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What Factors Affect Vicodin® Dosage?

By B. Chisholm
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Vicodin® dosage is mainly determined by the severity of the pain being treated, the duration of treatment and which Vicodin® preparation is used. Vicodin® is a combination of acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, and hydrocodone and is used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is available in most countries by prescription only and the combination may be known by different trade names in different countries, according to manufacturer. The prescribed Vicodin® dosage should never be exceeded as it is potentially addictive.

Acetaminophen works by blocking prostaglandins which are produced to sensitize nerve endings when there is pain. Hydrocodone is an opioid, that is it is in the same class as morphine or codeine. It works by acting like an endorphin and blocking the transmission of pain signals. Both drugs can be used on their own to treat pain but combined, they work by two different mechanisms to treat pain in a two-pronged manner.

The main factor that affects Vicodin® dosage is that people develop a tolerance to opioids like hydrocodone, meaning that, when used long-term, higher or more frequent doses are needed. Tolerance does not, however, develop to the acetaminophen, so the dosage can not just be increased continually or serious overdose can occur. It is due to this that it should be used only under strict supervision of the prescribing doctor. When the Vicodin® dosage is too high, untoward side effects may occur, including serious liver toxicity, which can be fatal. It is for this reason, too, that all medication should be kept safely locked away and out of reach of children.

The usual Vicodin® dosage is given at four or six hourly intervals. This will be adapted by the prescribing doctor according to response and any adverse effects, because these are usually dose-dependent. The most commonly reported side effects when using Vicodin® include nausea and vomiting, dizziness, sedation and constipation. Exceeding the recommended dose may result in damage to the liver, amongst other effects. Due to its potential to cause sedation, driving, handling heavy machinery and drinking alcohol is not advised while taking Vicodin®.

When being prescribed Vicodin®, any other medications and clinical conditions should be disclosed to the prescribing doctor as the drug may be contraindicated in some conditions and interactions may occur. This includes over-the-counter, homeopathic and complementary medicines. Pregnancy, desired pregnancy and lactation should also be disclosed.

Due to the potential for addiction, the prescribed Vicodin® dosage should not be exceeded. The drug should also be taken for as short as possible period of time to prevent tolerance and the potential for withdrawal symptoms after stopping the drug. Should addiction be suspected, urgent professional help should be sought.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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