Acetaminophen Hydrocodone Side Effects

The risk for severe breathing problems is higher when you start this medication and after a dose increase, or if you take the wrong dose/strength. Taking this medication with alcohol or other drugs that can cause drowsiness or breathing problems may cause very serious side effects, including death. Also, other medications can affect the removal of hydrocodone/acetaminophen from your body, which may affect how hydrocodone/acetaminophen works. Be sure you know how to take hydrocodone/acetaminophen and what other drugs you should avoid taking with it. See also Drug Interactions section. Get medical help right away if any of these very serious side effects occur: slow/shallow breathing, unusual lightheadedness, severe drowsiness/dizziness, difficulty waking up.

Acetaminophen and Hydrocodone

Generic name: acetaminophen and hydrocodone [ a-SEET-a-MIN-oh-fen-and-hye-droe-KOE-done ]
Brand names: Hycet, Lorcet, Norco, Verdrocet, Vicodin, Xodol, Zamicet
Drug class: Narcotic analgesic combinations

Medically reviewed by Philip Thornton, DipPharm. Last updated on Mar 2, 2021.

What is acetaminophen and hydrocodone?

Acetaminophen and hydrocodone is a combination medicine used to relieve moderate to moderately severe pain.

Hydrocodone is in a group of drugs called narcotic pain relievers.

Acetaminophen is a less potent pain reliever that increases the effects of hydrocodone.

Acetaminophen and hydrocodone may also be used for purposes other than those listed in this medication guide.

Warnings

MISUSE OF ACETAMINOPHEN AND HYDROCODONE CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it.

Hydrocodone may be habit-forming and should be used only by the person it was prescribed for. Keep the medication in a secure place where others cannot get to it. Acetaminophen and hydrocodone can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert.

Taking opioid medicine during pregnancy may cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the newborn.

Fatal side effects can occur if you use opioid medicine with alcohol, or with other drugs that cause drowsiness or slow your breathing.

Tell your doctor if you drink more than three alcoholic beverages per day or if you have ever had alcoholic liver disease (cirrhosis). You may not be able to take medication that contains acetaminophen.

Stop taking acetaminophen and hydrocodone and call your doctor right away if you have skin redness or a rash that spreads and causes blistering and peeling.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use this medicine if you are allergic to acetaminophen or hydrocodone, or if you have:

  • severe asthma or breathing problems; or
  • a blockage in your stomach or intestines.

To make sure acetaminophen or hydrocodone is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • breathing problems, sleep apnea;
  • liver disease;
  • a drug or alcohol addiction;
  • kidney disease;
  • a head injury or seizures;
  • urination problems; or
  • problems with your thyroid, pancreas, or gallbladder.

If you use opioid medicine while you are pregnant, your baby could become dependent on the drug. This can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after it is born. Babies born dependent on opioids may need medical treatment for several weeks.

Do not breastfeed. Acetaminophen and hydrocodone can pass into breast milk and cause drowsiness, breathing problems, or death in a nursing baby.

How should I take acetaminophen and hydrocodone?

Take acetaminophen and hydrocodone exactly as it was prescribed for you. Follow all directions on your prescription label. Never take acetaminophen and hydrocodone in larger amounts, or for longer than prescribed. An overdose can damage your liver or cause death. Tell your doctor if you feel an increased urge to use more of this medicine.

Never share this medicine with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. MISUSE CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH. Keep the medicine in a place where others cannot get to it. Selling or giving away acetaminophen and hydrocodone is against the law.

Measure liquid medicine carefully. Use the dosing syringe provided, or use a medicine dose-measuring device (not a kitchen spoon).

If you need surgery or medical tests, tell the doctor ahead of time that you are using this medicine.

You should not stop using this medicine suddenly. Follow your doctor’s instructions about tapering your dose.

Store acetaminophen and hydrocodone at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Keep track of your medicine. You should be aware if anyone is using it improperly or without a prescription.

