Hydrocodone is an opiate medication prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. It is only available in combination with other ingredients, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, expectorants and caffeine. Hydrocodone formulations containing caffeine are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of cough, nasal congestion and upper respiratory conditions.
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Hydrocodone combined with caffeine is an oral narcotic antitussive prescribed to suppress or relieve coughing. Hycomine, the brand name drug that combines hydrocodone and caffeine, is similar in action to codeine. According to Drugs.com, this formulation is more effective than codeine because “hydrocodone is believed to act directly on the cough center.”
Caffeine is a chemical that stimulates the central nervous system. It can increase alertness, boost mood and reduce fatigue. The psychostimulant is often added to prescription and over-the-counter pain medications due to its ability to promote medication absorption in the body more quickly and provide swifter pain relief. The Cleveland Clinic reports that adding caffeine to analgesics increases efficacy by an estimated 40 percent. Further, due to the action of caffeine, patients can take less medication, which reduces the risk of side effects, including toxicity from overmedicating and habitual or addictive use.
It is inadvisable to use hydrocodone and caffeine if you’re sensitive to hydrocodone, which can cause sedation, nausea and vomiting. It is also not recommended for people with a history of drug abuse or addiction. Patients who are sensitive to sympathomimetic amines – agents that stimulate the central nervous system – should avoid this combination of drugs. Taking hydrocodone with caffeine could be dangerous for people with a medical condition that causes respiratory depression or other breathing difficulties.
Hydrocodone has the potential to be addictive. In 2005, then National Institute of Drug Abuse director, Nora Volkow, M.D., wrote that most people use analgesics responsibly, but that 48 million Americans over the age of 12 have used painkillers at some point in their lives for recreational purposes. Hydrocodone produces a dependence that is similar to morphine, according to Drugs.com, and with each use a person’s tolerance to the medication increases, causing him to need an increasingly stronger dose for treating the same level of pain. Not everyone who takes a narcotic pain reliever will get hooked, but taking it for a long period of time will likely lead to some amount of physical dependence. According to Christopher Welsh, M.D., an addiction specialist, “It's possible to develop physical dependence relatively quickly to opioids, even after a few days or weeks of continuous administration of the medication.”
When taking hydrocodone and caffeine, your ability to operate a car or other machinery may be compromised. This drug combination can cause lethargy along with dizziness, a quickened pulse and heart palpitations. You should avoid being a primary child caretaker while on this medication unless you know how it affects you.