Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
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March 22, 2019

What Are the Side Effects of Norco?

When you’re in pain, you want relief. Depending on the cause of the pain, your doctor may prescribe certain opiate painkillers. While these are intended for only short-term use, they aren’t without risks and side effects. Before taking any opiate pain relieving drugs, including Norco, you should be aware of these side effects, risks and dangers.


Norco is a prescription pain reliever medication. It contains a combination of hydrocodone, which is an opiate pain drug, and acetaminophen (like Tylenol). The hydrocodone in Norco attacks the pain, while the acetaminophen in the prescription medication is said to increase the pain reliever effects of hydrocodone.


Doctors prescribe Norco (or other opiate pain reliever medications) for their patients who have moderate to moderately severe pain.


Norco can be used to treat pain experienced following surgery (including dental surgery), after an injury, or for painful conditions that are usually of a short-term nature.


The easiest way to describe how Norco works is to say that it changes the way the body’s central nervous system responds to pain. Norco, a combination medication that contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen, is a short-acting opiate medication for relief of pain. The hydrocodone in Norco binds to receptors in brain and nervous system – the same receptors involved in your body’s natural pain relievers. The acetaminophen in Norco lowers a brain chemical that stimulates pain nerves. For some individuals, the combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen works better then either medication by itself, and also may be better for their pain relief than other types of pain relievers, prescription opiates or over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

The decision to prescribe an opiate analgesic (pain reliever) is one that the treating physician makes after determination of the level of pain the individual is (or is likely) to experience after surgery, following injury, or when dealing with other pain that is not chronic. Norco is designed for short-term use for pain relief. It is not intended to be used indefinitely.


Most prescription medications cause side effects. No one can predict how many side effects that you may experience when taking Norco, or the level of severity of those side effects, what is known is that there are some common or typical side effects associated with Norco use.

For example, you may become constipated, dizzy, drowsy, feel faint, nauseous, weak or generally like you don’t feel well. An upset stomach and abnormally low blood pressure are also common. Perhaps the most common side effect is a relaxed state. These are all typically less severe side effects of Norco. Some of these side effects may decrease or disappear after you’ve been using Norco for a while, but let your doctor know if they increase or get worse.

There are also infrequent side effects that may occur, and that have a tendency to have a severe expression. These include abnormal liver function tests, breathing problems, larynx spasm, swelling of the vocal cords, hives, impaired lung function or collapsed portion of lung, problems with heartbeat (slow or fast heartbeat), impaired mental alertness, and change in pulse.

Other infrequent side effects that may be experienced when taking Norco, but tend to have less severe expression, include:

  • Abdominal pain (intense)
  • Anxiousness, nervousness
  • Appetite loss
  • Backache
  • Blurred or double vision, other vision problems
  • Drop in blood pressure upon standing
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Fluid build-up in the extremities (arms, hands, legs, feet)
  • Head pain
  • Joint pain
  • Kidney problems
  • Low energy
  • Mood changes
  • Muscle pain and spasm
  • Night sweating
  • Shaking extremities
  • Temporary redness in neck and face
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting

A false sense of well-being, feeling unwell or unhappy, and sluggishness are other infrequent Norco side effects.


Some of the more serious Norco side effects are considered to have rare occurrence. When any of the following are experienced, they tend to have a severe expression:

  • Adrenal gland decreased function
  • Allergic reaction (severe, life-threatening)
  • Bile duct tract spasm
  • Blood problems (decreased platelets, decreased white blood cells, decrease neutrophils)
  • Depression
  • Extreme loss of body water
  • Falls
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Hepatitis (caused by drugs)
  • High blood pressure
  • Hives
  • Intestine paralysis
  • Loss of hearing, ringing in the ears
  • Muscle stiffness, involuntary muscle movements
  • Pancreatitis
  • Rash
  • Seizures
  • Skin inflammation
  • Spinal fluid pressure increase

A very serious, although rare, allergic reaction can occur when taking Norco. Immediate medical assistance is required if you have any of the following symptoms of serious allergic reaction: rash, itching and swelling, severe dizziness, and difficulty breathing.

Another serious side effect that could potentially occur when taking Norco is serotonin syndrome. You should seek immediate medical help if you have symptoms of serotonin syndrome, such as agitation, diarrhea, fever, hallucinations, loss of coordination, nausea, rapid heart rate, shivering, stiff muscles, sweating, twitching, or vomiting.

You should not drink alcohol while taking Norco, as this may increase the risk of damage to the liver due to the acetaminophen in the prescription opiate analgesic.


Dangerous side effects can occur when taking Norco and other drugs. These include not only other prescription medications you may be prescribed, but also OTC medications. Not only could you experience dangerous interactions, some of them could be fatal.

