Is Vicodin An Opiate?

Vicodin a prescription painkiller that contains a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It is commonly prescribed for moderate pain resulting from injuries or surgery and is one of the most frequently used and abused drugs in the U.S.

Vicodin comes in two formulas, one contains five milligrams of hydrocodone and 325 milligrams of acetaminophen, while the stronger version contains ten milligrams of hydrocodone and 660 milligrams of acetaminophen.

Is Vicodin an opiate? The answer is no, Vicodin is technically NOT an opiate. However, it does contain hydrocodone, which is a semi-synthetic OPIOID that works on the same brain receptors as opioids. To understand why Vicodin is not an opiate, you must understand the difference between opiates and opioids.

Opiates are alkaloids culled from the opium poppy. Opium itself is a potent painkiller and has long been used for its therapeutic effects. Also, a few pharmaceutical drugs are made from opium, such as morphine and codeine. Heroin is an illicit drug also derived from opium

Opioids are synthetic (man-made) or semi-synthetic drugs that are created to work on the same brain receptors as opiates, and they work in a very similar manner because they have similar molecules. Active ingredients are made using chemical synthesis.

Types of Opioids

Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin (oxycodone)
Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco (hydrocodone)
Demerol (pethidine)
Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
Duragesic (fentanyl)

How Opiates And Opioids Work

Both opiates and opioids work to change a person’s perception of pain and emotional reaction to pain. Moreover, the pain doesn’t really go away, it just feels different. To do this, opiates and opioids attach to molecules on nerve cells in the brain known as opioid receptors. Once attached, the nerve cells transmit messages to the brain that are inaccurate measures of pain severity. Thus, the person’s experience of pain is reduced.

These drugs also affect how the brain experiences pleasure. If they are taken without pain present, the person may feel euphoric, relaxed, or sleepy. It is this effect that can lead to addiction.

Vicodin can be fatal in high doses, as it contains acetaminophen (Tylenol) which can cause liver failure.