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Hydrocodone is a semisynthetic analgesic similar in most respects to codeine. In combination with acetaminophen, it offers excellent relief for moderate pain. It can ease the discomfort of a bad toothache or the aftermath of minor surgery.

Hydrocodone with acetaminophen is sold under a number of names, including Anexsia 5/500, Anodynos DHC, Bancap, Co-Gesic, Dolacet, Duradyne DHC, Hydrocet, Lortab, Norcet, T-Gesic, and Zydone. Vicodin is the most popular brand name for this medication.

Side Effects and Interactions

Possible side effects to be aware of include weakness, euphoria, loss of appetite, sweating and constipation. Some people experience shortness of breath, especially if they have asthma.

Other less common reactions include an allergic rash, disorientation, dry mouth and urinary difficulties. Report any such symptoms to your physician promptly. Acetaminophen may cause liver or kidney problems in large doses or over long periods.

Your physician should evaluate your need for this combination pain reliever periodically. If you are taking any other medicines, check with a physician or pharmacist. Alcohol as well as many over-the-counter and prescription drugs can add to the sedative effect of this analgesic. Antihistamines, antianxiety agents, antidepressants and sleeping pills require extra caution.

Both tricyclic and MAO-type antidepressants may interact with this analgesic to cause greater toxicity, and the anticonvulsant Dilantin may increase the risk of liver damage.

Special Precautions

Like any narcotic, hydrocodone may make you drowsy. Do not drive or attempt any activity that requires coordination and judgment. Older people may be more susceptible to this reaction, or to lightheadedness or dizziness. Never stand up suddenly as it may make you feel faint.

Long-term use of hydrocodone and acetaminophen has drawbacks. Hydrocodone, like other narcotics, may be habit forming if you take it regularly. Do not increase the dose on your own in a quest to achieve greater pain relief. But don’t play the hero by skipping doses during an acute crisis. Pain is more easily managed if it can be nipped in the bud instead of trying to play catch up when it has gotten out of control.

Taking the Medicine

Some people react to hydrocodone with nausea or vomiting. Taking it with food may reduce stomach upset. Nausea, dizziness and other common reactions may be less troublesome if you lie down for awhile.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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