Hydrocodone is a synthetic opioid derivative of codeine. It is commonly used in combination with acetaminophen to control moderate to severe pain. Historically, hydrocodone has been used as a cough suppressant although this has largely been replaced by dextromethorphan in current cough and cold formulations. Hydrocodone’s more potent metabolite, hydromorphone has also found wide use as an analgesic and is frequently used in cases of severe pain.
This combination medication is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It contains an opioid pain reliever (hydrocodone) and a non-opioid pain reliever (acetaminophen). Hydrocodone works in the brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain. Acetaminophen can also reduce a fever.
- Take this medication by mouth as directed by your doctor. You may take this drug with or without food. If you have nausea, it may help to take this drug with food. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about other ways to decrease nausea (such as lying down for 1 to 2 hours with as little head movement as possible).
- If you are using a liquid form of this medication, use a medication measuring device to carefully measure the prescribed dose. Do not use a household spoon because you may not get the correct dose.
- The dosage is based on your medical condition and response to treatment. In children, the dosage is also based on weight. Do not increase your dose, take the medication more frequently, or take it for a longer time than prescribed. Properly stop the medication when so directed. Pain medications work best if they are used as the first signs of pain occur. If you wait until the pain has worsened, the medication may not work as well.
- If you have ongoing pain (such as due to cancer), your doctor may direct you to also take long-acting opioid medications. In that case, this medication might be used for sudden (breakthrough) pain only as needed. Other pain relievers (such as ibuprofen, naproxen) may also be prescribed. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about using this product safely with other drugs.
- Suddenly stopping this medication may cause withdrawal, especially if you have used it for a long time or in high doses. To prevent withdrawal, your doctor may lower your dose slowly. Tell your doctor or pharmacist right away if you have any withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, mental/mood changes (including anxiety, trouble sleeping, thoughts of suicide), watering eyes, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, muscle aches, or sudden changes in behavior.
Side Effects of Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen
- Nausea, vomiting, constipation, lightheadedness, dizziness, or drowsiness may occur. Some of these side effects may decrease after you have been using this medication for a while. If any of these effects last or get worse, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.
- To prevent constipation, eat dietary fiber, drink enough water, and exercise. You may also need to take a laxative. Ask your pharmacist which type of laxative is right for you.
- To reduce the risk of dizziness and lightheadedness, get up slowly when rising from a sitting or lying position.
- Remember that this medication has been prescribed because your doctor has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.
- Tell your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects, including: interrupted breathing during sleep (sleep apnea), mental/mood changes (such as agitation, confusion, hallucinations), stomach/abdominal pain, difficulty urinating, signs of your adrenal glands not working well (such as loss of appetite, unusual tiredness, weight loss).
- Get medical help right away if you have any very serious side effects, including: fainting, seizure, slow/shallow breathing, severe drowsiness/difficulty waking up.
- A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.