Hydrocodone (occasionally referred to as hydro) is a semi-synthetic opiod narcotic analgesic related to codeine, but more potent and more addictive by weight. It is utilized as a cough suppressant and is also used in conjunction with analgesics such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen in pain-relieving medication. 99% of the world's hydrocodone is prescribed in the United States; the less potent opioid dihydrocodeine is used instead of hydrocodone in Europe.[1]

Introduction to Hydrocodone


Using Hydrocodone

Ways of administration

Swallowing Hydrocodone

When used for pain, hydrocodone is most commonly taken orally, especially in preparations with either APAP (acetaminophen, paracetamol) or an NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug). Unlike many opioid analgesics, hydrocodone has a relatively high oral biovailability (≈80%).

Snorting Hydrocodone

Little information exists on the intranasal bioavailability of hydrocodone, though it is likely lower than the oral BA. Being a water-soluable opiate, however, it is theoretically possible to insufflate hydrocodone. Snorting produces a faster onset of action than oral use.

While safer than intravenous use, snorting does have a number of safety issues. Straws should never be shared, and using currency to snort any substance is inadvisable as bank notes are notoriously dirty. Specific to hydrocodone (and other combination opiates), it is also ill-advised to snort APAP.

Injecting Hydrocodone

As a general rule, it is incredibly unsafe to inject pills. It is difficult to fully remove binders, and many hydrocodone pills also contain an NSAID or APAP.

Plugging Hydrocodone

Effects of Hydrocodone

The effects of hydrocodone are similar to those of other opiods. A euphoric, "dreamy" sedation marked by a sense of warmth (sometimes a pulsating or fluctuating, enjoyable feeling of change in bodily temperature) and a "glowing" euphoria is readily perceptible under the influence of the drug. The physical ("body") high may be accompanied by itching, which is a common side effect of opiates and opiods. Analgesia and slow or shallow breathing are also commonly experienced. Negative emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, etc. may be abated for the duration of the high, although conversely hydrocodone has been shown to cause anxiety in some users. Overall, a sense of blissful apathy is usually reported. Some report feeling more sociable or creative on the drug; others report the opposite. Opiods have soporific effects; as such, using hydrocodone may cause one to fall asleep. Concentration may be impaired under the influence of hydrocodone. Large doses can produce a "nod", one of the most euphoric effects of opiate and opiod use, in which one enters a semi-conscious, almost hypnagogic state of very euphoric wakeful "dreaming", often accompanied by mental imagery or visualizations.

Combinations with Hydrocodone

Different Uses for Hydrocodone

Pharmacology of Hydrocodone

LD50 (mg/kg) (as the freebase) [2] :
Mice : 85.7 subcutaneously

Chemistry of Hydrocodone

Column 1 Column 2
Systematic (IUPAC) name: 4,5a-Epoxy-3-methoxy-17-methylmorphinan-6-one
Synonyms: (5α)-4,5-epoxy-3-methoxy-17-methylmorphinan-6-one, dihydrocodeinone; Dicodid, Hycodan (bitartrate hemipentahydrate)
Molecular Formula: C18H21NO3, C18H21NO3.HCl (hydrochloride), C18H21NO3.C4H6O6.5/2H2O (bitartrate hemipentahydrate)
Molar mass: 299.37 g/mol, 335.82 g/mol (hydrochloride), 494.49 g/mol (bitartrate hemipentahydrate)
CAS Registry Number: 125-29-1, 25968-91-6 (hydrochloride), 34195-34-1 (bitartrate hemipentahydrate), 143-71-5 (bitartrate anhydrous)
Melting Point: 197-198°C, 185-186°C with decomposition (hydrochloride)
Boiling Point: no data
Flash Point: no data
Solubility: Freebase soluble in alcohol, acetone, ethyl acetate, chloroform; insoluble in water. Hydrochloride very soluble in water. Bitartrate hemipentahydrate 1 g dissolves in 16 mL water, 150 g 95% ethanol; insoluble in ether, chloroform
Additionnal data: pH of 2% aqueous solution of bitartrate hemipentahydrate 3.6
Notes: Freebase crystallized from alcohol (prisms). Hydrochloride occurs as the monohydrate. Bitartrate hemipentahydrate aspect : fine white crystals or crystalline powder; must be protected from light.

