Vicodin is prescribed for pain relief. It’s a combination of two medications: hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Alone or together, they can help moderate to severe pain.
Hydrocodone is an opioid sold under various brand names including Hysingla and Zohydro ER.
It produces potentially narcotic effects. Acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) works as both a pain and fever reducer.
There are a number of hydrocodone-acetaminophen combination products (Lortab, Norco, and Oncet are just three examples of many.) There tend to be slight differences among many of the hydrocodone-acetaminophen products, including the ratio of the two drugs, or they come in different formulations — Lortab comes in liquid form, for example, while Vicodin comes in tablet form.
Not every acetaminophen-hydrocodone combination necessarily means it’s Vicodin, either.
Vicodin is commonly prescribed in one of three strengths:
- Vicodin, which contains 5 mg of hydrocodone bitartrate and 300 mg of acetaminophen
- Vicodin ES (extra strength), with 7.5 mg of hydrocodone bitartrate and 300 mg acetaminophen
- Vicodin HP (high potency), with 10 mg of hydrocodone bitartrate and 300 mg acetaminophen
It’s usually advised to take no more than eight tablets of Vicodin each day, or six of Vicodins ES or HP. Taking too much or too often can lead to potential addiction or liver problems.
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How to Identify Vicodin
Vicodins tend to be easier to identify. Generic Vicodin likely will include hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen in its ingredients.
If a person is unsure of what kind of medication they hold in their hands, a pharmacist can clear up a lot of questions. Some major pharmacies have pill identifier or pill finder search options. AARP has a Pill Finder option, too. A website or app like WebPoisonControl also has information from more than 20 poison-control centers from around the United States. Site visitors can use the Pill Identifier to search capsules and tablets by:
- The name of the medicine
- Imprint code
Among the three types of Vicodin there are some ways to identify each kind. The majority will be white and capsule/oblong or oval-shaped, with an indented score mark on one side that’s usually flanked by the hydrocodone and acetaminophen amounts. Vicodins with higher amounts of acetaminophen usually won’t have the mg numbers on one side. For either the higher or lower dose acetaminophen amounts, the pills will bear an imprint as to whether it’s Vicodin, Vicodin ES, or Vicodin HP. Specifically:
- Vicodin: For the lower acetaminophen amount, one side will have 5 | 300, while the other will read VICODIN. For the higher acetaminophen option (500 mg), one side will read VICODIN while the other will be blank with an underscore indentation in the middle.
- Vicodin ES: For the lower acetaminophen (300 mg) amount, one side will read 10 | 300 with the reverse bearing an imprint that reads VICODIN ES. The version with 750 mg of acetaminophen will be oval and white, with VICODIN ES stamped on one side, with the other side left blank, save for the underscore mark.
- Vicodin HP: One side will have 10 | 300, and VICODIN HP will be imprinted on the other. The option with 660 mg of acetaminophen will be white, blank on one side with a groove in the middle, and the reverse bearing the VICODIN HP imprint.
Vicodin’s physical appearance and Vicodin’s colors tend to be pretty predictable, usually coming in oblong or oval shapes and in shades of white.
Vicodin can be an effective pain treatment, but experts caution that its hydrocodone can be habit-forming. There’s also a risk of overdose since it affects the central nervous system. Signs of overdose include slowed breathing, cold and clammy skin, and unresponsiveness. (Too much hydrocodone, or when it’s taken with other drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines, can be especially risky.)
Acetaminophen is generally considered safe, but it is used in many products (more than 600), so it’s a good idea to be upfront about all medications you are taking to ensure that there are no complications or to reduce the risk of liver damage.The maximum daily dose for a healthy adult who weighs at least 150 pounds is 4,000 milligrams (mg). However,it can cause serious liver damage if you take the maximum daily dose for extended periods of time. So, It is best to take the lowest dose necessary and stay closer to 3,000 mg per day as your maximum dose. Please check with your doctor first if you need to take high doses of acetaminophen.
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Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.