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Lortab Addiction

Lortab is a brand-name medication containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen.[1] The hydrocodone ingredient is an opioid, and like all medications in this class, it can spark abuse and addiction when misused or taken for long periods.

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What Is Lortab?

Lortab is a prescription painkiller that combines hydrocodone (an opioid) and acetaminophen. This mixture attacks pain on two fronts, and it can be extremely helpful for people recovering from surgery, broken bones, or severe dental pain. 

The opioid in Lortab changes brain chemistry, sparking unforgettable euphoria.[1] When people abuse Lortab, they typically do so for hydrocodone’s action. But acetaminophen is contained within each dose, and it can be toxic at high doses. 

Lortab addiction can be especially dangerous. The addiction can worsen and cause significant brain cell changes. Acetaminophen can cause organ damage. 

Key Facts About Lortab

Key Facts

  • In 2017, 83.6 million hydrocodone products were delivered to patients in the United States.[1]
  • In 2021, 16,706 Americans died due to overdoses of prescription opioids like Lortab.[2]
  • There are hundreds of brand-name and generic products containing hydrocodone. Lortab is among the most frequently prescribed.[1]
  • People shouldn’t take more than 4 grams of acetaminophen per day.[3] But people with Lortab addiction may exceed this limit daily.

Lortab Uses and Dosage 

Lortab is prescribed for moderate to severe pain that hasn’t responded to other forms of therapy. If you’ve tried simple aspirin or other over-the-counter pain relievers and don’t feel better, your doctor might try Lortab. 

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

Lortab’s Addiction Potential 

Researchers say hydrocodone has one of the highest levels of abuse of any prescription medication. It’s second only to oxycodone in studies ranking a drug’s likeability.[4] 

When abused, opioids can cause a sense of euphoria in users. Continued use greatly increases the risk of dependence, overdose, and other negative health effects. 

As a rule, opioids are more difficult to quit the longer a person has used them and the larger the dose they’ve been regularly taking. 

Lortab Addiction: Causes & Risk Factors 

Opioids can cause physical and mental dependence (more commonly just called addiction). Misusing Lortab and other opioids can cause brain cell malfunctions. In time, you won’t feel physically or mentally healthy without the drug. 

While anyone can develop these issues, they’re more common in people who share the following characteristics: 

Biological Factors 

Researchers say addiction to drugs like Lortab is as much as 70% hereditable.[5] If your parents or siblings struggle with opioid addiction, you’re more likely to do the same.

Your genes could influence how quickly Lortab works, how much euphoria it causes, or how long it stays in your body. All of these factors could raise your risk of problematic drug use.

Environmental Factors

In close to 4% of American counties, enough opioid prescriptions were dispensed for every person living there to have one.[6] If you live in one of these counties, you’re more likely to get a Lortab prescription as a front-line treatment for mild or moderate pain. 

You’re also more likely to have friends and family members with pills. These two issues could raise your risk of Lortab addiction. 

Social Factors

Societal factors could keep you from getting treatment early in the disease process. For example, if you live in a space that stigmatizes drug use, limits evidence-based therapies, and reduces insurance coverage for treatment could keep you using Lortab longer. Extended periods of drug use can complicate your recovery.[7]

Psychological Factors 

Your mental health impacts your addiction risks. People who have experienced trauma can lean on drugs to cope. And people with underlying mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, have a higher risk of substance abuse. 

Signs & Symptoms of Abuse: What to Look Out For

Addiction stigma is real, and it can keep people from getting help for Lortab addiction. People who believe they’ll be blamed for drug use will do almost anything to hide the problem.[8] But Lortab addictions can be so disruptive that they become impossible to hide. 

Symptoms can be physical, mental, or behavioral. It’s common for people to display characteristics from all of these groups.[9] 


Lortab is sedating, and people who abuse the drug may seem incapable of staying awake for long periods. But as the addiction deepens, they may seem fidgety between doses and normal when they’re high. 

They may experience flu-like symptoms accompanied by nausea and vomiting when they try to quit. And they may develop stomach pain and difficulty urinating as organ damage from drugs appears. 


Lortab, like all opioids, can cause mental health challenges. People may experience depression, anxiety, mood swings, and paranoia.[9]

Opioids alter the brain cell’s ability to release feel-good chemicals like dopamine. Without these natural chemicals, it’s hard to stay on an even keel emotionally.[9] 


Maintaining a Lortab addiction can become a full-time job. People might shop for doctors, and ask their friends and family for their spare pills. They may also engage in theft or other criminal activities to fund their ongoing drug use. Withdrawing from friends and loved ones is also common.[9] 

Physical MentalBehavioral
Sedation DepressionWithdrawing from friends and loved ones
Fidgeting between doses AnxietyDoctor shopping
Flu-like symptoms when they try to quit Increased mood swingsStealing money to buy more Lortab
Constipation AgitationRisk-taking behaviors
Decreased urinationParanoiaStealing Lortab from friends and family

Source: [9]

Lortab Side Effects

Lortab causes both physical and mental side effects. Using the drug for short periods can cause issues that intensify if you don’t quit abusing Lortab. 

Short-Term Effects

Opioids have many side effects associated with them. Common side effects of Lortab and other opioids include the following:[3]

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Decreased energy levels

Less common side effects include the following:[3]

  • Elevated fear or anxiety
  • Dysphoria
  • Mood swings
  • Urinary retention
  • Spasms of the sphincters 
  • Skin rash
  • Itching sensation (pruritus)

Long-Term Effects

With ongoing abuse, your brain cells become accustomed to Lortab. You’ll need to take more to get the same effect. But these large doses also contain acetaminophen, which can cause organ problems. You may develop nausea, yellowing skin, and other symptoms of organ damage.[1] 

With increasing doses, your risk of overdose rises. You may overwhelm your central nervous system and slip into what looks like a deep sleep. Without quick treatment, your brain cells can die from a lack of oxygen. 

