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Norco is a prescription opioid medication containing the opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen, an over-the-counter painkiller and fever reducer.1 It is similar to other hydrocodone/acetaminophen combination products, such as Vicodin, and is prescribed for severe pain. Much like other painkillers, it’s easy for Norco use to quickly turn into a Norco addiction.
Many people abuse Norco pain medicine for its sedating and pleasurable effects, but Norco abuse is dangerous and can have dangerous consequences on both your physical and mental health. Norco is also extremely addictive, and misusing or abusing these pills increases the risk that you’ll become addicted.
In this Article:
How is Norco Abused?
Some people abuse Norco in order to get high, which can include:2
- Taking more Norco than prescribed
- Taking Norco more frequently than prescribed
- Using Norco without a prescription
- Combining Norco with other substances, such as alcohol or drugs
- Using Norco in a way other than intended
If you swallow a Norco pill, the drug must first be digested by the stomach, absorbed by the intestines, and processed by the liver before it reaches the brain and produces its intoxicating effects. Many people looking to get a faster onset of effects and more intense high may use a different method of administration, such as:2
- Opening the extended-release capsule and snort the powder
- Crushing the Norco tablets and snort the powder
- Crushing the Norco tablets, dissolve in a solution, and inject it
Snorting or injecting Norco pain medicine creates a much more intense feeling of euphoria and overall, is far more rewarding for the user than taking a Norco pill. Injecting or snorting Norco also increases the risk of developing a Norco addiction due to the rapid development of tolerance, which means you need more of the opioid to get high, and physiological dependence, which means your body requires the drug in order to feel “normal.”
Who is At Risk for Norco Addiction
Anyone with access to Norco, whether they were prescribed it, a family member or friend was prescribed it, or they know people who abuse it, is at risk for misusing or abusing Norco. That said, there are several risk factors that contribute to Norco addiction, misuse, and abuse, including:3
- Past or current substance abuse
- Untreated mental health disorders, such as depression
- Younger age
- Family or social environments that encourage Norco abuse or misuse
Signs & Symptoms of Norco Addiction and Abuse
If you’re worried a loved one is abusing Norco, here are some signs and symptoms of Norco addiction or abuse to be on the lookout for:4,5
- Mood swings.
- Memory or attention problems.
- Profound drowsiness.
- Slurred speech.
- Constricted pupils.
- Bloodshot eyes.
- Poor hygiene.
- Changes in appetite resulting in sudden weight gain or loss.
- Uncontrollable shaking.
- Muscle tightening.
- Ankle, foot, or leg swelling.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Decreased sexual desire.
If someone is injecting Norco or any other opioid, you may notice track lines, collapsed veins, lesions, bruises, or inflammation on their forearms or other common injection sites, such as feet or hands. If someone is snorting Norco pills, you may also notice frequent nosebleeds or sinusitis.5
If you or someone you care about is struggling with Norco abuse or addiction, don’t hesitate to call 800-926-9037 (Who Answers?) and speak to a recovery support specialist who can help you find a rehab program that’s right for you.
The Harmful Effects of Norco Abuse and Addiction
Abusing Norco can be harmful in both the short-and long-term. Some potentially dangerous or detrimental Norco side effects include:4
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing.
- Chest pain.
- Swelling of your throat, tongue, face, lips, or eyes.
- Changes in heartbeat.
- Agitation or hallucinations.
- Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite.
- Profound weakness or dizziness.
Because abusing Norco pain medicine or other opioids caused profound respiratory depression (slowed breathing), Norco abuse can lead to hypoxia, a condition in which not enough oxygen reaches your brain. Over time, hypoxia can have harmful effects on the brain, including permanent brain damage.2
Other long-term consequences of Norco abuse and addiction include:6
- Increased risk of heart attack and heart failure.
- Sleep-disordered breathing (such as low levels of oxygen and sleep apnea).
- Decreased levels of estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Increased risk of fractures.
- Severe constipation.
The longer you abuse Norco pills the higher your risk of an accidental overdose. This risk increases because as your tolerance builds, you need more Norco to experience the euphoric and relaxing effects.
Higher Norco doses pose greater risks such as slowed or stopped breathing, coma, and death.2 If you or someone you know abuses Norco or other opioids, you may want to visit your local pharmacy to buy Narcan, the life-saving opioid reversal medication.
