Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Chewing Vicodin Was The Start Of My Problem.


Top-5 search term: Vicodin. People land here wanting to know how to “maximize the effects of Vicodin,” curious about what “chewing a Vicodin” will do. Important topic. I remember being at the beginning of my addiction, chewing one pill per day, unsure of what was happening to me, uncertain whether I even really Had A Problem, and clueless as to where to turn for answers.

So of course I just kept doing it.

Vicodin is compounded with Tylenol, so virtually the only way to “maximize its effects”—short of building a chemistry lab to separate the acetaminophen from the hydrocodone (the opioid drug in Vicodin)—is to chew it.

(BTW, for those active addicts out there who land here curious about “maximizing the effects of Vicodin”—it is NOT GOOD to snort Vicodin, because the Tylenol and fillers are destructive to mucus membranes and lung tissue. Don’t do it.)

What chewing Vicodin will do is to crush its components into a powder and thus make it a bit more readily available to be absorbed into the blood by the digestive tract: in other words, whereas it takes time for a pill to dissolve and gradually be absorbed, chewing does away with that wait-time.

However, here’s what I didn’t know when I started chewing my pills: it’s insidiously dangerous, not only physically but also psychologically. Physically it’s dangerous mostly because of the Tylenol. Most cases of acute liver failure are due to acetaminophen toxicity.

If you beat the physical danger and manage either to avoid or survive liver failure (surviving it is rare), you then come up against the psychological dangers, which are formidable. And those are the illusion of control, and the alienation.

In active addiction, we always think we can control our use. This is a distortion of reality. The reality is, chewing our Vicodin is outside the physician’s instructions. Can you imagine your doctor instructing you to chew your pills?—”Chew 2 P.O. on empty stomach q 4-6 h.” NOT. Doing it this way is taking it “in a manner not prescribed,” and therefore it qualifies as “abuse.”

(I can hear some people saying Jesus Christ, it’s not like I’m shooting them, it’s not a big deal)

There are good reasons that the doctor doesn’t want us to chew our pills to “maximize the effects.” One is, when we get used to “maximum effects,” we build physical tolerance, and psychologically, we always want more.

But chewing a pill, when we’re doing it—when it occurs to us—doesn’t SEEM so very far outside the realm of what the doctor prescribed. Who’s there to make us accountable?—no one knows whether we swallow that pill whole, or put that pill between our molars and crush it to powder, then wait for it to hit. It’s our secret.

The waiting alienates us. We might be sitting there having a conversation with our partner or our kid, but what we’re really doing is waiting for the drugs to hit.

We’re slowly and surely alienating ourselves from the rest of the world. To be sure, it doesn’t FEEL that way as it’s happening, and the myriad distortions of addiction use all sorts of rationalizations to help us feel OK about it, but it’s real: we’re turning into aliens. Eventually we will wind up in a room, by ourselves, using (and probably in a manner far gone from chewing a pill).

I used to do this, folks. I used to dread getting out of bed. I couldn’t wake up without Taking Something. In the early days it was one Vicodin (Lorcet, actually), before I even got out of bed. Yes, I chewed it. I don’t even remember when I started chewing them, it occurred to me so long ago. I rationalized: it was Just One Pill, I was working, I was a mom, I was a wife, I was a professional, I interviewed the staffs of Congress and governors’ offices to get source material so godalmighty I wasn’t really an Addict. Addicts—well, everyone knows they don’t have kids, spouses, houses, jobs, everyone knows they Lose Everything.

Let me just say Chewing One Pill progressed to much worse compulsive behavior before I finally detoxed and got free from fentanyl, one of the strongest opioids known to medical science, in 2008.

Today I get to live differently. Today I woke up at 5:30 and drove my husband to the airport: first act of service, of getting outside myself, of the day. Hit a 7 a.m. meeting on the way back into town and saw four people I knew. Scheduled two courts to play tennis with my sister and her kids for 90 minutes. Then came home and made a lunch so appetizing that every last bit of it was scarfed up.

Did some work; now I’m here writing to you.

Which brings me to another search phrase that brings people here: “Did Eminem get sober with AA?”

I dunno. But Eminem seems to be living in some kind of solution to his problem.

Whatever works for you, is the thing.

How did you get sober?


  1. I was a snorter. Then a shooter. Went to lots of NA meetings but found my niche in AA. I’ve wondered about Eminem, too. He might be following the traditions closely and not telling anyone publicly that he’s in program, or he might be one of those whose “kids keep them sober.” I would be concerned for him if it’s the latter, but I suppose in the end whatever works.

