Lortab is a Schedule II prescription opioid analgesic used to treat patients suffering from moderate to severe surgical or chronic pain. A combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, the drug is highly addictive and doesn’t take long to inflict dependency.
Most people would naturally assume that the opioid in this drug cocktail carries all the risk; quite the contrary, acetaminophen is lethal in frequent and high doses. Consumer Reports notes nearly 80,000 people are treated for effects stemming from acetaminophen overdose annually. Combining the household drug with an opioid analgesic makes for a powerful and deadly drug at the wrong dose.
Who Uses It?
A large number of the people who are addicted to Lortab were originally just patients in pain taking their medication as prescribed. Many go on to misuse their prescribed medicine and find themselves physically dependent on the drugs down the road. It appears females are more likely than males to become dependent on these drugs, and they also seem to suffer from dangerous side effects more often. Per CBS News, around 18 women were dying every day of opioid drug overdoses as of 2010, and those between the ages of 45 and 54 carried the highest risk of mortality from a painkiller overdose.
According to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, over 210 million prescriptions were written for opioid drugs like Lortab in 2010, and that rate is only increasing. Just two years later, the tally was up to 259 million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Thus, many of the individuals who are abusing Lortab are doing so by way of their own prescription for it. Others buy it on the street for a few bucks per pill, a costly addiction considering the half-life of Lortab is a mere six hours long at best, but it can be as short as three hours.
Prescription opioids are abused by young people more than any other demographic. Teen Health reports 24 percent of teenagers interviewed in 2012 admitted to having engaged in non-medical use of a prescription drug. More and more teenagers and young adults are jumping on the opioid abuse bandwagon every year. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes the results of a 2011 survey in which only four percent of people aged 26 and older were using prescription drugs without a medical purpose, with seven percent of 12-to-17-year-old individuals engaging in such, and 13 percent of those in the 18-to-25 group.
While the statistics aren’t quite as high as they are for teens, older fans of the drug certainly are growing in number. Much to the surprise of many, Lortab is widely misused and abused by the elderly population. Elderly individuals account for a great deal of the prescriptions that are being doled out every year. One study by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project examined the hospitalization rates of patients for individual drug classes and noted opioids — at 12.2 percent — were responsible for more hospital stays among the elderly population than any other drug type. In addition, a great many substance abusers are waging a war with more than just drug and alcohol. Mental illness affects approximately 37 percent of all alcoholics and 53 percent of all drug addicts, Helpguide reports.
How Is Lortab Abused?
Lortab is produced in an extended-release tablet form. Most of the people who abuse it just swallow the pills, but there are exceptions to this rule. Some people will work hard to crush the tablet — despite the ER variation being made difficult to crush — and then either snort it or mix it in a water solution and inject it. Both of these methods are sure to deliver a stronger high, so some individuals may segue from oral use to another method over time as their tolerance builds and they crave a more intense high effect.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is a compulsive disease that affects the mind and body when an individual grows to be physically dependent on a substance like Lortab. Around 22.7 million people are reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to be struggling with substance abuse in 2013 and in need of treatment. The signs and symptoms of addiction are numerous and include:
- A growing tolerance to the substance that requires amplified doses in order to get the same effect the user has become accustomed to
- Disengagement from social events and activities that the person used to enjoy taking part in, primarily because he would rather isolate himself and spend his time drinking or doing drugs
- Continuing to use the substance despite the negative effects it may have had on the individual’s personal life, health and loved ones
- Trying to decrease the frequency and amount of drugs or alcohol used and finding it difficult to do or repeatedly failing at meeting such goals
- Preoccupation with substance abuse habits and spending a great amount of time thinking about using or drinking
- Engaging in continued substance abuse so the individual doesn’t have to experience withdrawal symptoms
- Legal, financial or interpersonal damage incurred due to substance abuse
The Lows of Lortab
Due to potentially unsafe drug use practices — such as sharing needles or preparation equipment — those who abuse the drug through IV injection methods run the risk of many possible dangers, the most worrisome being contracting an infectious disease. Around 36 percent of all AIDS infections and 60 percent of all hepatitis C infections in the United States stemmed from injection drug use, per the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California, San Francisco.
Additionally, crushing the ER form of the drug is even more dangerous than crushing the regular version. The ER form is a more concentrated dose since it must continually deliver pain relief adequately over a long period of time. It was actually manufactured this way to deter substance abusers, but those who crush the concentrated tablet run the added risk of overdosing when injecting the drug.
The most obvious risk of abusing Lortab is the potential for overdose. The Los Angeles Times reports around 92,200 people visited emergency rooms due to opioid pain reliever overdoses in 2010. That year, 10,427 people died from these overdoses, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reports. The rate of abuse of opioid-based drugs has steadily been rising in the last couple decades. The CDC reports opioid drugs being a contributing factor to 30 percent of drug-related overdose deaths in 1999, whereas the rate was about 60 percent in 2010.
Respiratory depression is a major risk that comes with using opioid pain relievers like Lortab. If rendered unconscious, the user could suffer everything from stroke to coma due to the lack of oxygen to the brain. Lortab also affects hormone production and abuse of it can impact the endocrine system and reproductive health.
Some individuals even suffer hearing loss due to opioid pain reliever abuse. One study published in the Journal of Noise and Health reviewed the cases of 23 male opioid abusers and noted half of those with no previous noise exposure had significant hearing loss, in addition to 58 percent of those who reported hobby-related noise exposure. Liver damage is common enough among opioid painkiller users and addicts that it is listed as a warning on all prescriptions for this genre of drugs.
Treatment for Lortab Addiction
If you’re reading this, that means you’re that much closer to starting a new life in recovery. It starts with a meeting between you and staff members of the facility of your choosing. From there, you will start the detox process. Today, you have a variety of treatment options when it comes to opioid detox, including holistic remedies and non-medicated detox, but the majority of patients opt for medicated detox.
For years, methadone has been used as one of the primary treatment resources for opioid addicts. The opioid antagonist works by filling opioid receptors so they are tricked into feeling as though the user has taken a dose of Lortab when she hasn’t. The California Society for Addiction Medicine reports a 60 to 90 percent success rate when methadone is used as the treatment drug.
Partial opioid antagonist buprenorphine works in the same manner, but it comes with a lower abuse potential as it limits the ability for users to take more of the drug to get high. According to The Fix, buprenorphine was effective in 88 percent of treated patients during initial trials; however, later reports show lower rates of efficacy and decreased recovery rates in patients after discontinuing the medication therapy.
Naltrexone hydrochloride has traditionally been used in the treatment of alcoholism, but in recent years, it has proved its efficacy in the opioid treatment field by inhibiting the euphoric effects opioid abusers are accustomed to feeling after using. The purpose of all three of these medications is to slowly wean the addict off opiates without the abrupt withdrawal experience that otherwise comes with detox.
Continued care is needed for all substance abuse treatment patients. Detox rids the body of most of the physical aspects of addiction, but only follow-up care can prepare you for the road ahead and help you to cleanse your life of the psychological dependence you’ve developed. Patients who seek additional treatment — such as therapy and support groups — after detox take an average of 40 percent longer to relapse, if they ever do, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
For more information on how to get help for a Lortab addiction, or for details on how to help your loved one, contact us today
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.