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Vicodin is a Schedule II controlled substance that consists of the opiate medication hydrocodone and the over-the-counter medication acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is a central nervous system depressant drug that belongs to the same class of drugs as familiar drugs like oxycodone, morphine, heroin, etc., and its presence in Vicodin accounts for its classification as a controlled substance. The primary medicinal use of Vicodin is for the control of chronic pain or acute pain associated with surgery.
Vicodin’s primary mechanism of action relates to its ability to attach to specialized neurons in the brain that are involved in a number of functions, including the suppression of pain and maintenance of vital functions. These neurons are specialized for neurotransmitters, such as enkephalins and endorphins, that are often referred to as endogenous opiates due to their similar chemical structure and mechanism of action to opiate drugs.
Its other effects include:
Vicodin is one of many prescription narcotic medications that is associated with the rise of prescription drug abuse in the United States. All of the drugs classified as opiate or narcotic drugs have a high potential for abuse due to their ability to relax individuals, result in euphoric states, and produce physical dependence.
Alcohol is also a central nervous system depressant that reduces activity of the neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Alcohol is the most abused drug in the United States, accounting for the majority of substance use disorder diagnoses that occur. Alcohol is often a primary substance of abuse, but other substances are abused along with it, including opiate drugs, stimulants, cannabis products, hallucinogens, etc.
Alcohol’s major mechanism of action primarily occurs as a result of its ability to increase the actions of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and to decrease the functions of the excitatory neurotransmitter N-methyl-D-aspirate (NDMA).
Alcohol has a number of similar effects to Vicodin that include:
Individuals who abuse one substance will also often tend to engage in polysubstance abuse (using more than one substance at a time). There are number of reasons for this, depending on the substances being used. For instance, using two different central nervous system depressants results in an exacerbation of their euphoric effects.
Mixing any drugs of abuse is a dangerous practice. According to Concepts of Chemical Dependency, mixing drugs is problematic for a variety of reasons.
These acute effects can result in a number of potential dangers that include both physical symptoms and issues with relationships. For instance, an increased potential to overdose on Vicodin or alcohol is obviously associated with increased potential to suffer brain damage, other physical damage, or even death. Issues with cognition and motor functioning can result in potentially serious accidents. Issues with poor judgment can lead to long-term consequences (e.g., engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex) and affect personal or professional relationships.
A number of professional sources discuss some long-term effects that may occur as a result of combining drugs like alcohol and Vicodin:
The formal instructions that are both given to patients who use medications like Vicodin strongly recommend that the individual not drink alcohol when taking the drug. The knowledge that a person is drinking alcohol and taking Vicodin is enough to warrant suspicion that the person is abusing one or both drugs.
Other signs that suggest abuse include:
The combination of narcotic pain medications such as Vicodin and alcohol is a particularly dangerous but common practice. This represents a serious situation that can have a number of significant short-term and long-term effects on the individual’s physical health, mental functioning, relationships, occupation, and other important areas of life. Individuals who frequently use Vicodin and alcohol should consider becoming involved in a formal treatment programto avoid these issues.