Ways that Hydrocodone Can Cause Impaired Judgment

Ways that Hydrocodone Can Cause Impaired Judgment

Hydrocodone is a fast-acting, semi-synthetic opioid made from the codeine in poppy plants. This painkiller is commonly combined with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and marketed under brand names like Vicodin, Norco and Lortab. The high associated with hydrocodone motivates high rates of recreational use: the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health finds that painkillers are the second-most abused type of drug (trailing only marijuana) with a higher recreational-use rate than prescription stimulants, tranquilizers and sedatives combined. When high on hydrocodone, people may suffer from impaired judgment, which can affect driving, consumption levels and social interactions. Furthermore, hydrocodone addiction causes neurobiological changes that devastate judgment and decision-making skills.

According to the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology journal in 2007, hydrocodone acts on three main opioid receptors that are typically activated by natural peptides, like endorphin. When an opioid binds to these receptors, it both relieves pain and triggers the brain’s reward system. However, repeated use causes neuroadaptation that results in addiction. As a brain disease, addiction influences decision-making in the following ways:

  • Dominating the reward system blocks out other stimuli to make opioids drive feelings of reward
  • Changes to the frontal lobe compromises the brain’s ability to defer opioid gratification, to control impulses and to maintain healthy priorities
  • Enhanced synaptic plasticity makes the brain more receptive to opioid-reward memories that can trigger intense cravings

Both the European Journal of Pharmacology in 1999 and the Journal of Neuroscience in 2011 describe hydrocodone addiction as a learning and memory disorder due to the way this drug affects decision-making and judgment. Moreover, the Clinical Psychology Review journal in 2012 places the role of genetic predisposition at around 50%, meaning that some brains are more vulnerable to addiction-related neuroadaptation.

In terms of daily life, hydrocodone addiction can influence judgment in the following ways:

  • Inability to see or assess the damage to health and relationships that addiction causes
  • Willingness to risk legal consequences by doctor shopping or buying from illicit sources
  • Obsessive mental preoccupation with acquiring and using prescription painkillers
  • Deflecting criticism for addiction-related behavior by blaming other causes
  • Lying about hydrocodone use and where or how the drugs are acquired
  • Impaired cognitive function that makes addicts believe they do not have a drug problem

The consequences of poor judgment while high on drugs can cause many problems, like strained relationships, social isolation, financial crises, job loss and physical and mental health problems. The 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network report notes that painkillers are responsible for nearly half of all medical emergencies involving recreational prescription drug use.

Hydrocodone addicts should seek help immediately to get clean. Rehab centers help addicts recover through the following treatment methods:

  • Medically supervised detox in a comfortable setting
  • Integrated mental health care for co-occurring disorders, like depression and anxiety
  • Behavioral therapy that addresses maladaptive thought patterns
  • Motivational therapy that encourages change through reflective interviewing
  • One-on-one counseling to tackle underlying concerns
  • Group counseling to learn new life skills and to begin building support
  • Holistic pain-management options for patients with legitimate pain issues

If you have questions about treatment, addiction or painkiller use, then call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now. Our admissions coordinators can answer your questions and check your health insurance policy for rehab benefits. Please call now to get help today.