Do not keep leftover opioid medication. Just one dose can cause death in someone using this medicine accidentally or improperly. Ask your pharmacist where to locate a drug take-back disposal program. If there is no take-back program, flush the unused medicine down the toilet.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Since this medicine is used for pain, you are not likely to miss a dose. Skip any missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not use two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. An overdose of acetaminophen and hydrocodone can be fatal.

The first signs of an acetaminophen overdose include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, sweating, and confusion or weakness. Later symptoms may include pain in your upper stomach, dark urine, and yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.

Overdose can also cause severe muscle weakness, pinpoint pupils, very slow breathing, extreme drowsiness, or coma.

What to avoid

Avoid driving or operating machinery until you know how acetaminophen and hydrocodone will affect you. Dizziness or drowsiness can cause falls, accidents, or severe injuries.

Do not drink alcohol. Dangerous side effects or death could occur.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine that may contain acetaminophen (sometimes abbreviated as APAP). Taking certain medications together can lead to a fatal overdose.

Acetaminophen and hydrocodone side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to acetaminophen or hydrocodone: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Opioid medicine can slow or stop your breathing, and death may occur. A person caring for you should seek emergency medical attention if you have slow breathing with long pauses, blue colored lips, or if you are hard to wake up.

In rare cases, acetaminophen may cause a severe skin reaction that can be fatal. This could occur even if you have taken acetaminophen in the past and had no reaction. Stop taking this medicine and call your doctor right away if you have skin redness or a rash that spreads and causes blistering and peeling.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • noisy breathing, sighing, shallow breathing, breathing that stops during sleep;
  • a light-headed feeling, like you might pass out;
  • liver problems – nausea, upper stomach pain, tiredness, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • low cortisol levels – nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness, worsening tiredness or weakness; or
  • high levels of serotonin in the body – agitation, hallucinations, fever, sweating, shivering, fast heart rate, muscle stiffness, twitching, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

Serious breathing problems may be more likely in older adults and in those who are debilitated or have wasting syndrome or chronic breathing disorders.

Long-term use of opioid medication may affect fertility (ability to have children) in men or women. It is not known whether opioid effects on fertility are permanent.

Common acetaminophen or hydrocodone side effects include:

  • dizziness, drowsiness, feeling tired;
  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pain;
  • constipation; or
  • headache.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect acetaminophen and hydrocodone?

You may have breathing problems or withdrawal symptoms if you start or stop taking certain other medicines. Tell your doctor if you also use an antibiotic, antifungal medication, heart or blood pressure medication, seizure medication, or medicine to treat HIV or hepatitis C.

See also  Levonorgestrel-Ethinyl Estradiol

Opioid medication can interact with many other drugs and cause dangerous side effects or death. Be sure your doctor knows if you also use:

  • cold or allergy medicines, bronchodilator asthma/COPD medication, or a diuretic (“water pill”);
  • medicines for motion sickness, irritable bowel syndrome, or overactive bladder;
  • other opioids – opioid pain medicine or prescription cough medicine;
  • a sedative like Valium – diazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam, Xanax, Klonopin, Versed, and others;
  • drugs that make you sleepy or slow your breathing – a sleeping pill, muscle relaxer, medicine to treat mood disorders or mental illness;
  • drugs that affect serotonin levels in your body – a stimulant, or medicine for depression, Parkinson’s disease, migraine headaches, serious infections, or nausea and vomiting.

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with acetaminophen and hydrocodone, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed here.

Where can I get more information?

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use acetaminophen or hydrocodone only for the indication prescribed.

References

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Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen – Uses, Side Effects, and More

Hydrocodone/acetaminophen has a risk for abuse and addiction, which can lead to overdose and death. Hydrocodone/acetaminophen may also cause severe, possibly fatal, breathing problems. To lower your risk, your doctor should have you take the smallest dose of hydrocodone/acetaminophen that works, and take it for the shortest possible time. See also How to Use section for more information about addiction.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you should have naloxone available to treat opioid overdose. Teach your family or household members about the signs of an opioid overdose and how to treat it.

