardless of the means of acquisition, a series of events takes place once Vicodin is ingested. First, the active ingredient in Vicodin – known as hydrocodone – works to block the body’s pain receptors, located primarily in the brain stem and spine. Secondly, the drug causes an excess of dopamine to be experienced by the brain, causing the user to experience feelings of calm and sensations of happiness and well-being. As this chemical reaction occurs, the brain’s pleasure centers – responsible for feelings of reward – proverbially light up, causing an association between the Vicodin pill and euphoria.
The Ultimate Progression of Vicodin Addiction
Over time and with repeated use, Vicodin’s effects on the body begin to change. The amount of time it takes for Vicodin to eliminate pain and create positive feelings both increase over time, as the body builds up tolerance to the drug. As this phenomenon occurs, many users begin to double or triple their dosages – or take pills more closely together than the recommended time frame (usually every four to six hours). As time progresses, the brain also begins to build a strong association between Vicodin and feelings of calm and well-being, creating the psychological portion of chemical dependency.
Additionally, the brain continues its attempts to re-achieve chemical balance despite the amount of Vicodin introduced to the system (and the ensuing chemical changes). As a result, the brain senses the overabundance of dopamine and lowers production of the vital neurotransmitter. Unfortunately, this leads the Vicodin user to feel balanced when the drug is active in his or her system, but experience a “crashing” feeling when Vicodin wears off (and the initial chemical imbalance is felt). This leads to a craving for more Vicodin, as well as physical adjustments when the opiate is suddenly removed from the system (known as “withdrawal symptoms”). Together, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms and cravings work to keep individuals addicted to Vicodin, while the euphoria experienced on the drug provides the necessary positive reinforcement. There is help available through various Vicodin rehab centers.