Opioid Analgesia Overview: What is Vicodin?

SimpleNursing Editorial Team Nov 12, 2018
Opioid therapy medicine child proof medicine bottles.

Vicodin is an opioid analgesic commonly used for severe pain. Vicodin is a popular drug that is usually abused in various settings, mostly by people who have been subjected to chronic pain. Opioid analgesic is Vicodin’s category due to its affectation on the opioid receptors in the brain.

Vicodin and CNS

The central nervous system is the brain and the spinal cord; this means that the CNS controls the automaticity of breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. The central nervous system has two parts, namely:

  • Sympathetic nervous system (SNS)
  • Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS)

Giving something that blocks CNS responses will then result in decreased blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. Therefore, the lungs and the heart are going to be directly affected as a side effect of opioid treatment.

Furthermore, the client’s level of consciousness will become altered with the state of feeling “high.” For this reason, Vicodin is one of the most abused opioid drugs available. And since it’s abused, there will be indications of withdrawal syndrome once the medication is ordered to a halt. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Restlessness

Identifying Opioid Analgesics

To easily recognize opioid analgesics, they usually end up in “-codone,” like hydrocodone (Vicodin) or oxycodone (OxyContin or Percocet). So, whenever you see a drug that has a generic name ending in “-codone,” that’s an opioid analgesic.

Vicodin and Tylenol

When hydrocodone (Vicodin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are combined, they yield a drug called Norco. Norco is a popular drug in Southern California that has a synergistic effect when consumed. Opioids are not given purely; if the client is not allergic to Tylenol, both are given to clients to receive optimum, satisfying results.

Opioid Route

Opioid analgesics like Vicodin are given orally. Because these drugs are taken by mouth, the potential to be abused is high. Which is why, it is important to remind clients that opioids if abused, can severely affect their heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.

On the other hand, if the client is hypotensive or has low blood pressure, or is experiencing a low heart rate, the medication is put on hold.

Vicodin and the Gastrointestinal Tract

Another critical thing to mention to mention clients taking opioid analgesics is to inform them that, since the drugs can affect the central nervous system, they can also cause disturbance to the gastrointestinal motility. Clients are expected to become constipated.

Therefore, as a nurse, it is your responsibility to encourage clients who are receiving opioid treatment to do various exercises like walking and drink lots of water to promote GI motility. Post-operative clients who are taking opioids are instructed to get back up and walk to facilitate the passing of gas or farting to prevent small bowel obstruction or constipation.

On the other hand, if the clients are incapable of walking due to knee surgery or amputation, hydration and increased dietary fiber in the diet are essential; minimal exercises are also suggested to aid in gastrointestinal movement.

For more topics related to opioids and nursing in general, drop by Simple Nursing’s website and YouTube channel.

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