Lortab, Vicodin, Vicoprofen, Zydone contain hydrocodone as the bitatrate hemipentahydrate salt.

The dangers of Hydrocodone

Like all opioid analgesics, hydrocodone is a CNS depressant. The risk for CNS depression is especially prominent in non-opiate-tolerant users. An overdose of hydrocodone can lead to respiratory depression or failure, the latter of which can cause death in minutes. Hydrocodone should not be mixed with other CNS depressants such as benzodiazepines or alcohol (or any others), as the additive effects of these drug combinations can cause far greater CNS depression than any one of them alone.

In addition, hydrocodone is only available in the US in combination with APAP (acetaminophen) or an NSAID as of this time, although in the EU and elsewhere it can be proscribed by itself.

The most common form of Hydrocodone in the US is Vicodin, a combination with APAP which is toxic to the liver, especially in high doses, and especially when combined with alcohol. APAP should not be taken in amounts greater than 1,000mg in one dose or greater than 3,000mg in a 24-hour period, and single doses should be separated by 4-6 hours. Hydrocodone can be extracted from combination pills containing APAP via a cold water extraction. While it is relatively simple to extract the APAP, if it is done incorrectly it can lead to a massive overdose of acetaminophen, and so needs to be done carefully and with caution no matter how experienced a user is. Hydrocodone cannot be extracted from liquid solutions, or effervescent pills containing APAP. The extreme toxicity of APAP has not been ignored by the American Medical Association, who are lobbying to have the maximum allowable APAP content of any combination drug decreased to 325mg, which is directly aimed at making Hydrocodone and Oxycodone formulations safer for proscribed users, although this is unlikely to effect recreational users.

CWE- Cold Water Extraction of Codeine

CWE- Cold Water Extraction FAQ- Lists, Links & Manuals

There are also formulations of hydrocodone which include NSAIDs instead of APAP, typically using Ibuprofen or Aspirin. It is much more difficult to extract hydrocodone from pills containing NSAIDs, and while it is unlikely that taking hydrocodone pills that contain it would lead to an overdose (needing between fifty and a hundred 200mg doses of Ibuprofen for example) high doses of NSAIDs can have negative side effects. High-dose ibuprofen can cause gastro-intestinal distress and high blood pressure, while high or frequent doses of aspirin can cause intestinal bleeding and anemia. While none of these side effects are anything like as dangerous as high doses of APAP, users of such Hydrocodone/NSAID compounds such as Lortab ASA or Vicoprofen should be aware of additional risks they pose. The absence of APAP certainly does not imply that users will avoid side effects entirely.

If users have a sensitivity to APAP, Ibuprofen, Asprin or NSAIDs in general then it is extremely important to know what compound illicitly obtained pills (which may not come in their original packaging) contain. While there is no global resource, for those in the US where most of these issues are likely to occur, you can use The Drugs.Com Pill Imprint Identifier.

Producing Hydrocodone

Three ways are reported for the synthesis of hydrocodone [1] :
1- Isomerization of codeïne using a palladium or platinium catalyst
2- Hydration of codeïnone
3- Oxydation of dihydrocodeïne

Forms of Hydrocodone

Legal status of Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is a controlled substance 21 CFR 1308.12

United Nations


Hydrocodone as a single-entity product has been a Schedule 2 substance in the US since its recent addition to the market. On October 6, 2014, hydrocodone combination products were moved from Schedule 3 to 2.


Other Countries

History of hydrocodone

Popularity of hydrocodone over time


More Hydrocodone Sections

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