What Is Lorcet, and What Are the Risks of Abuse?

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A narcotic pain reliever available only by prescription to treat moderate to severe pain, Lorcet is a combination opioid drug containing both hydrocodone, an opioid, and acetaminophen, an over-the-counter analgesic.
 
Drugs with a similar chemical makeup to Lorcet include Vicodin, Lortab, and Xodol.  

Hydrocodone combination products were rescheduled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2013 due to high rates of diversion and abuse, and dangerous side effects, including drug dependence and addiction, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports. These drugs, including Lorcet, were moved from Schedule III to the more tightly controlled and regulated Schedule II. The higher control status marks Lorcet as a drug with a high potential for misuse. Schedule II is the highest level of regulation for drugs with accepted medical uses in the United States.  

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publishes that over 50 million American adults have abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime. NIDA additionally states that opioid painkillers are among some of the most commonly abused pharmaceutical products in the United States today.

Spotting Lorcet Abuse

Hydrocodone is the most regularly prescribed opioid drugs in the United States, as the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reports that hydrocodone combination products topped 137 million prescriptions in 2013. Opioid drugs work to block pain sensations by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, slowing down some of the functions of the central nervous system and enhancing moods by increasing the amount of dopamine present in the system. They can also cause a sense of euphoria, calm, and relaxation.  

Lorcet is highly effective for controlling pain when used as directed for a legitimate medical need; however, it also can be habit-forming when used on a long-term basis. Individuals may begin to crave Lorcet in between doses and suffer from physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when the drug wears off. Drug dependence can form even with licit use of the drug, and individuals may develop a tolerance to it, needing to take more Lorcet to keep feeling the same effects. Individuals may seek out additional prescriptions via “doctor shopping,” or seeing more than one doctor to get a prescription, or by exaggerating their medical symptoms. They may take more Lorcet at a time than prescribed or take it after a prescription has run out. Any use of Lorcet outside of a genuine medical need and prescription is considered drug abuse.  

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publishes that a little less than a quarter of those abusing prescription drugs in 2013 and 2014 got them from a doctor, while more than half obtained them from a relative or friend for free. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that nearly 4.5 million Americans (who were at least 12 years old) abused a prescription painkiller in 2014. The majority of those doing so were between the ages of 18 and 25.  

Lorcet may be abused recreationally for the burst of pleasure, or “high,” the drug can create. It may be swallowed, chewed, crushed and snorted, smoked, or injected when abused. Abusing Lorcet can not only enhance moods, but also increase sociability and talkativeness, decrease inhibitions, and cause individuals to appear drowsy, sluggish, slur their speech, and have disrupted mental facilities and motor coordination. Users may be more prone to accidents and injuries as well as engage in potentially hazardous sexual contact due to impaired decision-making skills and heightened risk-taking behaviors.

Lorcet Overdose

One of the biggest risk factors in abusing a drug like Lorcet is the potential for a fatal overdose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls opioid overdose a national epidemic in America, as 78 people die every day from an overdose involving one of these drugs. Close to 30,000 deaths were attributed to an opioid overdose in 2014, making it the highest ever fatality rate recorded and surpassing deaths from car crashes, the CDC further reports.

When Lorcet overwhelms a person’s system, they generally stop breathing, causing a lack of oxygen to the brain, leading to brain damage, coma, and/or death. In addition to respiration rates slowing down during a Lorcet overdose, body temperature also drops as do both heart rate and blood pressure levels. Cold clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, a bluish tinge to the nails and lips, drowsiness, weak pulse, confusion, lack of responsiveness, and unconsciousness are all signs of an opioid overdose that requires swift medical attention.

It can be difficult to quantify how much Lorcet is too much when taking it recreationally. Metabolism, genetics, biology, dosage, and method of abuse can all be factors in how quickly the drug reaches toxic levels. Altering the drug’s intended absorption method, such as by crushing or chewing it, can send the entire dosage into the body at once, resulting in toxicity. Taking other drugs or drinking alcohol in combination with Lorcet adds to the risk as well.

Not only can opioid drugs be hazardous to the body, so can the other component in Lorcet, acetaminophen. High doses of this analgesic can be toxic to the liver, and the FDA warns that taking it, even as prescribed, for more than 10 days can cause lasting damage. Acetaminophen overdose can significantly damage the liver, manifesting as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite, sweating, jaundice, fatigue, internal bleeding, and/or coma. Lorcet can also cause skin irritations with long-term use.