  2. I didn’t know that about Vicodin. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  3. Just as the first comment, I was also a snorter then a shooter. Like most addictions, mine progressed to my rock bottom. I got clean in rehab and although I would love to attend AA/NA meetings, I do not have the time due to mommy duties (single mom of toddler). However, I’ve found that blogging has become therapy for me. In addition, have a child has helped keep me from using. I don’t want to ever let my son down.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. I was in AA and saying I was sober AND TAKING CHIPS. I was taking 5 Vicodin E.S a day, having and “occasional drink and hit of crack!! I finally just wanted to die from this secret I was hiding from everyone. I checked myself into Detox and now have 75 days.I go to an outpt. program 3 days a week and 6-7 AA mtgs. a week. I thought I could live with this secret but it almost killed me!!!!

  5. guinevere

    July 16, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Dana… Congratulations on getting honest and getting sober. Thanks for sharing what you do to stay that way, and every good wish to you. –G

  6. when i was in 4th grade i has an ear infection my aunt gave me a 10 mill vicodin and taught me to bite the bullet my problems started there

  7. I struggle with how to think about my use of narcotics.

    When I have a supply of them, I take them as they would be prescribed–I suffer from PTSD and find relief in narcotics, but no doctor supplies them for psychological pain, even though the mind/body split was discounted ages ago.

    So when i have them I take 4 10/325 percs a day; if I have vicodin 7.5/325 I might take 6. That’s it. I started doing this maybe 10 years ago by taking one darvon/darvocet with a 1 mg ativan that I am prescribed for my PTSD–I was gang raped as a young child. Over the years I realized that I simply FELT BETTER if I took one every 6 hours.

    Much of my stress comes from not being able to find a doctor willing to prescribe me the pills. I have been taking a reasonable dose for 10 years and am not about to try to increase it. Sometimes I just don’t understand how people can take so much and get so addicted because I can barely find enough pills to buy.

    I don’t know whether I’m an addict and I don’t really care. I just don’t understand why I can’t find a doctor who will understand that I need these to feel like myself. I am in my early 40s, I have a wonderful family, am a PhD at a large research University–I am a responsible citizen and completely functional, actually more functional on the pills than the awful days I don’t have any.

    Any thoughts?

  8. guinevere

    July 29, 2011 at 11:34 am

    @rapture… these are good questions… I will pose them to my readership soon. Thanks for reading. In the meantime, understand that lots of folks out there share your struggle to feel “normal.”

  9. Thank you G.

  10. Very accurate and insightful description of how the “alienation” starts. Never came across such analysis. Thank you for what you wrote. I’ve been there, for years. Thank God I do not have to be there again (with His help, and me choosing to stay present).

  11. help me

  12. I’m not addicted to pain pills, but I am in recovery for alcohol addiction so I don’t drink or abuse prescriptions. I have sciatica and a collapsed lung. The ER has given me vicodin and oxycodone. I do have a very addictive personality and don’t want to get hooked on pain meds…….btw, I am against AA. Every time I went I felt like drinking even more afterwards. I lost everything and vowed not to drink again after I found myself locked up (again). If AA works; great, if not there are other ways to beat the addiction. I’ve been sober over a year and never went to a meeting

  13. 29 year old female. Raised by a my single mother, a functioning narcissistic alcoholic who also used marijuana and pills. I have PTSD from my childhood with her and mild PPD (three children, youngest 9 months). Just had abdominal and intestinal surgery, 2 weeks ago. Also a long family history of alcohol and drug abuse.

    Because of my history I’m terrified I will become my mother. I will have 1-2 drink at most a month if that, never enough to be drunk. I avoid medications unless truly needed, I try to live as natural as I can. But that means I try so hard to be strong then I am hurting. I’m on norco now for my post op pain but refuse to take it unless I am really hurting, but that means I end up waiting too long. Everyone keeps telling me I need to manage my pain and take my meds, that there is nothing wrong with that. But the voice in the back of my head always is whispering that I shouldn’t take them cause I am going to turn into an addict. I barley got up the nerve to talk to my doctor about my PPD and start taking zoloft cause I’m so afraid one pill will lead to more. My brother thinks the same way and got so worried for me when I was on PCA after my surgery. He was afraid I would get addicted also. And I’m always afraid for my brothers and for when my children grow up. Addiction has such an impact on the addicts family. I wish everyone luck with their struggles.

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