Why Does Vicodin Lead to Heroin Addiction?

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

One of the things that can be confusing about addiction and the way it progresses is that there is a link between certain drugs. There are many people who laugh when they hear the term “gateway drug,” but gateway drugs do exist in a certain capacity. Vicodin is one of them. Heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs on the market, and Vicodin can absolutely lead the way to heroin abuse. But how does this happen? Here’s a rundown of how Vicodin leads to heroin addiction.



As it turns out, Vicodin is a part of the opioid class of drugs, as is Heroin. Opioids are chemicals that can interface with opioid receptors in the brain, digestive tract, and spinal column. Chemically and medically, they’re used mainly for pain relief, but like other pain relievers and chemicals can be, opioids are addictive. Whether you take something prescribed by a doctor, like OxyContin or Vicodin, or something clearly illegal like heroin, each of these chemicals are opioids, and addict the body in similar ways.


Increasing Tolerance

One thing that is different about the opioids, though, is that each has a different strength. The body has the ability to adapt to chemicals and poisons, decreasing their influence on the body over time through a process called tolerance. While this doesn’t stem off addiction, it does make the body receive less benefit the more a chemical is used, because having that chemical becomes the body’s new normal. So if someone is popping Vicodin pills for their high, it won’t last forever. Eventually, the only way to get a high like before would be to take a stronger drug. Hence, Vicodin can lead the way to heroin, a higher-strength opioid.


If you or someone you know are looking to head off the rock bottom by getting heroin drug treatment, our Broward County addiction facility has plenty of options for detox and rehab. Contact us to learn more.


Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.