Long-Term Risks of Lortab Abuse

lortab abuseLortab is an opioid-based prescription pain reliever. While effective if used short-term and as directed, Lortab has the potential for physical dependence, psychological addiction, and life-threatening overdose.

A combination medication, Lortab contains two active ingredients:

  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is an ingredient commonly found in over-the-counter pain relievers. When combined with the opioid hydrocodone, acetaminophen’s effects are enhanced.
  • Hydrocodone: Hydrocodone is among the most prescribed opioids. Typically prescribed to treat moderate or severe pain, hydrocodone was strongly implicated in the opioid epidemic and is fiercely addictive.

What Is Lortab?

Acetaminophen and hydrocodone have different mechanisms of action. Acetaminophen dilutes the effects of brain chemicals that govern the stimulation of pain nerves. Hydrocodone, on the other hand, binds to the brain’s natural opioid receptors, preventing the central nervous system from transmitting pain signals. 

Lortab is a common drug of abuse. These are the most popular alternative routes of administration:

  • Crushed into powdered form and snorted.
  • Mixed with water to be intravenously injected.
  • Taken in higher doses or greater quantities than directed.
  • Use without a prescription.
  • Black market Lortab formulations used without a supporting prescription.

The Long-Term Effects of Lortab Abuse

A man hold his head in pain and discomfort, depicting the long-term risks of Lortab abuse While using Lortab can trigger a variety of short-term effects, the long-term outcomes of sustained opioid abuse are more concerning.

Most people who become addicted to Lortab start out using the medication for pain-relieving purposes with a supporting prescription. Most have no intention of misusing or abusing the medication. Unfortunately, the strongly habit-forming nature of all opioids means that abuse often unfolds. 

Even when Lortab is used as directed and with a prescription, tolerance rapidly forms due to its hydrocodone content. As your body becomes accustomed to the presence of opioids, the pain-relieving properties of Lortab diminish. This can prompt people to take more of the medication or more frequent doses to alleviate pain. Tolerance is a diagnostic criterion for addiction.

If tolerance leads to increased Lortab use, this is liable to accelerate the development of physical dependence. If you become dependent on opioids, you will need the substance just to function normally. In its absence, you will experience intense withdrawal symptoms (also a criterion for addiction). Physical dependence will often (but not always) bring about addiction. 

Addiction to Lortab is classified as OUD (opioid use disorder). Opioid use disorder, like all substance use disorders, is diagnosed according to the number of symptoms that present from the criteria outlined in DSM5-TR. DSM5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is the updated version of this diagnostic tool published by APA (American Psychiatric Association) and used by physicians and mental health professionals worldwide.

Addiction to opioids might be the leading risk of Lortab abuse, but chronic opioid abuse is associated with dangers and health complications beyond opioid use disorder.

Long-term Lortab abuse is associated with these negative outcomes:


  • Financial problems.
  • Legal issues related to opioid abuse.
  • Strained personal relationships.
  • Accidents when driving or operating machinery.
  • Problems at home, work, or school.
  • Cognitive impairment and reduced overall functioning.
  • Reduced life expectancy.
  • Opioid overdose.

The Dangers of Lortab Overdose

These are the most reported symptoms of Lortab overdose: 

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Blue tinge to fingernails or lips
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach spasms
  • Slow breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

A Lortab overdose can also slow breathing to the extent of respiratory depression, a potentially lethal medical emergency. 

The FDA approves an opioid antagonist called naloxone for the reversal of opioid overdose.

Chronic Health Problems Triggered By Lortab Abuse

The chronic abuse of an opioid like Lortab can damage and poison various bodily systems. These are some of health complications triggered by ongoing Lortab abuse:

  • Brain damage: Chronic abuse of Lortab alters the release and absorption of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain), especially neurotransmitters associated with mood like dopamine and serotonin. This can lead to problems with learning, memory, rational thinking, and emotional regulation.
  • Liver damage: Abusing Lortab can cause permanent liver damage. This occurs because of the acetaminophen content, especially dangerous in higher doses.
  • Respiratory damage: Even if you manage to avoid overdosing on Lortab, you could still provoke long-term damage to your respiratory system. The sustained abuse of large quantities of opioids will reduce the amount of oxygen you breathe in. Those with lung diseases or sleep apnea will be at heightened risk of sudden death.
  • Gastrointestinal damage: Long-term Lortab abuse can trigger chronic constipation, damaging to the bowels. Ongoing nausea and vomiting can prompt the development of chronic heartburn, increasing your risk profile for ulcers. Chronic abuse of combination products containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen is strongly associated with gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Endocrine system damage: Long-term Lortab abuse and addiction can lower the levels of hormones like estrogen and testosterone in the body. As well as introducing potential complications with fertility, low hormone levels can trigger chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, and osteoporosis.
  • Hyperalgesia: Long-term opioid abuse can damage opioid receptors that occur naturally in your brain. This damage can impact the way your body responds to pain. Over time, you may develop a more intense response to pain and a heightened sensitivity to pain. 

Get Help for Lortab Abuse at Gratitude Lodge

At Gratitude Lodge, we can help you address physical dependence on Lortab, as well as psychological addiction to opioids.

We have affordable luxury treatment centers located throughout Southern California at: 

All our treatment centers are pet-friendly and free of temptations or distractions, allowing you to focus on detoxing from opioids like Lortab before engaging in ongoing treatment. 

You can access the following services and interventions if you kickstart your recovery at Gratitude Lodge: 

  • Supervised medical detox
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Psychotherapy (talk therapies like CBT and DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Daily meetings
  • 12-step immersion program

Whether you need the support and structure of residential rehab or the flexibility and affordability of intensive outpatient treatment, we can help you beat Lortab addiction before the long-term effects become damaging or even deadly. Call 800-994-2184 right away for immediate assistance.