Norco contains two different medications: hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic, opioid pain reliever. It acts similarly to codeine. Hydrocodone is effective at decreasing pain and relieving coughing, but also causes drowsiness, mood changes, and mental "clouding." In the United States, hydrocodone is only available in combination with other medications; it is not available alone.
Acetaminophen ("APAP") is a pain reliever and fever reducer commonly found in non-prescription medications such as Tylenol®. "APAP" is an acronym for one of the chemical names for acetaminophen. Combining hydrocodone with acetaminophen helps improve Norco's effectiveness at relieving pain and may limit the abuse potential of hydrocodone, as the maximum dose of Norco is usually limited by the acetaminophen content.
General considerations for when and how to take Norco include the following:
- The medication comes in tablet form. It is taken by mouth, usually every four to six hours as needed for pain.
- Be careful not to exceed the maximum recommended daily dose, as this could lead to overdose symptoms or to poisoning from the acetaminophen component, which can cause liver failure.
- Norco is either taken "as needed" or on a scheduled basis. "As needed" means you will only take a dose if you are experiencing pain (if you are not in pain, you will skip the dose), while "scheduled use" means you should take it on schedule, even if you are not in pain. Most healthcare providers prescribe it on an "as needed" basis, rather than a scheduled basis.
- It is best to take it with food, as this may help reduce stomach upset.
- For the medication to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed. Do not increase your dose without your healthcare provider's approval. Do not suddenly stop taking it, especially if you have taken it regularly for more than several weeks (see Norco Withdrawal).