What are some safe, non-addictive drugs that have the same positive side effects of Vicodin?
April 20, 2009 10:40 AM   Subscribe

What are some safe, non-addictive drugs that have the same positive side effects of Vicodin?

I can't believe I am asking this question, but here goes. Two weeks ago I underwent minor surgery to extract a lymph node for a full biopsy. The doctor gave me a prescription for Vicodin, for the pain. I was on it for 2-3 days before my wife flushed the pills; probably for the best.

The thing is, the Vicodin was AMAZING! I found that I was able to focus and get things done like never before. The two days I was taking Vicodin were two of the most productive days I've ever had. Apparently this is a positive side effect for a small percentage of the population.

So, I'm smart enough to not get addicted to Vicodin, but I would absolutely love to find a non-addictive drug or stimulant that does exactly what the Vicodin was doing: helps me focus and makes me more productive.

Or is this just an incredibly bad idea? I hate to admit that I think I need drugs to help me focus and be more productive but I found the Vicodin experience to be very positive.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, I am not a doctor -- I haven't even played one on TV.

But it strikes me that the fact that you noticed this side effect with Vicodin, it sounds like that's an indicator that you may have always had some kind of extremely low-level problem and it took the Vicodin to finally point out that this was even a factor (kind of if a kid grew up without ever having an eye test and always had difficulty reading, but then one day he finally got glasses and only then did he realize "hey, wait, THAT'S the problem!").

Instead of this, I'd speak to your doctor to see if, not if you could go back on Vicodin again, but if you could talk to him about maybe seeing if you have some other chronic attention disorder or something. Presumably, your doctor is the one in the best position to determine whether you just have had ADD all along, and so he can perscribe you the more proper care now, or whether this would ultimately be a problem and whether you should suck it up and not do anything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on April 20, 2009

In my experience, all drugs have pros and cons. Codeine makes me feel like I'm on a fluffy happy cloud of marshmallows but it makes me fiend like a fucking junkie, mushrooms make the walls change colors and the carpet billow like the ocean but also make me feel like I'm going to throw up, Haldol helped my Tourette's but it also made me throw up everything everytime I ate more than three crackers. That's just the nature of drugs, prescribed or not, illegal or not. I'm probably much more pro-drug-use than most people but I don't know if you're ever going to find something with no down sides. It's all about if the benefits outweigh the risks.

So, with the caveat that they're not necessarily safe or harmless, I know a lot (a lot a lot a lot) of college students who use ADHD meds to help with studying. Ritalin, Adderal, and Dexedrine, mostly. I would do a lot of research before getting into them and I also, personally, wouldn't chop them up and rail them.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:54 AM on April 20, 2009

Um, if my spouse flushed my pain pills three days after surgery, I'd contact a divorce lawyer.

In my non medical experience, DLPA has many of the positive effects of vicodin without being addictive, although I've found nothing that has that same exact quality of focus that comes with vicodin, not even other opioids. DLPA is still excellent at providing the will to see a task through, while also being a decent pain reliever after a few weeks of taking it.
posted by bunnytricks at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

Any number of drugs prescribed to treat ADD (usually stimulants such as Adderall) do this.

You should absolutely talk to a physician about this.
posted by mkultra at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2009

LOL. Vicodin is a trademark for a mixture of codine and acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in codine. Codine is an opiate, just like Morphine, Heroin, Methadone, Oxycontin, etc.

There aren't any non-opiates that would have the same "effect" as those drugs, but if you want to be more effective, etc, ADD medications would probably have that effect. But those are also pretty addictive.

IANAD or pharmacist, obviously.
posted by delmoi at 11:00 AM on April 20, 2009

Ugh, I meant that acetaminophen was the active ingredient in Tylenol.
posted by delmoi at 11:02 AM on April 20, 2009

I'm smart enough to not get addicted to Vicodin
Smarts got nothing to do with it. It's not like a roller coaster with a sign out: your IQ must be above this line to not get hooked.

Plenty of people use drugs to help them be focused and productive. What's coffee but a vector for caffeine? Damn drug's got a work-approved break area! Nicotine as well, though the ritual is a tight part of that too.

But still -- Why she'd flush your medicine? You saying "it's probably for the best" raises my guard.
posted by now i'm piste at 11:03 AM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

It sounds like a strong dopaminergic (dopamine) response that you are describing, which is common for some people on painkillers, particularly newish users. Trust that if you continued to use vicodin (or other opiates) that stimulating feeling would likely wane over time into more sedative effects, and ultimately addiction, etc.

Unfortunately the closest drug that probably replicate that effect is cocaine, followed by something weaker like ritalin. Amphetatimes (eg, adderall) may have a similar effect, too.

Might be worth checking to see if you might have slight ADHD, but more likely you just experienced something outside the normal spectrum of dopamine levels that is not sustainable over the long term.
posted by jameslavelle3 at 11:07 AM on April 20, 2009

Modafinil has done for me pretty much what you describe and does not seem to be addictive. It can elevate blood pressure and heart rate (it hasn't with me), so some monitoring is necessary.
posted by nereis at 11:18 AM on April 20, 2009

The fact that you posted this anonymously, coupled with the fact that your spouse threw out painkillers suggests that you shouldn't pursue this line of thinking pharmaceutically.

