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For moderate or severe pain that isn't manageable with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, physicians may prescribe Lortab®. This drug contains acetaminophen, which is available in many OTC pain relievers, and hydrocodone, a narcotic pain reliever. The presence of acetaminophen heightens the effects of hydrocodone. Each dosage contains 500 mg of acetaminophen, but the amount of hydrocodone will vary by prescription.
Hydrocodone is a controlled substance, so its use is closely regulated. Some of the most common side effects of Lortab® are dizziness, constipation, dry mouth, and upset stomach. Possible severe side effects include low blood pressure, slow breathing, and lowered heart rate.
People who are allergic to acetaminophen, hydrocodone, or any medication related to morphine or codeine should refrain from taking Lortab®. A life-threatening allergic reaction is possible in sensitive individuals, but this is rare. Medical attention should be sought if the person exhibits difficulty breathing, hives, seizures, or change in behavior.
The hydrocodone in Lortab® is also a cough suppressant used in prescription cough syrups, and produces effects similar to codeine. It relieves pain by connecting with opioid receptors in the brain. Since euphoria is a common side effect, hydrocodone and Lortab® are subject to abuse and addiction.
In the United States, hydrocodone is always combined with another drug. One reason is to discourage abuse. In high doses, acetaminophen can cause liver damage. To dissuade people from taking large amounts of Lortab®, the acetaminophen is kept constant in all prescriptions.
Long-term use will cause a decrease in both the analgesic and euphoric effects, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effects. If someone who has been taking the drug long term stops taking it abruptly, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can occur. These may include abdominal cramping, sweating, agitation, aching muscles, and a runny nose. Other withdrawal symptoms are nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Someone who has been taking Lortab® regularly over an extended period of time should consult a licensed physician for instructions on decreasing dependence on the drug. This should be done by tapering off gradually. If the pain returns or severe withdrawal symptoms occur, the doctor may prescribe other drugs to help manage the pain.
Since this medication may cause drowsiness, it shouldn’t be taken in combination with alcohol, barbiturates, or any drug that can also cause drowsiness. Antidepressants, tranquilizers, and muscle relaxers should be avoided when taking any drug that contains hydrocodone. Difficulty in breathing and staying awake may occur when mixing these substances.