Can Hydrocodone Make People Violent?

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid used in drugs like Vicodin, Norco and Lorcet to treat pain. From heroin to morphine, all narcotics are made from alkaloids in opium poppy, and hydrocodone is made with the plant’s second-most abundant alkaloid, codeine. In the body, natural chemicals activate opioid receptors in the central nervous system to relieve pain, feel reward and other responses. However, hydrocodone binds to the same receptors, so abusing the drug changes the receptors and other neural circuitry, which can lead to addiction and dependence. This drug is a central nervous system depressant, so violence is not a symptom of abuse, but it can affect aggressive behavior in other ways.

Hydrocodone and Other Substances

Opioid painkillers do not make people violent, but they may amplify aggressive behavior if combined with certain substances. For example, drunkenness can make people more prone to violence, and combining hydrocodone with alcohol can induce intoxication at a significantly accelerated rate. Likewise, several drugs are associated with aggressive behavior, like anabolic steroids, stimulants and PCP. Furthermore, hydrocodone limits self-control and decision making, especially if these drugs spark violent impulses. In 2003, the Aggression and Violent Behavior journal stated that the illicit drug market is associated with violence, including addicts who are willing to use violence to obtain drugs or the money to buy them.

Hydrocodone and Mental Health

Certain mental health disorders can motivate violence, and the following clinical studies suggest connections between violence and opioid dependence:

  • Untreated mental health disorders may have motivated the original opioid abuse
  • Narcotic highs may be used to self-medicate symptoms of depression and other disorders
  • Opioid abuse can initiate or accelerate existing mental health issues
  • Chronic opioid abuse can cause complex changes to mood and behavior
  • Individuals with violent histories have less impulse control during opioid highs

In 2012, the Journal of the American Medical Associated concluded that US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health disorders had high risk for opioid abuse. Many of them use the drug to suppress emotional pain and posttraumatic stress, but opioid abuse ultimately increases the rate of other adverse outcomes, such as overdose and accidental and self-inflicted injuries.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

In an extensive study on drug-related aggressive behavior, the Addictive Behaviors journal in 2003 noted that opioid withdrawal symptoms might also lead to heightened aggression. The following symptoms can make people even more aggressive than normal:

  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Feelings of anxiety and agitation
  • Difficulties falling asleep

In this case, stopping hydrocodone abuse can initiate aggressive moods and behaviors, and strong withdrawal symptoms cause many addicts to relapse. If an addiction forms, rehab is the most effective way to recover, and its services include medically supervised detox, strategies to reduce withdrawal symptoms, integrated mental health therapies and relapse-prevention tools. Family counseling is also available and advised for situations in which the addiction fostered violence, dysfunction or strained relationships among loved ones.

Hydrocodone Addiction Help

If you or a family member is struggling with addiction, violent impulses or a mental health disorder, then call our toll-free helpline to speak with our admissions coordinators. Our staff can discuss warning signs, treatment options and rehab facilities, and they can even check health insurance policies for benefits. They are available 24 hours a day, so please call now.