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Vicoprofen combines ibuprofen and hydrocodone into a single medication that is commonly used to relieve short-term, severe pain. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug, a NSAID. Hydrocodone is an opioid that can reduce pain. It is a synthetic, opium-derived chemical that has been created in the lab to mimic the effects of naturally-occurring substances like morphine. Nonetheless, it is a narcotic with a real potential to become addictive, especially because of the euphoric state that it can induce. It is essentially Vicodin mixed with ibuprofen. On the street, Vicodin pills are commonly called “Vikes.”

How it Works

VicoprofenHydrocodone binds to the brain’s opiate receptors. It specifically acts on both mu and kappa receptors in the central nervous system. These are endorphin receptors. The perception of pain is thus reduced. Other effects include sedation and respiratory depression. The depressant quality can, in turn, cause a host of other cascading effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slowed heart rate

Federal Drug Classification

The DEA classifies drugs based upon their potential for abuse:

  • Schedule I — These are considered the most addictive and dangerous drugs of all. Heroin and Ecstasy are Schedule I drugs.
  • Schedule II — Commonly prescribed but powerful painkillers are in this group. Codeine, morphine, cocaine, and Demerol are Schedule II medications. Prescription refills are allowed only after a physician re-examines the patient. The DEA demands that exacting records be maintained by doctors, and the agency tracks how many Schedule II prescriptions are written by each one.
  • Schedule III — Drugs in this group, such as hydrocodone and Vicoprofen, are more loosely regulated. Physicians are allowed to simply call-in refills to the pharmacy. This allows relief for patients suffering from bouts of recurring or debilitating pain. However, the ease with which these medications can be obtained has increased the incidence of abuse.

Controversy Over Classification

Virtual epidemics of Hydrocodone abuse have resulted in some states considering the reclassification of this potentially addictive drug to Schedule II status. For example, Florida made this attempt, but the effort was quickly overrun by pharmacists, physicians, and patients complaining about the roadblocks that this would create to the legitimate use of the substance. A decade ago, the Nevada Board of Pharmacy also considered the same action. Again, physicians successfully lobbied against the proposal, citing the inconveniences it would create.

One result has been an abuse of Schedule III prescriptions by patients, and even physicians. For example, a banned Nevada physician, Luisito Evangelista, used an Illinois DEA registration to purchase more than half-a-million hydrocodone pills. He made over $1 million selling them on the black market. He pled guilty in 1999, and he later died in federal prison.

Dangerous Cocktails

One popular black market concoction blends hydrocodone and soma into what has been called a “Las Vegas cocktail.” This combination purportedly induces a euphoria that mimics the one produced by heroin.

And therein lies one of the critical problems. Schedule III drugs can become far more potent, and addictive when combined in “cocktails.” The other danger that prescribing physicians cannot control is that which can occur when alcohol and hydrocodone are combined. Those that abuse alcohol are particularly susceptible to the dangers of hydrocodone-containing medications like Vicoprofen.

Side Effects

Even when used as prescribed, Vicoprofen can generate unwanted side effects:

Allergic

Of course, anyone allergic to hydrocodone must avoid Vicoprofen. However, allergies to any NSAIDs would also require one to avoid Vicoprofen. These include, but are not limited to, painkillers like Aleve, Celebrex, Naprosym, Arthrotec, Voltaren, and Indocin.

Cardiac Complications

Vicoprofen has been associated with heart attack and stroke, especially when it is used for the long-term. Therefore, it is especially important not to use it just prior to, or following heart bypass surgery.

Bleeding and Perforation

Medications that combine painkillers are popular for treating severe pain that might immediately follow surgery, for example. However, combining potent drugs into one medication can cause problems, especially when each has its own separate, problematic side effects. For example, the ibuprofen in this medication can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. One focusing too much on the side effects of the narcotic in the drug may lose track of the threats posed by ibuprofen. GI-tract bleeding or perforation is also a threat, especially in older adults. Such conditions can occur with no warning, and they can be fatal.

Pregnancy Problems

Hydrocodone is an FDA pregnancy Category C substance. A newborn can suffer respiratory distress or addiction and withdrawal problems if it is taken by the mother. Also, Ibuprofen can harm an unborn baby if it is taken during the final trimester.  Both ibuprofen and hydrocodone could pass through to an infant via breast milk, but this is not known for sure.

Vicoprofen Overdose

Overdosing on Vicoprofen can be deadly. When an overdose is suspected, a 911 call is vital. Overdoses often manifest themselves through these conditions:

  • Breathing problems — slow, shallow or stopped
  • Heartbeat — slow or stopped
  • Skin — cold, clammy, and/or blue
  • Pupils — narrowed or widened
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sleepiness
  • Seizures

Addiction

Hydrocodone is like other narcotics; it can be habit-forming. Addiction is a very real threat. Therefore, it is also vital to keep it locked away. Sharing a dangerous narcotic with someone that is not under a physician’s care can be especially dangerous. Addiction is most common among recreational users. Physical dependence is a very real possibility. Once one is physically dependent upon Vicoprofen or any other hydrocodone medication, the user is vulnerable to significant withdrawal symptoms. These may include discomfort, diarrhea, sweating, nausea, and/or vomiting.

The Schedule III classification of Vicoprofen should not mislead those who may use or abuse it. It can become addictive, and deadly overdosing is a distinct possibility, especially when used in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

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