Some other side effects of Norco associated with long-term use are specific to the way in which you abuse Norco (i.e., injecting or snorting). If you inject Norco, you may contract HIV, hepatitis, or other infectious diseases.5 Conversely, if you snort opioids, some Norco side effects you may notice include:5
- Loss of smell
- Severe nose bleeds
- Perforated nasal septum
Lastly, if you abuse Norco pills, you may be at risk for switching to heroin, since it is also an opioid and causes similar desirable effects. In many parts of the country, heroin is easier to obtain than Norco or other opioid painkillers and it may actually be cheaper so many people resort to using heroin.2
Unlike Norco, heroin is an unregulated street drug that dealers will often cut with other dangerous substances and chemicals, including fentanyl, an extremely potent and deadly synthetic opioid.7
Norco Dependence & Withdrawal
If you abuse Norco for an extended period of time, you are likely to develop a physiological dependence on the drug, which means you’ll experience unpleasant and distressing withdrawal symptoms when you abruptly stop taking it or reduce your dose. Common Norco withdrawal symptoms include:4
- Teary eyes and runny nose
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Profound yawning
- Excessive sweating
- Chills and goosebumps.
- Muscle pain
- Back or joint pain
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
These Norco side effects and withdrawal symptoms can be so painful that people will often return to Norco or opioid use in order to alleviate these symptoms. This is one of the reasons it can be so difficult to quit abusing Norco pain medicine.
Thankfully, there are Norco detox programs that can provide you with 24-hour medical support and detox medication to help ease your symptoms while the drug leaves your body. Call 800-926-9037 (Who Answers?) to speak to a recovery support specialist about finding a Norco detox program.
How Do You Know if You’re Addicted to Norco?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines a Norco addiction or opioid use disorder as a compulsive pattern of drug use regardless of negative consequences. This is different from a physiological dependence, which can develop even if you are taking your Norco as prescribed.
It can sometimes be difficult to know whether you’re addicted to Norco or not, but there are many common behavioral signs of addiction, including:5
- Lying or exhibiting secretive behavior
- Combining Norco with other drugs or alcohol
- Spending a large amount of time obtaining and using Norco, as well as recovering from Norco
- Abusing Norco in dangerous situations, such as while driving
- Using Norco despite negative consequences at school, work, or home
- Neglecting previously enjoyed activities and hobbies in favor of abusing Norco
- “Doctor shopping” for new physicians to prescribe Norco
- Failing to stop using Norco, despite attempts to do so
If you are concerned that you may be addicted to Norco and want to seek professional help, treatment is just a phone call away. Call 800-926-9037 (Who Answers?) to talk to a kind and supportive treatment advisor about rehab options.
Find a Norco Addiction Treatment Program
If you are addicted to Norco and are ready to get help, a professional Norco addiction treatment program can help. The two main types of treatment settings include inpatient treatment and outpatient recovery programs.
You live at the recovery facility for the duration of your treatment program, which may last between 30 and 90 days, although sometimes longer. Every program has different philosophies, amenities, and rules, so you will want to make sure to ask about these various features when comparing treatment programs.
You live at home while attending an outpatient treatment center anywhere from 1 to 2 days per week for 1 or 2 hours per day to every day for several hours per day. The more intensive outpatient options include partial hospitalization programs (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), sometimes called day treatment.
Although outpatient treatment programs are certainly more convenient for people who need to work or attend school while recovering from a Norco addiction, they aren’t generally recommended if you have:
- A severe Norco addiction.
- An addiction to more than one drug.
- A co-occurring psychiatric condition.
- Several relapse triggers at home, including paraphernalia and people who are abusing Norco or other opioids.
While they do not provide professional treatment, many people find comfort and support in attending Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, a social support group of people recovering from drug abuse and addiction.
- S. National Library of Medicine. (2019). Label: NORCO – hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablet.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Prescription Opioids DrugFacts.
- Webster, L. R. (2017). Risk Factors for Opioid-Use Disorder and Overdose. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 125(5), 1741-1748. doi:10.1213/ane.0000000000002496
- S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Hydrocodone.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders(5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Baldini, A., Korff, M. V., & Lin, E. H. (2012). A Review of Potential Adverse Effects of Long-Term Opioid Therapy. The Primary Care Companion For CNS Disorders. doi:10.4088/pcc.11m01326
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Fentanyl DrugFacts.