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Vicodin Abuse Stats

In the 2012 Monitoring the Future survey, school-aged kids were asked how often they took Vicodin for recreational purposes, and researchers saw those use rates decline, when compared to previous years.

Among 12th graders, for example, only 7.5 percent took Vicodin. That could be a cause for celebration, as it seems to suggest that Vicodin abuse rates are remarkably low and getting lower with time.

But the study had some troublesome results, too, as students also reported that narcotic drugs like Vicodin were easier to get when compared to years prior. That means that more teens could choose to abuse Vicodin in the future, as it might be sitting there waiting for their experimentation.

Is Abuse Easy to Spot?

Vicodin is designed to help people overcome episodes of moderate-to-severe pain. The drug works by boosting a signal of euphoria and reward deep inside the brain, so signals of pain are just a little bit easier to overcome and/or ignore. It’s that euphoria that can be troublesome, in terms of addiction, as teens who experience this artificial joy can become addicted to it. In time, they will do almost anything to get the joy back again.

Vicodin’s effects tend to fade with time, meaning that people who take the drug often need to take bigger and bigger doses in order to feel the same level of impact. Teens who abuse Vicodin may take massive doses of the drug, or they may crush the pills and snort them. Some teens go yet further, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, as about half of teen users of Vicodin push the drug into their bodies with the help of needles.

Injecting or snorting Vicodin puts active ingredients in contact with the brain at a fast pace, allowing those overwhelming sensations to take hold. With each hit, the brain adjusts and the drugs seem weaker than they were before. In time, even injecting Vicodin might not produce a high. That can drive some teens to even more drastic measures.

Heroin works on the same receptors as Vicodin, and it delivers the same kinds of sensations. It’s just a lot stronger. In a study of adolescent heroin users highlighted in LiveScience, about 85 percent abused painkillers like Vicodin before they made the switch to heroin. Painkillers are a little like training wheels for this much stronger, much more devastating drug. Many teens are progressing to very serious cases of addiction through their use of Vicodin.

While all of this can seem serious, as though it should come with an immense number of warning signs, Vicodin addictions can deepen and spread without sparking much parental alarm.

For example, in a case highlighted by the Medicine Abuse Project, a young man lived with his family for up to four years while he was nursing a Vicodin addiction. During that time, he’d lost his job due to the abuse, and he had no money left for expenses when he’d finished paying for drugs (which is why he was living at home). His performance at work slipped, and he lost interest in the hobbies and passions he once nourished. Even so, his mother says she had no idea that he was taking Vicodin. It all happened in secret.

Teens are experts at keeping their issues to themselves, particularly when they concern an activity that could come with legal or parental consequences. They may not want to discuss the problem openly, for fear of what their families will do. And they have a ready resource that can help them to keep the addiction a secret.

As the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention points out, teens with addictions can use the Internet to connect with other drug fans. Here, they can learn how to manage doses or how to take drugs in novel ways, and they can even find out how to fudge urine drug tests, so they’ll be less likely to get caught by suspicious adults. With this readily available tool, teens can keep a Vicodin addiction hidden for ages, until it’s firmly embedded in the teen’s everyday life.

The Addicted Mind

While an addiction to Vicodin comes with all sorts of serious consequences, teens often don’t see the difficulty with their drug use. When pushed, they may toss out excuses such as:

  • “I just use the drug for fun.”
  • “I can stop the pills anytime I want to.”
  • “Adults are way too uptight about drugs.”
  • “Vicodin is safe for me to use, because doctors hand it out all the time.”
  • “What I do with my body is my business.”

In a study of teens with addictions to prescription painkillers, published in Addictive Behaviors, only 4.2 percent of teens with a dependence issue knew they needed help. The rest thought they had some little problem that they could handle without the help of professionals.

This is denial, and it’s a key part of the early recovery process. Many families overcome this issue and prepare a child for sobriety through the use of an intervention. Here, a professional comes and talks with the family about the nature of a Vicodin abuse issue, and the group rehearses a set of statements they might use in order to prepare the addicted teen to get help. Then, the group reads those statements to the teen, in the hopes of persuading that teen to get care. When an intervention is done right, most teens enter care. They’re just compelled to do so.

Treatment for Vicodin Addiction

When teens enter treatment programs for Vicodin addiction, they’re often feeling ill and uncomfortable. The drug changes brain circuitry in such a way that people with advanced cases of addiction just can’t seem to function without it. When the drug is absent from their bodies, a variety of flu-like symptoms develop, along with deep-set cravings for drugs. This one-two punch of illness and cravings can push people into relapse, even if they want to get better.

That’s why the first part of Vicodin recovery often involves medication management. There are a variety of proven treatments that can be used to replace the drugs the teen is addicted to, and when those drugs are applied, teens can get away from Vicodin without feeling an overwhelming need to relapse.

Getting this first part of therapy right is vital, as a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests that teens who see success within the first two weeks of rehab tend to get better at rates superior to those seen in teens who take longer to experience healthy sobriety. Teens need to be convinced that they’re on the right path, so delivering quick relief is vital. But there are a number of things counselors can do to help even reluctant teens to see the light. Much of that convincing comes in counseling sessions.

Early in the recovery process, counselors might use a technique known as motivational interviewing. Here, counselors ask teens to really think about what life might be like if they continue to use and abuse Vicodin. They’re asked to consider if they’ll be able to reach their life goals if they’re always high, and they’re asked to talk through the benefits of a life free of drugs.

Later, as therapy progresses, teens work on the skills that can keep them from a relapse to Vicodin. They might figure out what sorts of places tend to spark their cravings, and then think of ways to avoid those places. They might focus on amending negative moods that make them crave drugs. Meditation or exercise might help, as might eating a healthful diet at regular mealtimes. Teens can also practice their assertiveness and communication skills, so they can stand up to bullies who might try to pressure them into a relapse situation.

Treatments like this can be invigorating for teens. No longer will they be simply pushed around by a need for drugs, helpless to do anything but obey, and no longer will they be hiding their addiction and difficulties from the world at large. They’ll be free to discuss things openly, and they’ll have tools they can use to make life just a little bit different. For teens in need, this can be a remarkable change.

Some teens need even more assistance, as they have mental illnesses that also push them into drug use. These co-occurring disorders can make recovery a touch more complicated, but there are a variety of therapy techniques that have been developed to help teens like this. For example, teens with post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction can benefit from a therapy known as Seeking Safety, which is specifically made to address the addiction and the mental illness all at once. In a study of the issue in the Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, experts found that this combination therapy was remarkably helpful for adolescent girls, much more so than standard addiction care. When treatments are combined, amazing things can happen.

That’s the sort of care delivered at Next Generation Village. Teens with mental illnesses, Vicodin addictions, or both are welcomed here for expert help and targeted care. Enrollment is quick and easy, and the team can even provide advice on interventionists to hold that first addiction discussion. Call today to find out more and to get the process started.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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