What is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone, commonly found in OxyContin and Percocet, is a semi-synthetic narcotic, and one of the most commonly prescribed medications for chronic pain relief. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Oxycodone is a schedule II controlled substance.
This means that, while it can be medically used for pain management, it also poses a high risk for abuse. It is for this reason that many doctors will administer other pain medications over prescribing opioids, despite their extreme effectiveness.
Of course, oxycodone and other prescribed opioids are still used for treating both moderate to severe pain, whether this be cancer-related or chronic non-cancer pain. Typically, these opioid medications will be a last resort in the event that other pain relievers prove ineffective.
The Various Faces of Oxycodone
Oxycodone may be referred to by various names, whether these be through the various brand-name medications it appears in, or the street names given to illicitly-produced and exchanged versions of this drug.
Some of the most common prescription opioid medications that contain Oxycodone include:
Street terms include:
As highly addictive substances, opioid narcotics such as Oxycodone can be commonly found within the street drug market. Here, this medication may be referred to as:
- Hillbilly heroin
- Oxy 80s
- Blue dynamite
How Does Oxycodone Treat Severe Pain?
Like other opioids, Oxycodone works by directly impacting the central nervous system, preventing pain signals from reaching the brain. When using opioid analgesics, these impair opioid receptors in the brain, and send a flood of dopamine into its reward centers.
Dopamine is one of the main hormones responsible for feelings of happiness and pleasure. Thus, the large amounts released by Oxycodone use can produce euphoric and sedative effects, significantly reducing chronic pain and discomfort.
Is Oxycodone Addictive?
Unfortunately, while Oxycodone can be extremely effective for treating both chronic and acute pain, they are, as discussed, highly prone to abuse. Even those who have been prescribed this drug can become dependent on it if their Oxycodone usage strays from their instructed guidelines.
This happens more commonly than most people may believe. In fact, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services prescription opioid abuse is one of the biggest issues in the United States today.
These opioids play a large role in the public health crisis referred to as the “Opioid Epidemic” currently wracking the nation, presenting a very real need to de-stigmatize addiction and create better, more accessible rehabilitation services.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), In 2019, an estimated 38 people died daily from overdoses involving prescription drug abuse, totaling to over 14,000 deaths; an estimated 28% of all opioid overdose deaths that occurred that year.
Many people abuse Oxycodone because of the euphoric effects this drug can produce. Once opioid misuse leads to a full-blown addiction, a person may become dependent on their drug use in order to experience happiness, due to an inability to independently produce dopamine.
How is Oxycodone Abused?
Someone who is opioid use falls under medical purposes will generally take this medication orally in the form of a pill or tablet. Someone who chooses to abuse Oxycodone, however, will typically do so in other ways.
This includes chewing or crushing these pills into a powder, which can then be snorted. This can also be dissolved in a liquid-based and injected directly into the bloodstream. These methods of administration can produce a faster and more intense high for the user.
However, while these may produce faster results, they are also far more likely to cause several negative physical and mental side effects, including an increased risk of overdose.
Understanding Oxycodone Addiction
Unfortunately, addiction is a far-reaching disease, often heavily damaging the lives of not just the addicted individual, but of their family members and loved ones, as well. What many people do not realize about addiction is that it is not a strictly black-and-white condition.
Those who abuse opioid narcotics, such as Oxycodone, likely started off doing so as a means of escaping the physical or emotional pain of their day-to-day lives.
Unfortunately, once a tolerance and eventual physical dependence on this self-medication develop, it can feel impossible to quit on one’s own. This is because their body has become reliant upon this substance in order to function properly.
Thus, even if there is a genuine desire to become sober, this can be difficult to do, as removing the Oxycodone from their body at this point will be both physically and psychologically extremely painful.
Who is at Risk of Drug Abuse?
While many people associate substance abuse with only affecting a very specific type of person, this is a false belief. Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their personal, economic, or social background.
With that being said, there are certain risk factors that may increase a person’s risk of developing an Oxycodone addiction, or any other form of opioid addiction, including:
- Family or Personal History of Substance Abuse.
- Negative Environmental Factors.
- Chronic Moderate to Severe Pain.
- Negative Social Influences.
- High-Stress Work, Home, or School Responsibilities.
In addition to these, one of the biggest risk factors for developing a substance addiction of any kind is if someone has a mental health condition, especially if this has been left undiagnosed, or untreated.
The Relationship Between Addiction and Mental Health
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), many people who have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder will also be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. These are known as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis.
This is because many individuals who are struggling with mental illness will attempt to self-soothe the negative thoughts and feelings caused by these conditions through the use of drugs or alcohol.
For those who have been diagnosed with opioid addiction, such as Oxycodone or OxyContin addiction, their opioid use began as a way of managing both chronic physical and emotional pain.
