Lortab Side EffectsAnna Ciulla
Millions of Americans suffer pain and take prescription medications in an effort to relieve pain that may be moderate to severe. Indeed, a 2019 study in The Journal of Pain said that 178 million adults reported painful health conditions in 2013/2014, up from 120 million in 1997/1998, and some 68 million adults had pain that interfered with their work. The study also showed an increase over time in strong opioids to manage pain. The problem is that painkillers, such as Lortab, are opiate narcotics, even some that are less potent than others. All opiate narcotics, including Lortab, have side effects.
Importantly, using Lortab and other opiate painkillers can lead to misuse, which can then progress to dependence and addiction. The opiate epidemic that has gripped the nation does show some signs of abating, yet millions of people are still addicted. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 1.7 million people had pain reliever use disorder, and 652,000 were diagnosed with heroin use disorder in 2017.
WHAT IS LORTAB?
Lortab is the brand name (generic name: acetaminophen/hydrocodone) for a class of narcotic analgesic combinations. Other brand names include Lortab 10/325, Lortab 5/325, Lortab 7.5/325, Lortab Elixir, Hycet, Lorcet, Norco, Verdrocet, Vicodin, Xodol, and Zamicet.
The drug contains two medications: acetaminophen and hydrocodone. The hydrocodone in Lortab is an opiate pain reliever, a narcotic drug as classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The acetaminophen (Tylenol) in Lortab is a pain reliever that is less potent than hydrocodone, and is said to increase the effects that hydrocodone delivers.
WHEN DOES SOMEONE USE LORTAB?
Someone who is experiencing moderate to severe pain may be prescribed Lortab to help alleviate or relieve the pain. Lortab and other combination hydrocodone/acetaminophen products are prescribed when pain is severe enough to require treatment with an opiate drug and when other medications for pain either are ineffective in relieving the pain or are not able to be tolerated. Individuals who are allergic to acetaminophen (Tylenol) should not take Lortab. Anyone allergic to hydrocodone should also not take Lortab. Those who recently consumed alcohol, took sedatives, tranquilizers, or other narcotic opiates should refrain from using Lortab.
It is important to tell your doctor if you are currently taking medication for depression or other mental illness, Parkinson’s disease, migraines, serious infection, or to prevent nausea/vomiting. That’s because the hydrocodone in Lortab may interact with those medications and cause serotonin syndrome, a serious condition.
Older adults and those who are severely ill may be more likely to experience breathing problems. Malnourished individuals, or those who are otherwise debilitated may also have breathing problems caused by Lortab.
WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS THAT LORTAB TREATS?
The official prescribing information for Lortab is to treat short-term pain resulting from an injury, a dental procedure, or surgery. Lortab is also used occasionally to treat chronic pain, migraine headaches, cancer pain, and other pain-causing conditions that are recurring and of a long-term nature.
HOW DOES LORTAB WORK?
According to Medline Plus, opiate analgesic medications containing hydrocodone, such as Lortab, change the way the brain and the nervous system respond to pain.
It is important to note that the dose of Lortab will be different for different patients. The amount of the medication you take depend on the drug’s strength. In addition, the number of daily doses, the amount of time between doses, and how long you will be taking the medication depend on the particular medical condition for which you are being treated and prescribed Lortab.
The dosage of Lortab should be adjusted by your prescribing doctor according to the severity of your pain and how you respond to the medication. Be aware that continued Lortab use can lead to tolerance to the drug (requiring more of the drug to achieve the pain relief effects) and that unwanted side effects are dose related.
Precautions While Taking Lortab
While you are taking Lortab, you need to know that the medication may result in impaired thinking. Your reactions may also be compromised, such that you do not recognize potential danger in sufficient time to avoid it while driving, or your may not be able to act quickly enough when you need to. That is why you should avoid driving or operating any heavy equipment or performing dangerous tasks until you know how the medication affects you.
In addition, since Lortab can cause you to become drowsy or extremely dizzy, you are more vulnerable to falls or accidents.
You should not drink alcohol while taking Lortab. Doing so could increase the risk of damage to your liver.
Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist whether other medications you take for cold, allergy, pain, or sleeping contain acetaminophen. What you want to avoid is taking too much acetaminophen by getting it in those medications (including over-the-counter medications) and your prescribed Lortab. Too much acetaminophen can lead to an overdose and possibly death. If you’ve forgotten to mention what you’re taking to your doctor, and the doctor or pharmacist is not immediately available, check the medication’s label to determine if acetaminophen is one of the ingredients.