Maybe you could look at it as wake-up call that your concentration isn't that great and start thinking about why and what that might mean for you. Maybe you're depressed. Maybe you have ADD. Maybe your work bores you. Or, you could consider that lots of us are happier working a little high. I'd be a lot happier sitting at my desk right now if I was on my second glass of wine.

(Wait, that's bad, right?)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:20 AM on April 20, 2009

First off, you didn't link to evidence that hyrocodone improves focus or whatever, you found a handful of people on some website who think that's what it did for them. Most likely you were just running with that "everything's perfectly lovely" vibe that opiates give you. It might actually make you more productive and focused, and like everything good about opiates it wouldn't last, just lead to a debilitating addiction. Not to be harsh but the idea that some drug of choice makes one more effective somehow is a junkie parable that has been applied to everything drug the sun and left a trail of self-deluded addicts behind it. Drugs give you all kinds of temporary boosts. Your 2 super-productive days are about as meaningful as the fact that you can take a bunch of stimulants and stay up all night. It doesn't mean you don't need sleep after all. You would pay back all that productivity with interest in the end.

The drugs that are clinically demonstrated to improve focus are stimulants and they are all addictive. The only non-stimulant for ADHD is Strattera. The question of whether you "need" drugs to help you focus is one a doctor can answer. It sounds like the answer is that you don't. But if you did you could look into that, depending on how you feel about things like "sudden vomiting" and "retrograde ejaculation."

So far everything significant I've seen about alternative solutions (like Ginkgo) are all a bust. Go ahead and research nootropics (or "smart drugs") if you like; there are certainly things out there that are mostly harmless and claim benefits. My money is that there is nothing that wouldn't be beaten hollow by focusing on a good diet, getting enough sleep and cultivating an intentional mental discipline like meditation.
posted by nanojath at 11:27 AM on April 20, 2009

You, via the "small positive side effect", are wired for opiate addiction.

In the future, make certain you take them only as prescribed (not that you weren't.) Llama's response is perfect- look into why you may be under-performing (if you even are) whether it is due to ADD or depression and find some help for this. Otherwise, it boils down to this: Everything is easier, more interesting, more fulfulling, fill in the blank- when you're high.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 11:32 AM on April 20, 2009

("everything drug the sun"? every drug under the sun, rather. What am I on?)
posted by nanojath at 11:35 AM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Any number of drugs prescribed to treat ADD (usually stimulants such as Adderall) do this.
Adderall and Modafinil are extremely popular in the professional poker world with people who share your belief. Paul Phillips wrote an amusing piece in Slate years ago that discussed this in part.
posted by Lame_username at 11:44 AM on April 20, 2009

There is an interesting article precisely on this subject in the last edition of the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/04/27/090427fa_fact_talbot
posted by varoa at 12:03 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

You should try regular, somewhat intense aerobic exercise.

Also, what are your wife's qualifications for assuming the role of a medical professional in charge of you?
posted by sickinthehead at 12:33 PM on April 20, 2009

Tramadol/Ultram is supposedly a good, safe pain reliever, derived from the narcotics but without the addictive quality (at least that's what my doctor says). It works better than anything else I've tried for my osteoarthritis pain and does have a bit of that calming effect. It is not even on the controlled substance list, it is considered so safe. If you are still having pain, I would recommend asking your doctor about it.
posted by lazydog at 1:25 PM on April 20, 2009

Anon, I know exactly what you're describing and why you're asking; I totally get the same benefit from that drug. I have had this discussion with my doctor, and he told me to really exercise to get into that same state-of-brain.

So, as is mentioned above: exercise. I notice that if I walk 2.5 miles in the morning, and I do it in about 28 minutes, I get that really super cool mix of jelly-skin / swimmy-tummy and intense focus with energy to spare. And it has some staying power, too; the focus and energy last for hours, and I find that I'm also much happier later into my day - a quality of hydrocodone that fades after a very short period of time with regular use (and is handily replaced by irritability). The exercise provides me with basically the same feelings I got from my beloved Norco once-upon-a-time, except life doesn't suck ass if I skip a walk.
posted by heyho at 2:19 PM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by floam at 3:41 PM on April 21, 2009


Who would of guessed? It must be my opportunity to give unqualified, and possibly unwise advice on medicine - or rather, obscure nutritional substances.

I'll attempt to answer the question in good faith - there's a 'nutritional supplement' called DLPA or DL-Phenylalanine.
It seems to have a slight function like an Endorphin (Enkephalin / natural opiod) re-uptake inhibitor? (If I understand the wiki page that is).
So your bodies natural painkillers/endorphins/opiods should hang around longer.

The effects should be gradual, and build up over time. Read up on it, but it doesn't appear to be addictive.

I am guessing you shouldn't mix it in high doses with anything that, er, messes with your brain, say anti-depressant medication.
And definately not anything used as Parkinson's medication.
posted by Elysum at 6:11 PM on June 14, 2009

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