and Depression

Are They Connected?

Table of Contents

Hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed narcotic pain reliever in the United States. People typically use hydrocodone to relieve severe pain following an injury or surgery. If used for more extended periods, however, this powerful drug can be addictive. Can it also cause depression? We will answer your questions about the relationship between hydrocodone and depression.

What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid medication made by adding synthetic chemicals to the natural opioid codeine. It is used either alone or in combination with other medications to relieve pain. The U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has identified hydrocodone as the most frequently prescribed narcotic in the United States.1 This drug is primarily used to relieve severe, ongoing pain that lasts for more than a few days. One common brand name of hydrocodone is Vicodin.

Can Hydrocodone Cause Depression?

Recent research has found a correlation between opioid drugs, including hydrocodone, and depression. This research shows that people diagnosed with moderate to severe depression have significantly higher odds of abusing opioid drugs like hydrocodone.2  The study also found that about 10% of people who use opioid medications, including hydrocodone, for more than 30 days are at a higher risk of developing depression.3  This means, people diagnosed with depression are more likely to use hydrocodone, and people who use hydrocodone are more likely to develop depression.

Is It Safe to Take Hydrocodone for Depression?

While researchers are experimenting with some low-dose opioid drugs to treat depression, hydrocodone is not considered for this purpose. In fact, hydrocodone interacts adversely with the medications most commonly used for depression, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Hydrocodone uses a liver enzyme to convert into a form that relieves pain. SRIs block this enzyme, making it impossible for hydrocodone to convert into a pain-relieving form.

A study conducted by Stanford University found that patients with depression who were prescribed both an SSRI medication and hydrocodone rated their post-surgical pain a full one point higher on a 1 to 10 pain rating scale than those prescribed only hydrocodone.4  Considering this interaction, plus the fact that hydrocodone is highly addictive, it is not safe to take hydrocodone for depression.

Can You Become Addicted to Hydrocodone?

Yes. You can become addicted to hydrocodone. Using hydrocodone for more than a couple of weeks leads to tolerance. Tolerance means that the longer hydrocodone is taken, the less effective the same dose becomes. Eventually, it’s not possible to stop taking hydrocodone without feeling the effects of withdrawal, at which point tolerance becomes an addiction.

What is One Type of Treatment for Hydrocodone Addiction?

One treatment used to treat the symptoms of hydrocodone addiction is medications to control cravings. Methadone and Buprenorphine are two medications that act on the same part of the brain as hydrocodone but with less intensity. Medications can offset the cravings for hydrocodone while participating in other therapies to address substance use disorder. Other treatments for addiction might include cognitive behavioral therapy, marriage and family counseling, and support groups.

Treatment for hydrocodone addiction should never be attempted alone at home. Medical supervision is required to remove hydrocodone from the body safely. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and hydrocodone addiction, behavioral therapies and counseling can help. Find effective medical treatment today.


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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