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Brand names:

Lortab®, Vicodin®, Norco®

Often used for:


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About Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is an opioid medicine used to control pain. This medicine may be given in the clinic, hospital, or at home.

Hydrocodone has fast-acting and long-acting forms. Follow dosing instructions carefully. Families may be asked to keep a record of the doses taken so the doctor can prescribe the best possible pain control. A genetic test may be performed to see how well the patient's enzymes function to determine how much hydrocodone should be given.

Some products may use a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

This drug may be habit-forming with long-term use.

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May be taken as a tablet by mouth

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May be taken as a capsule by mouth

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May be taken as a liquid by mouth

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Possible Side Effects

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Slower than normal rates of breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Itching and hives
  • Mood changes (feeling sadder or happier than usual)
  • Fainting
  • Problems urinating

Not all patients who take hydrocodone will experience these side effects. Common side effects are in bold, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

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Tips for Families

Be sure to discuss these and other recommendations with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • If patients have any of the side effects listed above, most should decrease after taking hydrocodone for a couple of days. Tell the doctor if the side effects increase while taking this medicine.
  • If taking this medicine regularly, patients should increase fluid and fiber intake to help prevent constipation. Tell the care team if the patient has not had a bowel movement in 3 to 5 days. Patients may need to take a stool softener or laxative to relieve constipation.
  • If patients are taking this medicine regularly or for a long time, they should not stop this medicine until the doctor instructs. Stopping hydrocodone without slowly decreasing the dose can lead to diarrhea, headache, sweating, muscle cramps, trouble sleeping, nausea, vomiting, or feeling restless. If these symptoms occur, call the doctor right away. It could mean the dose is being decreased too fast.
  • Patients should tell their doctor if they are pregnant, attempting to get pregnant, or breastfeeding.

Hydrocodone at home:

  • Do not take more often or in greater amounts than recommended.
  • This medicine may make you dizzy or drowsy. Do not drive or do anything that could be dangerous until you see how this medicine affects you.
  • Take hydrocodone with food if stomach upset occurs.
  • If patients are taking hydrocodone with acetaminophen, they should not take extra acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or medicines containing acetaminophen. This could result in a dose of acetaminophen that is too high.
  • For liquid hydrocodone, use the measuring device that comes with the medicine. Measure doses carefully.
  • Give a missed dose as soon as possible. If it is near the time of the next dose, skip the dose. Do not give 2 doses at the same time. 
  • Store at room temperature.
  • This drug may be habit-forming with long-term use. Watch for signs of misuse.
  • Do not share this medicine with anyone or give for reasons other than prescribed.
  • Do not use the medicine past the expiration date.
  • Follow instructions for safe storage and disposal.