What Is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller prescribed for moderate to severe pain. It’s offered to patients in numerous forms, including as a capsule, an extended-release capsule, a tablet, an extended-release tablet, a liquid solution, and a concentrated solution, all of which may be misused and abused.
The most well-known formulation of pure oxycodone is OxyContin (referred to by many as “hillbilly heroin”), though pure oxycodone is also prescribed as Oxaydo and Xtampza ER.
Oxycodone is also used in conjunction with other more mild painkillers. Examples of acetaminophen/oxycodone combination products include:
- Xartemis XR
Percodan is a similar drug but is an aspirin-based combination medication. Even though these medications do not offer recreational users the potency of straight oxycodone, they are still abused.
The moment oxycodone hits your system it begins to alter the way your brain functions. Opioid painkillers change the way your brain produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter which is a key player within your brain’s reward center.
This is what propels drug seeking and using. It’s also what produces the hallmark euphoria and relaxation the drug is known for, features which entice recreational drug abusers. Self-medication for pain relief is also considered drug abuse and does contribute to addiction. In addition to swallowing the drug orally, drug abusers may attempt to chew, smoke, snort, or inject the drug.
Signs And Symptoms Of Oxycodone Abuse
As an opioid drug, oxycodone abuse creates certain visible physical and mental side effects, including:
- Dry mouth
- Fluctuating moods
- Flushed skin
- Pain relief
- Slowed breathing
Two of the largest physical signs of oxycodone abuse are dependency and tolerance:
- A dependency arises when a person’s body is reliant on the constant influx of oxycodone and cannot function in a normal manner without it.
- A tolerance occurs when the effects of previous dosages begin to wane, requiring users to increase the amounts taken to create the desired, pleasurable or pain-relieving effect.
Tolerance, dependency, and withdrawal can all occur within prescribed use. These effects qualify as factors of addiction only when accompanied by other defining characteristics, most notably chronic and compulsive drug seeking and intense urges or cravings. Over time, these elements derail a person’s life, health, relationships, and social functioning.
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From these shifts you might notice certain behavioral changes in your loved one, including that they:
- Are very protective about their personal space (due to the fact they’re hiding drugs or paraphernalia).
- Become agitated, upset, or fearful of what will happen should they not have the drug on hand to use.
- Become very secretive about their actions or lie when confronted about drug use.
- Cannot quit or cut back use despite trying to do so.
- Feign pain or go to multiple doctors for an existing condition so that they can get several prescriptions for oxycodone (“doctor shopping”).
- Have a decreased interest in activities which they previously held in high esteem.
- Hoard pills to maintain a steady supply.
- Ignore their self-care and any physical or mental health problems, even when aware of them.
- Push loved ones away.
- Skip classes or work (a person may drop out of school or even quit or be fired from their job).
- Steal your prescription or ask to buy it off of you.
- Struggle financially (this may lead a person to skip bill payments, steal, or to ask you for money).
Dangers Of Oxycodone Abuse
Oxycodone abuse can lead to brain and cognitive deficits, illness, and disease. Abuse may increase rates of transmissible disease, through either injection drug use or increased instances of risky sexual behaviors while under the influence. Further, a growing body of research points to the fact that prescription drug abuse often initiates users into heroin abuse.
Oxycodone isn’t always abused alone. Far too many users experiment with other substances, many of which are also central nervous system depressants, to enhance the high or pleasurable effects of oxycodone. This is known as polysubstance abuse. Abusing multiple drugs similatenously increases the odds of overdose complications, including coma, respiratory depression, and death.
MedlinePlus speaks of these dangers, warning that “Drinking alcohol, taking prescription or nonprescription medications that contain alcohol, or using street drugs during your treatment with oxycodone increases the risk that you will experience serious, life-threatening side effects.”
As users become dependent on oxycodone and tolerant to its effects, many will up their dose to maintain the pleasurable effects and to avoid withdrawal. This increases a person’s risk of oxycodone-related adverse health effects, addiction, and overdose, though first-time users can, and do, overdose.
Signs Of An Oxycodone Overdose
The CDC lists oxycodone as one of the top three most common drugs linked to prescription opioid overdose deaths. And with the fact that roughly half of the opioid overdose deaths across our nation are caused from painkiller abuse, this number is great. Even if a person doesn’t die, they could still slip into a coma and experience brain damage.
Oxycodone slows a user’s central nervous system, an action which is most visibly witnessed by decreased heart and breathing rates, though a person’s blood pressure and temperature also drop.
Signs of an oxycodone overdose may include:
- Confused and disorientated states
- Cool, clammy skin
- Decreased heart rate
- Extreme drowsiness
- Pinpoint pupils
- Slowed or shallow breathing
- Weakened muscles
Tampering with oxycodone’s form allows high levels of the drug to surge into a user’s system far more quickly, and in a much shorter period of time. For example: “Abuse or misuse of Oxycontin by crushing, chewing, snorting, or injecting the dissolved product will result in the uncontrolled delivery of oxycodone and can result in overdose and death,” as cautioned by the DailyMed.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Once a person’s body adapts to a dependent state, it’s unable to function properly without oxycodone. Should a person be unable to fulfill their craving, or if they suddenly stop using for a different reason, their body will likely go into withdrawal.
Signs of oxycodone withdrawal include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Stomach cramps
For many facing oxycodone addiction, treatment should begin with a medical detox, so that withdrawal can be managed safely and effectively.
Medically-Supervised Oxycodone Detoxification
An oxycodone addiction needs to be treated with a rigorous, consistent approach, which is often hard to do within outpatient care, especially when it comes to detox.
By the aid of medication-assisted therapies, the physical addiction will be treated during detox, a process which reduces or alleviates uncomfortable and painful symptoms of withdrawal. Medications containing buprenorphine and naloxone (Suboxone, Subutex, and Zubsolv) are used for these purposes and as maintenance medications within certain treatment programs.
For the majority of individuals, treating the physical addiction isn’t enough to create a functional, sober life. After detox, a person should engage directly within an inpatient drug rehab program so that they can begin treating the psychological addiction.
Treatment For An Oxycodone Addiction
Addiction isn’t only chemical in nature. Maladaptive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors not only precipitate an addictive state, but result from it. Individualized inpatient treatment best encompasses the scope of care which is necessary to alleviate this strain and build a drug-free life.
Learning to overcome these dysfunctional patterns and replace them with healthy ones is a key component of a successful recovery. This especially holds true if you have a co-occurring mental health disorder and are in need of dual diagnosis treatment.
Behavioral therapies are frequently used to help you develop, and maintain, the coping, interpersonal, and relapse prevention skills which are foundational to the pursuit of a sober life. Many facilities offer aftercare programs which help you to protect these skills as you grow within your recovery.
Find An Oxycodone Addiction Treatment Program Today
Whether you need more information on oxycodone, detox, rehab, or treatment financing, InpatientDrugRehab.org has answers. Contact our expert treatment specialists today for a confidential assessment, so that you can get the individualized treatment you deserve.