The risk for severe breathing problems is higher when you start this medication and after a dose increase, or if you take the wrong dose/strength. Taking this medication with alcohol or other drugs that can cause drowsiness or breathing problems may cause very serious side effects, including death. Also, other medications can affect the removal of hydrocodone/acetaminophen from your body, which may affect how hydrocodone/acetaminophen works. Be sure you know how to take hydrocodone/acetaminophen and what other drugs you should avoid taking with it. See also Drug Interactions section. Get medical help right away if any of these very serious side effects occur: slow/shallow breathing, unusual lightheadedness, severe drowsiness/dizziness, difficulty waking up.

Keep this medicine in a safe place to prevent theft, misuse, or abuse. If someone accidentally swallows this drug, get medical help right away.

One ingredient in this product is acetaminophen. Taking too much acetaminophen may cause serious (possibly fatal) liver disease. Adults should not take more than 4000 milligrams (4 grams) of acetaminophen a day. People with liver problems and children should take less acetaminophen. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how much acetaminophen is safe to take.

Do not use with any other drug containing acetaminophen without asking your doctor or pharmacist first. Acetaminophen is in many nonprescription and prescription medications (such as pain/fever drugs or cough-and-cold products). Check the labels on all your medicines to see if they contain acetaminophen, and ask your pharmacist if you are unsure.

Get medical help right away if you take too much acetaminophen (overdose), even if you feel well. Overdose symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, sweating, stomach/abdominal pain, extreme tiredness, yellowing eyes/skin, and dark urine.

Daily alcohol use, especially when combined with acetaminophen, may damage your liver. Avoid alcohol.

Before using this medication, women of childbearing age should talk with their doctor(s) about the risks and benefits. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or if you plan to become pregnant. During pregnancy, this medication should be used only when clearly needed. It may slightly increase the risk of birth defects if used during the first two months of pregnancy. Also, using it for a long time or in high doses near the expected delivery date may harm the unborn baby. To lessen the risk, take the smallest effective dose for the shortest possible time. Babies born to mothers who use this drug for a long time may develop severe (possibly fatal) withdrawal symptoms. Tell the doctor right away if you notice any symptoms in your newborn baby such as crying that doesn’t stop, slow/shallow breathing, irritability, shaking, vomiting, diarrhea, poor feeding, or difficulty gaining weight.

Warnings:

Hydrocodone/acetaminophen has a risk for abuse and addiction, which can lead to overdose and death. Hydrocodone/acetaminophen may also cause severe, possibly fatal, breathing problems. To lower your risk, your doctor should have you take the smallest dose of hydrocodone/acetaminophen that works, and take it for the shortest possible time. See also How to Use section for more information about addiction.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you should have naloxone available to treat opioid overdose. Teach your family or household members about the signs of an opioid overdose and how to treat it.

The risk for severe breathing problems is higher when you start this medication and after a dose increase, or if you take the wrong dose/strength. Taking this medication with alcohol or other drugs that can cause drowsiness or breathing problems may cause very serious side effects, including death. Also, other medications can affect the removal of hydrocodone/acetaminophen from your body, which may affect how hydrocodone/acetaminophen works. Be sure you know how to take hydrocodone/acetaminophen and what other drugs you should avoid taking with it. See also Drug Interactions section. Get medical help right away if any of these very serious side effects occur: slow/shallow breathing, unusual lightheadedness, severe drowsiness/dizziness, difficulty waking up.

Keep this medicine in a safe place to prevent theft, misuse, or abuse. If someone accidentally swallows this drug, get medical help right away.