Cold and allergy medications can interact with Norco, as can asthma inhalers and COPD medications. If you take water pills, that can negatively interact with Norco. Meds you may take to counter motion sickness, are prescribed to treat irritable bowel syndrome, or an overactive bladder could cause problems with concurrent Norco use.

Taking other opiate narcotics, such as other opiate painkillers or prescription cough medicine also adds risk of negative interaction with Norco. Sedatives can likewise interact in a bad way with Norco, so let your doctor know if you take them.

Any drugs that cause you to become sleepy or slow your breathing could be a problem with your use of Norco. These include mood disorder or other mental disorder medications, sleeping pills, or muscle relaxers.

If you take certain stimulants, such as medication to treat Parkinson’s disease, migraines, depression, severe infections, or nausea and vomiting, these can pose difficulties when you’re on Norco.

The list of potential drug/medicine interactions with Norco goes beyond what is listed here. There are other prescription and OTC medications, as well as herbal products and some vitamins that may interact with Norco’s combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen.


As with any opiate narcotic pain reliever, Norco can cause addiction when misused. Misuse of narcotic opiates is using them for nonmedical reasons – such as deliberately taking them to achieve euphoria, taking increased doses other than prescribed, doubling up on doses, taking Norco in addition to other prescription and/or OTC drugs and medications that may interfere or negatively interact with the hydrocodone in Norco.

The progression from use to misuse may be quick for some Norco users. Over time, tolerance to the drug (requiring more of the drug to achieve the pain relief effects), can then cause dependence (the body has to have the drug, with physical symptoms when the drug dose is delayed). Continuing to misuse Norco, perhaps in combination with alcohol and other drugs, can escalate to addiction, which may mean you could need hydrocodone rehab.

In 2017, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), of the 19.7 million people with a substance use disorder (SUD), about 1.7 million had a prescription pain reliever use disorder. This total includes about 99,000 adolescents, 339,000 young adults, and 1.2 million adults.

Diagnosis of pain reliever use disorder occurs when someone meets criteria set forth by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for pain reliever dependence or abuse.

Prescription painkiller addiction requires professional treatment to overcome. The process includes medically monitored detox and psychiatric counseling, which may entail several evidence-based behavioral and other treatment modalities, participation in 12-step or self-help groups, intensive aftercare, and alumni programs. Residential treatment and outpatient treatment is available for prescription pain reliever addiction at accredited drug and alcohol rehab facilities nationwide.


According to the drug manufacturer, the opiate medication Norco carries a serious risk of overdose. This is especially true when you’ve undergone treatment to overcome Norco or other prescription painkiller addiction and return to using opiates, even at the same levels as you took prior to entering treatment. This is a grave mistake some Norco users make, thinking they can return to using without any negative consequences. In fact, it can prove to be a fatal error, since it can lead to an accidental overdose and potentially death.

While there is no mistaking that Norco overdose is a possibility when someone takes the opiate analgesic, the amount of Norco taken that may to cause an overdose varies from person. It depends on the individual’s previous experience with narcotic pain medications, what dosage of Norco is taken, and what other medications contain hydrocodone.

Furthermore, Norco should never be shared with someone else, particularly if that person has a history of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction. The misuse of Norco for purposes of getting high can lead to addiction, overdose, or death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States in 2017, among the 70,237 drug overdose deaths, nearly 68 percent involved opiates. Overdose deaths involving prescription opiates decreased 13.2 percent in males aged 15-24, but increased 10.5 percent in adults over the age of 65. Three states had the highest prescription opiate-involved deaths in 2071: West Virginia (with 17.2 deaths per 100,000 people), Maryland (11.5), and Utah (10.8).

Norco Overdose Symptoms

When someone overdoses on Norco, a number of symptoms are usually present. These include one or more of the following:

  • Breathing that is slow or shallow
  • Coma
  • Loss of appetite
  • Heartbeat that is slow
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the abdomen and/or stomach
  • Sweating
  • Tiredness (extreme)
  • Yellowing of the eyes and/or skin
  • Urine that is dark
  • Vomiting

If you witness someone whom you suspect or know is overdosing on Norco, and their symptoms include passing out or difficulty breathing, give the person naloxone, if you have it. Then, immediately call 911. If you don’t have naloxone handy, get emergency help right away by calling 911. If the individual is awake but does not have symptoms, the best course of action is to call a poison control center.


For more about Norco, painkiller addiction, detox and recovery, check out these articles:


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths – United States, 2013-2017.” Retrieved from
  2. “Norco.” Retrieved from
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Prescription Opioids.” Retrieved from
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).” “Opioid Addiction.” Retrieved from
  5. “Norco.” Retrieved from
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” “Pain Reliever Use Disorder.” Retrieved from
  7. WebMD. “Norco Side Effects by Likelihood and Severity.” Retrieved from