What Is Norco?
For cases when acetaminophen is not enough to relieve moderate or severe pain, doctors may prescribe a combination drug that doses the patient with hydrocodone as well as acetaminophen – a mixture sold under the trade name Norco, among others. While hydrocodone is a fairly powerful drug (it is an opioid, closely related to its precursor codeine), simple acetaminophen can help to enhance its effectiveness. Because of this drug’s strength, it may be prescribed for chronic pain or to help a patient manage post-surgical recovery.
Important Information About Norco
As with many medications, Norco can cause liver damage if used improperly, because of the acetaminophen it contains. Anyone with liver disease or previous liver damage should consult their doctor before taking Norco, as well as anyone who consumes large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis (three or more drinks per day). It should also be avoided depending on your other medications or health issues. If you’re allergic to either of the two components (acetaminophen or hydrocodone), you cannot safely take Norco.
Norco can also interact dangerously with certain other drugs: if you take medication to help you sleep, to regulate your breathing, to sedate you, or relax your muscles, or if you are already using any other narcotics with or without a prescription, discuss this with your doctor before taking Norco. Other drugs that may be of concern include antidepressants, atropine and other tropane alkaloids, drugs that affect your bladder or kidneys, drugs you take to relieve your asthma or obstructive pulmonary disease, and medications that treat IBS. While these are the most common drugs that can interact, there are several more that can have an effect, and you should make sure your doctor is aware of your complete list of other medications at the time you begin taking Norco. You should not start taking any new products unless you discuss it with your doctor first, either.
There are a number of medical conditions that can also prevent you from being able to safely use Norco. Breathing disorders (asthma, sleep apnea) and pulmonary disorders (COPD, obstructive lung disease) can be problematic, as can liver and kidney disease, which can prevent you from safely eliminating the drug from your body after taking it. Head injuries, problems with blood pressure, ulcers or other digestive tract disorders, glandular diseases such as hypothyroidism or Addison’s disease, scoliosis, and mental illness can all also interact negatively with Norco. Another concern is drug abuse or alcoholism – because Norco can be additive, this is an important issue to discuss with your doctor.
The effects of this medication on fetuses has not yet been studied, but it is dangerous to newborns and can even cause your new baby to go through the symptoms of withdrawal. If you are currently pregnant or trying to conceive, alert your doctor before taking this medication, and do not take Norco if you are breastfeeding, as the drug can get into the baby’s body through your milk and cause respiratory or pulmonary distress.
Norco Side Effects
Side effects of Norco range from mild to severe. You may feel mild anxiety, or find yourself growing sleepy earlier than usual. There may be dizziness and nausea, or even vomiting. You may also find yourself with a headache and mild vision or hearing problems. More seriously, Norco can cause breathing difficulties and an abnormally slow heart rate; dizziness can progress into fainting spells or even seizures.
You may also find yourself with more painful digestive and excretory problems, such as difficult urination, vomiting, or unusually-colored stools. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you develop one of these more urgent symptoms.
In a few cases, Norco’s side effects can even be life-threatening. Call 911 if you find yourself with an allergic reaction to the drug – facial swelling, troubled breathing, or an allergic rash (hives).
Aside from the possible side effects, there are several other considerations to take into account if you have a prescription for Norco. Taking more Norco than your doctor prescribes for you can harm your liver, so be careful to take no more than that exact dose. Another important thing to remember about this drug is that because it contains an opioid drug (similar to morphine) it can be addictive. Don’t share your prescription, and secure it carefully to keep it out of the reach of children or anyone untrustworthy who may have access to your home. (You may also want to track the number of pills in the bottle for this reason.)
Because Norco has an effect on the nervous system, it can make your thought process and reactions to outside stimuli slower than normal. You should avoid driving a car or operating heavy machinery when you first start taking your prescription, in case you are one of those heavily affected by this side effect. You should also be careful about taking specific over-the-counter drugs while on Norco, as certain cold, allergy, and pain medications may also contain acetaminophen. Too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage, so avoid taking any such products, and consult your doctor if you’re not sure whether a specific medication is safe in conjunction with Norco. It’s also best not to consume any alcohol while taking Norco, as this is another liver damage hazard.
How To Take Norco
While taking your prescription, be careful to follow the prescription information exactly. Overdosing on Norco can be fatal, or cause lasting liver damage – the first signs of an overdose include abdominal pain, sweating, disorientation, and nausea or vomiting. This will progress to worsening pain, jaundice, difficulty staying awake, cool damp skin, and eventually loss of consciousness and cessation of breathing. If you have overdosed, call 911 or Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) to get help.
Missing A Dose
If you forget to take a dose of Norco, there is no immediate concern; take what you missed once you realize your mistake, unless it is nearly time for you to take the next dose of your prescription. While missing a single dose is not problematic, quitting Norco cold turkey after a long course of treatment may cause you to experience withdrawal. Your doctor can help you set a plan to wean yourself off the drug slowly enough to avoid these symptoms.
While taking Norco, be sure to drink enough water to stay well hydrated, as dehydration can hurt your body’s ability to clear the acetaminophen and hydrocodone from your system. Take tablets with water, and use a medication-grade measuring device for liquid Norco rather than kitchen-grade spoons or cups, which may not be as accurate.