One ingredient in this product is acetaminophen. Taking too much acetaminophen may cause serious (possibly fatal) liver disease. Adults should not take more than 4000 milligrams (4 grams) of acetaminophen a day. People with liver problems and children should take less acetaminophen. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how much acetaminophen is safe to take.

Do not use with any other drug containing acetaminophen without asking your doctor or pharmacist first. Acetaminophen is in many nonprescription and prescription medications (such as pain/fever drugs or cough-and-cold products). Check the labels on all your medicines to see if they contain acetaminophen, and ask your pharmacist if you are unsure.

Get medical help right away if you take too much acetaminophen (overdose), even if you feel well. Overdose symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, sweating, stomach/abdominal pain, extreme tiredness, yellowing eyes/skin, and dark urine.

Daily alcohol use, especially when combined with acetaminophen, may damage your liver. Avoid alcohol.

Before using this medication, women of childbearing age should talk with their doctor(s) about the risks and benefits. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or if you plan to become pregnant. During pregnancy, this medication should be used only when clearly needed. It may slightly increase the risk of birth defects if used during the first two months of pregnancy. Also, using it for a long time or in high doses near the expected delivery date may harm the unborn baby. To lessen the risk, take the smallest effective dose for the shortest possible time. Babies born to mothers who use this drug for a long time may develop severe (possibly fatal) withdrawal symptoms. Tell the doctor right away if you notice any symptoms in your newborn baby such as crying that doesn’t stop, slow/shallow breathing, irritability, shaking, vomiting, diarrhea, poor feeding, or difficulty gaining weight.

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Uses

This combination medication is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It contains an opioid pain reliever (hydrocodone) and a non-opioid pain reliever (acetaminophen). Hydrocodone works in the brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain. Acetaminophen can also reduce a fever.

How to use Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen

See also Warning section.

Read the Medication Guide and, if available, the Patient Information Leaflet provided by your pharmacist before you start taking this medication and each time you get a refill. If you have any questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Take this medication by mouth as directed by your doctor. You may take this drug with or without food. If you have nausea, it may help to take this drug with food. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about other ways to decrease nausea (such as lying down for 1 to 2 hours with as little head movement as possible).

If you are using a liquid form of this medication, use a medication measuring device to carefully measure the prescribed dose. Do not use a household spoon because you may not get the correct dose.

The dosage is based on your medical condition and response to treatment. In children, the dosage is also based on weight. Do not increase your dose, take the medication more frequently, or take it for a longer time than prescribed. Properly stop the medication when so directed.

Pain medications work best if they are used as the first signs of pain occur. If you wait until the pain has worsened, the medication may not work as well.

If you have ongoing pain (such as due to cancer), your doctor may direct you to also take long-acting opioid medications. In that case, this medication might be used for sudden (breakthrough) pain only as needed. Other pain relievers (such as ibuprofen, naproxen) may also be prescribed. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about using this product safely with other drugs.

Suddenly stopping this medication may cause withdrawal, especially if you have used it for a long time or in high doses. To prevent withdrawal, your doctor may lower your dose slowly. Tell your doctor or pharmacist right away if you have any withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, mental/mood changes (including anxiety, trouble sleeping, thoughts of suicide), watering eyes, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, muscle aches, or sudden changes in behavior.

When this medication is used for a long time, it may not work as well. Talk with your doctor if this medication stops working well.

Though it helps many people, this medication may sometimes cause addiction. This risk may be higher if you have a substance use disorder (such as overuse of or addiction to drugs/alcohol). Take this medication exactly as prescribed to lower the risk of addiction. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more details.

Tell your doctor if your pain does not get better or if it gets worse.

Side Effects

See also Warning section.

Nausea, vomiting, constipation, lightheadedness, dizziness, or drowsiness may occur. Some of these side effects may decrease after you have been using this medication for a while. If any of these effects last or get worse, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

To prevent constipation, eat dietary fiber, drink enough water, and exercise. You may also need to take a laxative. Ask your pharmacist which type of laxative is right for you.