COMMON SIDE EFFECTS OF LORTAB
There are typically some side effects when taking any prescription painkiller medication, even when taking exactly as your doctor prescribes. In general, your doctor believes the benefits of prescribing you Lortab outweigh the risk of the medication’s side effects. Some side effects of Lortab are common and include:
- Back pain
- Dry mouth
- Frequent, difficult or painful urination
- Ringing in the ears
- Sleep problems: difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep
- Stomach pain
- Swelling of the ankle, foot or leg
- Tightening of the muscles
- Uncontrollable shaking in a body part
You should tell your doctor if these symptoms persist or are severe. According to WebMD, some common side effects can be prevented, minimized or alleviated. Constipation, for example, may be prevented by eating dietary fiber, drinking a lot of water, and exercising. A laxative (recommended by your pharmacist) may be advised. To help reduce the incidents of dizziness and lightheadedness, be sure you get up slowly from either a sitting or lying position.
SERIOUS LORTAB SIDE EFFECTS
In addition to the common side effects of a hydrocodone product such as Lortab, there are several serious side effects to be mindful of. If you experience any of them, you should immediately contact your doctor or get emergency medical assistance. Serious Lortab side effects include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in breathing or swallowing
- Itching, hives
- Loss of appetite
- Menstruation irregularity
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sexual problems: inability to get an erection, loss of sexual desire
- Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat or tongue
LORTAB ADDICTION RISK
Misusing Lortab, like misuse of other opiate narcotics, can cause addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” Addiction to Lortab can occur in those who are using the medication in larger amounts or in greater quantities than prescribed for them by their doctor. The risk is also great for a child or other person who uses Lortab without a prescription.
LORTAB OVERDOSE RISK
Is it possible to overdose on Lortab? As with any opiate pain reliever, there is a risk of overdose when too much of the drug is taken. A single or multiple drug overdose of Lortab (or other opiate pain reliever containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen) is a potentially fatal event requiring immediate medical treatment.
Symptoms of Lortab Overdose
Watch out for symptoms that may indicate an individual has overdosed or is overdosing on Lortab. If present, emergency help should be summoned immediately. Lortab overdose symptoms include:
- Blue lips
- Breath odor that is unpleasant
- Breathing has stopped
- Change in consciousness, loss of consciousness
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Cold, clammy skin
- Decreased level of awareness, including lack of responsiveness
- Dizziness, fainting, or lightheadedness
- Extreme drowsiness, or severe sleepiness
- General overall feeling of discomfort or illness
- Heart stops
- Heartbeat that is slow or irregular
- Increased sweating
- Loss of appetite
- No detectable blood pressure
- No indication of muscle tone or movement
- No pulse
- Pain in upper stomach
- Pinpoint pupils
- Urine that is bloody or cloudy, or sudden decreases in urine amount
- Yellowing of the skin or in the whites of the eyes
RESEARCH ON EFFECTIVE PAIN MEDICATION
While some of the promising medications to treat pain may not be available in the immediate future, there is encouraging news on the development of new and effective opiate and non-opiate medications for pain. According to an article in Pain News Network, several pain medications are in development or undergoing testing or clinical studies. These include:
- NKTR-181, an abuse-deterrent opioid that has a “fast track” FDA review
- Desmetramadol, developed with support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse NIDA), designed as a safer version of tramadol
- VX-150, a sodium channel inhibitor designed to block pain from small fiber neuropathy, believed to have few (if any) cognitive side effects
- AT-121, a novel compound that may prove to be a non-addictive opiate pain reliever, one that NIDA said is a “promising alternative to opioid pain medications”
For more about Lortab, painkiller addiction, detox and recovery, check out these articles:
- Addiction to Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Other Opiates: Warning Signs, Effects and Stats
- How Long Does it Take for Opiates to Leave Your System?
- How Long Does Precipitated Withdrawal Last?
- Do I Need Hydrocodone Rehab?
- Hydrocodone Detox Guide – Withdrawal & Symptoms
- Painkiller Addiction – What You Need to Know
- Painkillers Explained: Understand What Medications Doctors are Prescribing for Your Pain and How They Affect You
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- American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Public Policy Statement: Definition of Addiction.” Retrieved from https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/public-policy-statements/1definition_of_addiction_long_4-11.pdf?sfvrsn=a8f64512_4
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- Pain News Network. “Future Pain Pills.” Retrieved from https://www.painnewsnetwork.org/stories/2019/2/28/future-pain-pills
- Practical Pain Management. “Analgesics of the Future: NKTR-181.” Retrieved from https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/treatments/pharmacological/opioids/analgesics-future-nktr-181
- Research Outreach. “Moving beyond dangerous opioids for pain: Syntrix creates new drug for safer pain relief.” Retrieved from https://researchoutreach.org/articles/moving-beyond-dangerous-opioids-for-pain-syntrix-creates-new-drug-for-safer-pain-relief/
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