Vicodin is a brand formulation of hydrocodone, which is a pain-alleviating semi-synthetic opioid. It is one of the oldest prescribed pain medications in the U.S., having been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in 1943. Since that time, The New York Times reports that the United States has grown to be the largest consumer of hydrocodone around the globe. Approximately 99 percent of total hydrocodone use occurs in the U.S.
Why Vicodin is Prescribed
Hydrocodone opiates are prescribed for a number of purposes in the U.S., but are primarily used for the relief of moderate to severe pain. Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, which is the same active ingredient that is in over-the-counter medications like Tylenol. Though acetaminophen is a much less effective pain reliever than hydrocodone, the National Institutes of Health report that its use in Vicodin helps to amplify the pain-relieving benefits of hydrocodone. Vicodin usually provides pain relief within a half hour of taking it.
How Vicodin Works
The medication works by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, providing an analgesic effect similar to that which is provided by morphine. In many cases, Vicodin can provide symptomatic relief for as long as 8 hours after taking it, although the effects can wear off in as little as 4 hours.
Vicodin has made it possible for millions of people to manage acute pain caused by injuries and certain health conditions. It is intended to be used on an as-needed basis and only according to the dosing instructions provided by the prescribing doctor. When taken as directed, Vicodin can make a person much more comfortable following:
- Major surgery
- Dental procedure
- Car accident injury
- Other short-term, but severe, pain