Hydrocodone can produce many side effects that differ in severity, depending on the individual and the dosage. Common side effects include drowsiness, gastrointestinal issues, and blurred vision. More serious side effects include jaundice, organ failure, and severe allergic reaction.
A narcotic analgesic and cough suppressant, hydrocodone is generally prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain. It comes in tablet, capsule, syrup, and solution forms. Like other narcotics, hydrocodone has the potential to become addictive and is sometimes misused as a euphoriant. Those taking this medication should avoid the use of alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and methylphenidates. Severe adverse reactions such as respiratory distress, organ failure, coma, and even death can occur when mixing hydrocodone with the aforementioned contraindicated agents.
Even with normal use, the side effects of hydrocodone may appear across multiple bodily systems, and can range from mild to severe. Drowsiness and decreased alertness are some of the most common side effects. For this reason, those taking hydrocodone should use caution when driving or working with heavy machinery. Blurred vision, another common side effect, can also become a dangerous problem while driving or operating machinery. Other typical reactions can include thickening of mucus in the nose or throat.
Hydrocodone can also affect the nervous system, causing dizziness, lightheadedness, stupor, agitation and euphoria. Stupor is a more severe form of drowsiness, wherein the sufferer usually lacks cognitive awareness and is generally unresponsive except to applied stimuli. Like most opiates, hydrocodone will often cause an exaggerated state of well-being better known as euphoria.
Gastrointestinal side effects of hydrocodone use include nausea, constipation, dry mouth and vomiting. In some people, vomiting can be severe enough to require hospitalization. When hydrocodone is prepared with acetaminophen, effects can become more severe for some patients, especially those who abuse alcohol or have preexisting liver or kidney conditions.
Acute pancreatitis is one of the rarer and less common side effects experienced by those consuming hydrocodone with acetaminophen. Alcoholic patients tend to experience greater levels of pancreatitis as well as hepatotoxicity leading to liver failure. Individuals with underlying kidney or liver conditions sometimes develop a kidney disorder called acute tubular necrosis from hydrocodone-acetaminophen related hepatotoxicity.
Other rare side effects of hydrocodone include erythematous skin rashes and severe allergic reactions. Patients experiencing allergic reactions may display symptoms such as hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the throat structures. Though rare, this type of severe allergic reaction often requires emergency medical care.