Lortab: Uses, Side Effects, Dangers & More
Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Lortab is a branded line of hydrocodone/acetaminophen drugs.
Most of Lortab’s most significant dangers come from the hydrocodone it contains, which is an opioid. Like all opioids, hydrocodone can cause dependence and is dangerous if abused.
Uses for Lortab
Lortab is a prescription painkiller that combines hydrocodone and acetaminophen. This combination of drugs can come in either a tablet or liquid form.
While it has the potential for abuse, Lortab has legitimate medical uses. Hydrocodone is used as a cough suppressant and to treat moderate to severe pain.
When properly used, studies have suggested that hydrocodone is as good as or even better than codeine for treating coughs and nearly equal to morphine for treating pain, according to the DEA. Notably, this broadly applies to hydrocodone, not just the brand drug Lortab specifically.
Hydrocodone is an opioid and should be used both with caution and only as prescribed.
Like with nearly all medications, but especially opioids, it is important to take drugs containing hydrocodone in the lowest effective dosage. This is the lowest dose that a doctor believes can help a patient to control their pain.
Lortab comes in several different forms, containing a different ratio of hydrocodone to acetaminophen. These medications include the following:
- Lortab 2.5
- Lortab 5
- Lortab 7.5
- Lortab 10
- Lortab Elixir
Generally speaking, a patient will be told to take one or two tablets every four to six hours, as needed, for pain relief. The recommended maximum number of tablets to be taken each day can vary, but it is usually 8 tablets (at the typical 5 mg/300 mg dose) every 24 hours.
When using liquid Lortab, it is important to measure carefully, using a dropper and accurate measuring instruments. Pay close attention to measurement sizes, as a somewhat common error is confusing “mL” for a measurement size other than “milliliter.”
A single liquid dose of Lortab will usually be about 11.25 mL for an adult. If the amount you’re preparing seems significant, it likely signals an error.
When taking Lortab, pay close attention to your doctor’s instructions and any instructions or warnings on the label of your medication. Follow these instructions closely and talk to your doctor if you believe your medication at its current dose isn’t meeting your needs.
Do not adjust your dose on your own without a conversation with a medical professional.
Opioid Side Effects
Opioids have a number of side effects associated with them. Common side effects of Lortab and other opioids include the following:
- Respiratory depression
- Sexual dysfunction
- Decreased energy levels
Less common side effects include the following:
- Elevated fear or anxiety
- Mood swings
- Urinary retention
- Spasms of the sphincters
- Skin rash
- Itching sensation (pruritus)
Any side effect that begins to seriously impact your quality of life should be discussed with a doctor. Of serious importance are significant changes to a person’s breathing, mental state, or level of consciousness. As discussed further in the next section, these side effects can sometimes be life-threatening.
Opioids can cause physical and mental dependence (more commonly just called addiction). Using Lortab or similar drugs, especially if misusing the drug, can cause the brain to “rewire” itself. Because of this, a person will undergo withdrawal if they stop taking Lortab.
Warnings & Notable Dangers of Lortab
It is possible to overdose on hydrocodone, including on all Lortab variants. Signs of an overdose include the following:
- Slow, labored breathing (or no breathing at all)
- Cold, clammy skin
- Bluish discoloration around the lips and fingernails
- Lightheadedness or fainting spells
- Muscle twitches or spasms
- Low blood pressure
- Weak heart rate
- Liver failure
If a person exhibits any of the above symptoms or serious symptoms of any kind, treat the situation as a medical emergency. Call 911 and inform the operator of your current location, the person’s symptoms, and any drugs they have taken.
Many people abuse hydrocodone with alcohol, which can make the effects of both drugs more dangerous. If you are aware of any other substances that were consumed, inform medical professionals immediately.
Prompt treatment is important in the event of an overdose. The faster a person receives medical attention, the less chance there is of permanent damage, including death.
While comparatively less of a concern when compared to hydrocodone, acetaminophen is also sometimes dangerous in high doses.
In rare cases, a person may have an allergic reaction to Lortab. Signs of an allergic reaction include the following:
- Red or peeling skin
- Swelling, especially around the throat, tongue, face, lips, hands, ankles, feet, or lower legs
- Difficulty speaking
- Trouble swallowing
- Breathing problems
While different than an overdose, you should treat the signs of an allergic reaction as a medical emergency.
Lortab Abuse & Addiction
As people use opioids, they build up a tolerance to them, causing them to need more for the same level of pain relief. This can make stopping use difficult, as the body can grow used to the effect of the opioid and may crave it, sending a person into withdrawal.
When abused, opioids can cause a sense of euphoria in users. This prompts continued use, and it greatly increases their risk of dependence, overdose, and other negative health effects. As a general rule, opioids are more difficult to quit the longer a person has used them and the larger the dose they’ve been regularly taking.
Opioid abuse is a serious epidemic in the United States, leading to tens of thousands of deaths each year. Due to their somewhat wide availability, hydrocodone-based drugs are some of the most commonly abused prescription opioids.
How to Stop Lortab Misuse
Quitting opioids once you’ve grown dependent on them is difficult to do on your own. Opioid withdrawal can be challenging, with potentially flu-like symptoms and significant discomfort.
Additionally, many of the reasons that caused you to abuse drugs often still exist once you’ve gotten through withdrawal. If these issues aren’t addressed, you’re likely to return to opioid misuse in the future.
Fortunately, it is possible to greatly improve your chances of recovery through the use of a reputable treatment center. At an addiction treatment center, medical professionals can help you get through withdrawal safely.
Then, you can participate in therapy where you’ll identify and address the issues that led you to misuse Lortab in the first place. You’ll develop coping skills so you can avoid relapse in the future.
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