Drug Dependence

Regular use of Lorcet causes dependence to form, and withdrawal side effects to be present when the drug is not used. Opioid withdrawal is a serious condition that physically is very similar to a really bad case of the flu. Chills, nausea, sweating, goosebumps, abdominal cramps, fatigue, insomnia, muscle pain, tearing, yawning, runny nose, dilated pupils, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, shallow breathing, and loss of appetite are common. Psychologically, Lorcet withdrawal may cause restlessness, agitation, irritability, anxiety, depression, and drug cravings. 

Symptoms of Addiction Involving Lorcet

ASAM reports that in 2014, close to 2.5 million people in the United States suffered from an addiction involving an opioid drug. Signs of addiction involving Lorcet may include:<

  • Taking more of the drug than intended in a sitting and/or taking it for longer than intended
  • Multiple attempts to stop taking Lorcet without success
  • Mood swings and unpredictable behaviors
  • Increased secrecy and withdrawal from family and friends
  • Potential change in social circles
  • Fluctuations in weight, appetite, and sleep schedules
  • Decline in physical appearance
  • Drop in grades at school and/or work performance
  • Lack of interest in activities or things that were previously important or enjoyed
  • Interpersonal relationship difficulties
  • Financial problems
  • Run-ins with law enforcement and/or legal entanglements
  • Feeling the need to take more of the drug to feel its effects (drug tolerance)
  • Presence of withdrawal symptoms
  • Inability to regularly fulfill normal daily obligations
  • Out-of-character behaviors
  • Using Lorcet in situations that could be hazardous
  • Continued use of the drug despite negative social, emotional, and physical consequences
  • Thoughts and actions being consumed by getting Lorcet, using it, and “coming down” from the drug

Medical Detox and Treatment Options

Due to the significance of the withdrawal symptoms associated with Lorcet withdrawal, individuals should not stop taking it suddenly, or “cold turkey.” Instead, medical detox is the optimal way to safely process the drug out of the body. Medical detox is performed in a specialized treatment facility that can provide around-the-clock medical and mental health support and care. Vital signs can be monitored and medications administered to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Hydrocodone is a relatively fast-acting opioid drug, and it may be replaced with a longer acting one, like methadone or buprenorphine, during detox. These long-acting opioids can then be slowly weaned off, or tapered down, over a set period of time, thus helping to minimize opioid withdrawal. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports that opioid withdrawal usually starts within 12 hours or so of the last dose. Lorcet withdrawal generally peaks in 2-3 days, and symptoms taper off in a week to 10 days.

Due to the significance of the withdrawal symptoms associated with Lorcet withdrawal, individuals should not stop taking it suddenly, or “cold turkey.” Instead, medical detox is the optimal way to safely process the drug out of the body. Medical detox is performed in a specialized treatment facility that can provide around-the-clock medical and mental health support and care. Vital signs can be monitored and medications administered to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Hydrocodone is a relatively fast-acting opioid drug, and it may be replaced with a longer acting one, like methadone or buprenorphine, during detox. These long-acting opioids can then be slowly weaned off, or tapered down, over a set period of time, thus helping to minimize opioid withdrawal. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports that opioid withdrawal usually starts within 12 hours or so of the last dose. Lorcet withdrawal generally peaks in 2-3 days, and symptoms taper off in a week to 10 days.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) publishes that there are three FDA-approved drugs for treating opioid dependence: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. The first two are opioid substitution drugs while the last one is an opioid antagonist, designed to block opioid receptors in the brain and keep individuals from returning to opioid abuse. Buprenorphine and methadone may both be used, in conjunction with other adjunct medications for specific withdrawal symptoms, during detox while naltrexone is generally reserved for later on during treatment to enhance compliance. Buprenorphine is also combined with naloxone, another opioid agonist, during opioid dependence treatment programs.NIDA reports that opioid dependence is optimally treated with a combination of both medications and therapeutic methods. Behavioral therapy and counseling sessions that teach new and effective coping mechanisms, stress management techniques, communication and relationship skills, and how to recognize and control cravings and potential triggers that may arise are all parts of a comprehensive opioid treatment program.

Addiction is a highly personal, and also treatable, brain disease. As a result, there are many different types of treatment plans available. A detailed assessment and evaluation by trained specialists can determine what model of care is best for the individual in question.

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