Unfortunately, this self-medication will only provide temporary, if any, relief from these unpleasant feelings. Over time, their opioid abuse will only serve to worsen these conditions, and may even result in their development of new physical and mental health issues.
What are the Side Effects of Oxycodone Abuse?
There are several negative consequences that may result from someone’s abuse of Oxycodone, including both short-term and long-term misuse of this medication. Over time, if left unmanaged, these can cause permanent damage, and may even become life-threatening.
Someone who uses opioids such as Oxycodone without need for them may experience several briefly enjoyable effects, such as extreme relaxation, euphoria, sedation, and reduced anxiety. However, they may also experience several negative side effects, including:
- Stomach pain
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Mood changes
Long-Term Effects of Oxycodone
In the long-term, Oxycodone might have far more drastic side effects – both positive and negative. Chronic abuse of this substance can lead to various detrimental physiological and psychological effects, including dependency and addiction.
Extensive Oxycodone abuse has also been found to cause liver and kidney failure, as well as a reduction in the brains’ capacity to adapt to fresh input; an effect that might be the reason for many people’s shifts from prescribed to addictive use.
Furthermore, combining oxycodone with other drugs can present additional risks, including severe liver damage and overdose; Combining substances particularly relevant when abused with alcohol.
Long-term Oxycodone abuse may also pave the way to other forms of substance abuse. Predominantly, the use of illicit and synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and heroin use; both, of which, are extremely dangerous forms of addiction.
Is it Possible to Overdose on Oxycodone?
As with most other opioids, taking too much Oxycodone can absolutely result in an overdose. If left untreated, these overdose effects can quickly result in permanent damage, and even death. Thus, recognizing the signs of overdose can be life-saving.
Opioid Overdose Symptoms
There are several overdose effects that can be looked out for if you suspect that you or someone else has taken too much Oxycodone. These include:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach spasms
- Low blood pressure
- Weak pulse
- Coma (unresponsiveness)
- Possible seizures
- Difficulty or complete stopping of breathing
- Blue-tinted lips & fingernails
Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction
Admitting that you or a loved one may be struggling with an Oxycodone addiction can be extremely difficult. However, it is absolutely necessary in order to be able to begin seeking out professional addiction treatment and support.
There are several behavioral symptoms that may indicate someone is struggling with opioid addiction, including:
- Spending large amounts of time and money acquiring, using, or recovering the effects of opioids.
- Experiencing persistent interpersonal problems and breakdowns due to opioid use.
- Neglecting important work, home, or school responsibilities in order to continue using opioids.
- Giving up previously enjoyable hobbies or social activities due to opioid use.
- Continuing to use opioids despite this potentially worsening or leading to the development of new physical and mental health issues.
In addition to these, one of the most reliable signs of an Oxycodone addiction is if someone develops symptoms of withdrawal upon trying to decrease or completely stop their usage of this medication.
What are the Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms?
When it comes to Oxycodone withdrawal, there are several unpleasant symptoms that may occur during this period, including:
- Excessive yawning
- Mood swings
- Runny nose and eyes
- Muscle aches
- Excessive sweating
- Vomiting and nausea
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle pains
- Poor concentration
- Inability to feel pleasure
With the severity of these withdrawal symptoms, attempting to overcome an addiction on one’s own is rarely successful, and can even be downright dangerous. This is why it is strongly encouraged to seek out professional help when attempting to overcome an opioid use disorder.
How is an Oxycodone Addiction Treated?
There are several addiction treatment options available to those struggling with Oxycodone addiction. While everyone’s treatment process will vary, this generally includes medical detox services, as well as inpatient and outpatient levels of care.
Integrated dual diagnosis treatment options will also likely be suggested for individuals with co-occurring disorders, as these can help them address both their addiction itself, as well as the underlying causes of these habits.
Specific addiction medicine may also be administered during the treatment process to help reduce opioid cravings, as well as further prevent the risk of relapse.
Figuring out what level of treatment will be right for your recovery needs can be overwhelming; speaking with your healthcare provider or an addiction specialist, such as a Find Addiction Rehabs representative, can help you narrow down these options.
Find Substance Abuse Treatment Options Now
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, finding the right support can be difficult. Fortunately, help IS available; at Find Addiction Rehabs, we are dedicated to finding people like you to find the addiction recovery support and resources you need.
Our 24/7 hotline is staffed with detox and rehab admissions specialists who will walk you through the intake process. They will find you the best addiction treatment center according to your specific recovery and financial needs.
So don’t wait, start the process today by calling now, and we will help you take the first step towards addiction recovery and living a happier, healthier, substance-free life.
Nicole R. is an experienced and accomplished writer with special interests in the fields of Anthropology, English, and behavioral health, and has written countless articles for newspaper publications, institutional research journals, and Find Addiction Rehabs.
Her alma matter is Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Nicole hopes to spread awareness of and combat the stigmatization surrounding addiction and substance abuse treatment through her writing and work in the field.