Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid analgesic that is prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain, severe pain or moderately severe pain. Unfortunately, Oxycodone abuse is a very prevalent problem throughout the United States resulting in addiction, overdose and even death in thousands of cases each year. Just a single use of this powerful pain reliever has the potential to cause an array of complications, serious side effects and dangerous consequences for the unsuspecting user.
What is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is considered a semi-synthetic drug because it is manufactured, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, “by modifying the chemical thebaine, an organic chemical found in opium.” Much like other semi-synthetic opiates, Oxycodone has a powerful ability to cause abuse and misuse which can lead to addiction, withdrawal and other serious complications. Oxycodone is only available by prescription but may be prescribed in the following doses:
- 10mg tablets
- 20mg tablets
- 40mg tablets
- 80mg tablets
The medication will work for up to 12 hours when taken as prescribed. Unfortunately, many people misuse Oxycodone by taking it with other drugs, crushing and snorting the drug, taking more than prescribed or in other ways.
Who is at Risk?
Certain groups of people are more likely to abuse Oxycodone than others. First, people who are prescribed the medication for the treatment of pain following an injury, surgical procedure or illness are at risk of becoming physically dependent on the drug even when they have good intentions only to take the medication when they are in pain. Additionally, the following people are at an increased risk of Oxycodone abuse, misuse and overdose according to the CDC:
- Middle aged men
- Individuals in rural counties
- American Indians and Caucasians
- People with a history of mental illness
- People with a history of drug abuse or addiction
According to the CDC, more than 15,000 people die each year as a result of prescription painkiller overdose in the United States alone. Many of these overdoses are the result of Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Hydrocodone and Methadone. According to Medline Plus, the following signs of Oxycodone overdose warrant a need for immediate help:
- Labored or shallow breathing
- Drowsiness or fatigue that is excessive
- Limpness of the limbs or muscle weakness
- Widening of the pupils
- Blue lips
- Blue underneath the fingernails
Side Effects of Oxycodone Abuse
When taking Oxycodone, if you don’t take an overdose amount, you could still be at risk for a number of potential health hazards and complications. Should you be allergic to the medication, you may suffer from labored breathing, hives, itching and swelling which can cause fatal consequences if not immediately treated by a healthcare professional. Less serious side effects of Oxycodone abuse include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Mood swings
- Drowsiness and confusion
Dangers of Oxycodone Abuse
Some symptoms, especially those that are the result of overdose or allergic reaction to Oxycodone are very dangerous to the user. Additionally, according to CESAR, Oxycodone can cause the following dangerous side effects or consequences for the user:
- Increased pressure of the cerebral and spinal fluid
- Cardiac arrest
- Labored breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Heart failure
What is Oxycodone Tolerance?
According to NIDA, drug tolerance is the result of the body’s ability to develop an understanding of a drug which results in the need for higher dosing in order to produce the same or similar effects. Tolerance can occur after just a few doses of Oxycodone and it continues to grow when the drug is repeatedly abused. In time, the user will require excessively larger doses or more frequent doses in order to produce the same euphoric effects.
Unfortunately, tolerance is often the killer for a user. After taking Oxycodone for a prolonged period of time and becoming tolerant to the drug, many users will attempt to quit. They withdrawal for a few days and then decide that they just can’t take the symptoms of withdrawal any longer—so they resort back to their previous habits of drug use. The tolerance by this time has already depleted slightly and using the same excessive amount of the drug that the user may be accustomed to taking can prove to be immediately deadly.
Repeat use of Oxycodone is often responsible for physical dependence which includes symptoms of withdrawal when the user attempts to quit. Signs of Oxycodone withdrawal that may develop when the drug is no longer used or when the dose is abruptly reduced include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Upset stomach, abdominal cramping and gastrointestinal problems
- Runny nose, watery eyes and flu-like symptoms
- Bone and muscle pain
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Hot and cold flashes; sweats; gooseflesh
Though the symptoms of Oxycodone withdrawal, according to Harvard Health, are not life threatening, they are often very difficult to cope with. Most of the symptoms will dissipate on their own within a few days with continued abstinence and rest but for some, medical intervention and prescription medications are necessary in order to cope without resorting back to previous habits of drug use.
Recognizing Oxycodone Addiction
Opiate withdrawal is the leading factor that contributes to drug abuse and addiction in those who take Oxycodone. According to Harvard Health, “addicts take more than they intend, repeatedly try to cut down or stop, spend much time obtaining the drug and recovering from its effects, give up other pursuits for the sake of the drug, and continue to use it despite serious physical or psychological harm.” Additional signs of Oxycodone addiction that you should recognize include:
- Taking Oxycodone for any reason other than it was prescribed
- Taking Oxycodone when it is not prescribed
- Using Oxycodone to mask emotions
- Running out of Oxycodone before the next prescription refill date
- Doctor shopping, or seeking more than one doctor to prescribe the medication
- Lying about drug use
- Stealing or otherwise breaking the law to fuel the drug habit
- Developing a tolerance to Oxycodone
- Inexplicable financial problems resulting from spending too much on drugs
- Track or needle marks on the arms, legs or other areas of the body
- Infections from intravenous drug use
- Illness or health problems resulting from drug use
- Changes in responsibilities or inability to maintain responsibilities
- Neglecting personal appearance
- Paraphernalia such as needles, burnt spoons, lighters, baggies, pill bottles or other evidence of Oxycodone use
Treatment for Oxycodone Addiction
Fortunately, if you or someone you know is addicted to oxycodone, there is help! You don’t have to suffer through the complications and side effects of withdrawal alone, you don’t have to cope with cravings without support and you don’t have to continue down this path of destruction. Treatment options include:
- Methadone Maintenance – using medication to help curb cravings, reduce symptoms of withdrawal and prevent drug seeking behavior which controls the user’s life
- Detox – using medical intervention, medications and other means to allow the body to adjust to life without the drug
- Residential treatment – spending time, usually 90 days, in a residential program in which counseling, therapy and medical care are provided
- Outpatient treatment – attending regularly scheduled counseling and therapeutic sessions as needed in order to remain abstinent
- Support groups – NA and similar programs that provide peer to peer support which helps to improve recovery outcomes
If you’re not sure what method of treatment is going to be ideal for your situation, or if you’re not even sure if you need treatment, consider calling our helpline for additional support. While you may have many questions regarding Oxycodone abuse, addiction and treatment, we ensure that we can provide you with the answers you need to take the steps toward achieving sobriety on your terms. Ultimately, the treatment that you receive will make the difference between whether you stay sober and continue down a safe path or you make poor choices and put your life at further risk—make the right choice today.