People with advanced Lortab addiction may experience multiple overdose episodes. 

Short-Term Effects Long-Term Effects 
Constipation Physical dependence 
Nausea Organ damage
Sexual dysfunction Increased overdose risks 
Decreased energy levels 

Sources: [1,9]

Overdosing on Lortab

It is possible to overdose on hydrocodone, including on all Lortab variants. Signs of an overdose include the following:[3]

  • Confusion
  • Slow, labored breathing (or no breathing at all)
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Bluish discoloration around the lips and fingernails
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness or fainting spells
  • Muscle twitches or spasms
  • Weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak heart rate
  • Liver failure
  • Coma

Many people abuse hydrocodone with alcohol, which can make the effects of both drugs more dangerous.[1] If you are aware of any other substances that were consumed, inform medical professionals immediately.

What to Do in the Event of a Lortab Overdose 

If a person exhibits any opioid overdose symptoms, 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. 

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. 

If Narcan (naloxone) is available, deliver a dose immediately. The medication will reverse the active ingredients in the drug and produce sobriety immediately.[3] 

Lortab Withdrawal Symptoms 

With repeated use, your brain cells rewire. They don’t function properly without the drug, and when you quit, those cells malfunction. You can develop withdrawal symptoms as sobriety approaches. 

Withdrawal symptoms of Lortab can include the following:[9]

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Shaking
  • Irritability or nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Body aches
  • Increased heart rate

These symptoms may not seem significant. But ongoing vomiting and diarrhea can lead to significant dehydration that can be life-threatening. 

Detox & Treatment Options for Oxycodone Withdrawal 

Addiction treatment programs for Lortab can help you get sober and change your life to support ongoing sobriety. Your plan might include the following elements. 

Medical Detox 

Overwhelming withdrawal symptoms can prompt you to relapse to opioid misuse. Medical detox programs are made to help you get sober without feeling intense discomfort. Medications like methadone and buprenorphine latch on opioid receptors used by Lortab, but they won’t make you feel high. 

Quitting Lortab cold turkey is dangerous. You could experience dehydration. You could also feel such intense cravings that relapse is inevitable. Medical detox is both safer and more effective. 

Inpatient Rehab 

An inpatient rehab program means moving out of your home, away from your triggers, and into a facility. You’ll be surrounded by people who know how addictions work and are committed to your recovery. You’ll spend every day working on your recovery with both medications and therapy. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment 

Powerful medications like Lortab can cause persistent brain changes. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is designed to address these alterations.[3] Some people use medications like buprenorphine and methadone for just a few months. Others use them indefinitely, as long as their relapse risks exist. 

Aftercare & Preventing Relapse 

After a treatment program ends, you may still need support to avoid relapse risks. Some people attend support group meetings (like Narcotics Anonymous), and others add outpatient appointments with therapists. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Lortab Addiction 

We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about Lortab addiction. 

Is Lortab an opioid?

Yes. Lortab is a painkiller in the opioid class. 

How long does Lortab stay in your system?

Hydrocodone, the opioid in Lortab, stays in your system between two and four days. 

What does Lortab look like?

Lortab is sold in pill form. It’s typically white, but it can also be pink or white dotted with blue.

Is Lortab the same as Norco?

Norco contains the same ingredients as Lortab, but it’s made by a different company. 

Are Lortab and hydrocodone the same?

Lortab contains hydrocodone, but it’s a brand-name formulation of this ingredient. 

Is Lortab a narcotic?

Yes, Lortab is a narcotic medication. 

Can Lortab be taken during pregnancy? 

Narcotics like Lortab should not be used during pregnancy. If you’re abusing these drugs, talk to your doctor about what to do next.

Can I drink alcohol on Lortab?

No, you should not drink alcohol with Lortab. Both are central nervous system depressants, so mixing them can lead to intense sedation. 

Can I quit Lortab cold turkey?

You should not quit alcohol cold turkey. It’s a very difficult method that can quickly lead to relapse. 

Updated March 19, 2024
  1. Hydrocodone. Drug Enforcement Administration. Published October 2019. Accessed July 18, 2023.
  2. Drug overdose death rates. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published June 30, 2023. Accessed July 18, 2023.
  3. Cofano S, Yellon R. Hydrocodone. StatPearls Publishing. Published October 24, 2022. Accessed July 18, 2023.
  4. Wightman R, Perrone J, Portelli I, Nelson L. Likeability and abuse liability of commonly prescribed opioids. J Med Toxicol. 2012 Dec;8(4):335-40. doi: 10.1007/s13181-012-0263-x. PMID: 22992943; PMCID: PMC3550270
  5. Smith A. Rutgers researchers delve deep into the genetics of addiction. Rutgers. Published November 2, 2022. Accessed July 18, 2023.
  6. U.S. Opioid dispensing rate maps. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published November 10, 2021. Accessed July 18, 2023.
  7. Social determinants of substance use and overdose prevention. Minnesota Department of Health. Published October 3, 2022. Accessed July 18, 2023.
  8. Volkow N. Stigma and the toll of addiction. N Engl J Med 2020; 382:1289-1290 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1917360
  9. Dydyk AM, Jain NK, Gupta M. Opioid use disorder. StatPearls Publishing. Published January 2023. Accessed July 18, 2023.
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