What Is Hydrocodone Bitartrate?

B. Chisholm

Hydrocodone bitartrate, also called dihydrocodeinone, is a semi-synthetic opioid used to treat pain and suppress coughing. It is often combined with other analgesics, such as paracetamol or acetaminophen. Due to its addictive potential, it is only given by prescription in most countries. It goes by different trade names in different countries, according to manufacturer.

Hydrocodone bitartrate is derived from resin of opium poppies.
Hydrocodone bitartrate is derived from resin of opium poppies.

Belonging to the class of drugs called narcotic opioids, it is classed as semi-synthetic, as it is made from the naturally occurring opioids codeine or thebaine, which come from the resin of the opium poppy. Endorphins are naturally occurring chemicals that block opioid receptors and prevent pain signals from going to the brain. Hydrocodone bitartrate works as an analgesic by mimicking these endorphins and blocking the opioid receptors, thus blocking the feeling of pain.

Hydrocodone can be used to suppress coughs.
Hydrocodone can be used to suppress coughs.

The cough suppressant action of hydrocodone bitartrate is extremely strong. For this reason it may be used in antitussive preparations, usually in oral solutions. A number of combination cough elixirs are available, which go by different trade names in different countries.

Due to the addictive potential of hydrocodone bitartrate, it is often only used to treat severe pain such as the pain experienced after surgery, and only chronically in cancer patients. Tolerance may develop, necessitating increasing doses in patients who need to take the drug for a long period of time. Sudden withdrawal after long-term treatment is not advised. Withdrawal should be done slowly over an extended period, under medical supervision.

As with any medication, hydrocodone bitartrate may interact with other drugs and may be contraindicated in patients with some concomitant diseases. Any drugs, including homeopathic or complementary therapies, or conditions should be discussed with the prescribing doctor before starting treatment. Pregnancy, desired pregnancy or lactation should also be mentioned.

Hydrocodone bitartrate may cause adverse effects, the most commonly reported being constipation. This can be minimized by increasing fluid and fiber intake while taking the drug. It may also cause drowsiness, so driving or the handling of heavy machinery should be avoided. The concomitant intake of alcohol is not advised. Any untoward side effects should be discussed with the prescribing doctor.

The dose of hydrocodone bitartrate will be determined by the condition being treated and according to the formulation used. Some products are sustained-release formulations and are taken only once daily, while others may be taken more frequently. The prescribed dosage should never be exceeded. The duration of therapy will also be determined by the prescribing doctor, according to the condition being treated.

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