What is Zohydro?

Zohydro is an opioid analgesic (pain reliever) that is prescribed for severe, chronic pain. It is a hydrocodone medication, the only one of its kind that offers extended release. For this reason, it is very popular with patients who need long-term, constant treatment for pain. Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from codeine.

It was approved by the FDA in 2013, but has been at the center of controversy ever since. It was shown to have a high potential for abuse, and early this year, released a new “abuse deterrent” formulation.

There is at least one other good thing about Zohydro – no acetaminophen. Usually, hydrocodone medications like Norco also contain acetaminophen, which increases the risk of liver damage.

However, Zohydro is still  extremely addictive. All opioids, even at recommended dosages, have the potential for addiction. For this reason, it is not typically prescribed unless other treatments (such immediate release or non-opioids) have failed to produce adequate benefits.

Additionally, this drug has elevated risk of overdose and fatality, due to the extended release function. As with all central nervous system depressants, a dangerous degree of respiratory depression is possible, especially during the initial dose. Persons who crush or chew tablets risk immediate-release of medication, which for an extended-release medicine, could be fatal.

Also, like all opioids and central nervous system depressants, Zohydro should never, ever be taken with alcohol or products which contain alcohol. Persons with existing respiratory problems are at additional risk for overdose or fatality due to excessive CNS depression. Other depressants should be administered with extreme caution due to the increased risk of sedation, coma, or death.

The use of tricyclic antidepressants or MAO inhibitors may increase the effect of either medication.

In addition to abuse/addiction or respiratory depression, other side effects may include:

  • Neonatal opioid withdrawal (in pregnant women)
  • Hypotension (lowered blood pressure)
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Seizures
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache/dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Muscle spasms
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Back pain
  • Tremors

Additionally, intravenous abuse may result in:

  • Tissue necrosis (death of tissue)
  • Infection
  • Pulmonary granulomas
  • Increased risk of endocarditis
  • Valvular heart injury.