For anyone that has experienced the side effects of vicodin, they know that they can be incredibly powerful; what looks to be a seemingly harmless pill is actually one of the most potent medications with a chemical formula similar to many illegal narcotics such as heroin. Although it effectively diminishes pain, it does have potent side effects that should be noted.
- Drowsiness. Vicodin belongs to a group of drugs called narcotics, which are known to depress the central nervous system. By blocking certain neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically near the pineal gland (controls the production of melatonin) it can severely slow, and even halt the transmission of various neurological messages that tell the body to stay awake. This essentially causes the central nervous system (CNS) to go into a stasis-like mode, which manifests as incredible sleepiness.
- Inability to Think or Speak. The central nervous system, the section of the nervous system that Vicodin acts upon, is responsible for the transmission of information as well as higher cognitive abilities. Included in the CNS is the ability to process thoughts and speech via the superior and inferior frontal gynus sections of the brain. When vicodin travels through the nervous system, it dulls the receptiveness of these language centers, resulting in "clouded thoughts" and the slurring of speech or complete incomprehensibility.
- Delayed Reaction Time and Muscle Movement. The peripheral nervous system (PNS), that which is directly responsible for the movement of muscles, is not directly affected by vicodin. However, because the PNS and CNS are so intricately connected, where impulses from the CNS travel to the PNS to perform actions like muscle movement or reflexes, when the CNS is severely depressed, messages are not easily transmitted between the two, which makes it extremely difficult to move naturally or at all; this is why vicodin should not be taken while operating machinery or driving.
- Nausea and Vomiting. The CNS is responsible for maintaining the sound nature of the gastrointestinal tract. When the there is no longer regular nerve signals that control the peristaltic movement of food from the esophagus into the stomach, the cardiac sphincter, which regulates the amount of food entering the stomach from the esophagus, will relax and possibly cause food being digested in the stomach to flow back up the tract. The increased nausea and lightheadedness is most likely contributed because of the cessation of messages to the semi-circular canal in the ear, which is responsible for maintaining balance.
- Addiction. Addiction is a risk whenever anyone is prescribed narcotics. Many assume that just because it's prescribed by a doctor, it's not going to cause addiction. Unfortunately, the cost of being a powerful pain reliever is that narcotics, like vicodin, codeine and their pharmacological cousin heroin, are incredibly addictive when abused. If taken accordingly, the risk of addiction goes down significantly, but because every individual is different, including their potential to abuse the medication, the risk still presents itself.