To reduce the risk of dizziness and lightheadedness, get up slowly when rising from a sitting or lying position.

Remember that this medication has been prescribed because your doctor has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

Tell your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects, including: interrupted breathing during sleep (sleep apnea), mental/mood changes (such as agitation, confusion, hallucinations), stomach/abdominal pain, difficulty urinating, signs of your adrenal glands not working well (such as loss of appetite, unusual tiredness, weight loss).

Get medical help right away if you have any very serious side effects, including: fainting, seizure, slow/shallow breathing, severe drowsiness/difficulty waking up.

A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.

This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

In the US – Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch.

In Canada – Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

Precautions

See also Warning section.

Before taking this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it; or to other opioids (such as benzhydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, codeine); or if you have any other allergies. This product may contain inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your pharmacist for more details.

Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: brain disorders (such as head injury, tumor, seizures), breathing problems (such as asthma, sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-COPD), kidney disease, liver disease, mental/mood disorders (such as confusion, depression, thoughts of suicide), personal or family history of a substance use disorder (such as overuse of or addiction to drugs/alcohol), stomach/intestinal problems (such as blockage, constipation, diarrhea due to infection, paralytic ileus), difficulty urinating (such as due to enlarged prostate), gallbladder disease, disease of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

This drug may make you dizzy or drowsy. Alcohol or marijuana (cannabis) can make you more dizzy or drowsy. Do not drive, use machinery, or do anything that needs alertness until you can do it safely. Avoid alcoholic beverages. Talk to your doctor if you are using marijuana (cannabis).

Liquid products may contain sugar and alcohol. Caution is advised if you have diabetes, alcohol dependence, liver disease, or any other condition that requires you to limit/avoid these substances in your diet. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about using this product safely.

Before having surgery, tell your doctor or dentist about all the products you use (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products).

Children may be more sensitive to the side effects of this drug, especially slow/shallow breathing.

Older adults may be more sensitive to the side effects of this drug, especially confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, and slow/shallow breathing.

During pregnancy, this medication should be used only when clearly needed. It may harm an unborn baby. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.

This medication passes into breast milk and may have undesirable effects on a nursing infant. Tell the doctor right away if your baby develops unusual sleepiness, difficulty feeding, or trouble breathing. Consult your doctor before breast-feeding.

Interactions

See also Warning section.

Drug interactions may change how your medications work or increase your risk for serious side effects. This document does not contain all possible drug interactions. Keep a list of all the products you use (including prescription/nonprescription drugs and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicines without your doctor’s approval.

Some products that may interact with this drug are: certain pain medications (mixed opioid agonist/antagonists such as butorphanol, nalbuphine, pentazocine), naltrexone, samidorphan.

The risk of serious side effects (such as slow/shallow breathing, severe drowsiness/dizziness) may be increased if this medication is taken with other products that may also cause drowsiness or breathing problems. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking other products such as other opioid pain or cough relievers (such as codeine, oxycodone), alcohol, marijuana (cannabis), drugs for sleep or anxiety (such as alprazolam, lorazepam, zolpidem), muscle relaxants (such as carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine), or antihistamines (such as cetirizine, diphenhydramine).

Check the labels on all your medicines (such as allergy or cough-and-cold products) because they may contain ingredients that cause drowsiness. Ask your pharmacist about using those products safely.

Other medications can affect the removal of hydrocodone/acetaminophen from your body, which may affect how hydrocodone/acetaminophen works. Examples include azole antifungals (such as ketoconazole), macrolide antibiotics (such as erythromycin), levoketoconazole, mifepristone, HIV medications (such as tipranavir), rifamycins (such as rifabutin, rifampin), ritonavir, certain drugs used to treat seizures (such as carbamazepine, phenytoin), among others.

This medication may interfere with certain lab tests (such as amylase/lipase levels), possibly causing false test results. Make sure lab personnel and all your doctors know you use this drug.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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