Oxycodone is an opioid medication that’s sold in the United States under the brand name OxyContin, and it’s among the most common opioids used for medicinal purposes. Prescription opioids are carefully regulated, but they still pose a threat in the opioid epidemic. Abusing drugs like oxycodone can lead to dependence and addiction. Learn more about oxycodone addiction and how it can be treated effectively.
Oxycodone is used to treat pain symptoms from surgery, injuries, and chronic diseases. The medication is one of the most commonly prescribed opioids in the United States. It was originally developed in 1917 in Germany as what is called a semisynthetic opioid. Oxycodone is derived from a naturally occurring alkaloid called thebaine, which can be found in the Persian poppy plant and then modified to produce a new compound. Other opioids, like fentanyl, are completely synthetic while morphine is a naturally occurring chemical in many plants and animals.
Oxycodone works in a way that is not only similar to other opioids but also to your own naturally occurring chemical pain relievers. When you encounter something that causes pain like stubbing your toe, pain signals will be sent from the site of the pain, to the spine, and all the way up to your brain to tell you to stop doing what you were doing. Pain is an important function to help us avoid further damage and teach us to avoid that pain-causing action in the first place. When it’s time to rest and recuperate, natural opioids in your body called endorphins bind to nerve cells all over your body to block or lessen the pain signals.
However, some pain symptoms are too much for your endorphins to handle. Prescription opioids like oxycodone are effective when it comes to moderate to severe pain relief. Oxycodone binds to opioid receptors in the same way that endorphins do. This blocks pain signals much more efficiently than the naturally occuring variety. However, it also has the potential to cause euphoria and several adverse effects.
Oxycodone has a few common side effects like constipation, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness, itching, dry mouth, and sweating. However, it also can cause addiction, dependence, withdrawal, and overdose if it’s overused or abused. The abuse of prescription pills like oxycodone is a significant factor in the opioid epidemic. Health care providers and drug manufacturers have flooded the market with opioid painkillers. In 2017, 191 million opioid prescriptions were filled. Many people take what they need and leave the rest in medicine cabinets or give them to family and friends.
Abusing prescriptions can lead to addiction, which often is difficult and expensive to maintain. Users often switch to illicit heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 80 percent of people who used heroin said they misused opioid prescriptions first.
Addiction can be difficult to notice in its early stages, but it eventually becomes difficult to hide. If you are worried that you might be developing an opioid use disorder, there are symptoms you might notice while the disorder is still mild. If you are worried about a loved one, you may notice a few signs and symptoms and offer to help find treatment for the person.
If you’ve been prescribed oxycodone and you’ve been taking it regularly, one of the first signs of a growing opioid use disorder is tolerance. The longer you use a psychoactive substance like an opioid, the more your brain adapts to the foreign chemical. To you, this may feel like your standard dose is weaker than it used to be or like you need to increase the dose to achieve the same effects.
If you continue to use the drug as your tolerance grows, you may start to develop a chemical dependence. Dependence is closely tied to addiction, but it is actually a separate disorder. Dependence is caused by your brain beginning to rely on the drug to maintain a normal chemical balance. If you stop using or start to cut back, you may feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms which can include flu-like symptoms, sweating, excessive yawning, and nausea.
If you are worried about a loved one, behavioral signs of addiction you may notice include:
Addiction is officially diagnosed as a severe substance use disorder, and it’s characterized by the compulsive use of a drug despite it causing serious consequences such as health problems trouble at work, legal problems, or relationship issues.
Addiction treatment is a process that addresses a substance use disorder by treating underlying causes and complications. There is no one definitive treatment plan that works for everyone. Instead, treatment should be tailored to your needs as an individual. Treatment also needs to address more than just substance abuse. It should treat the medical, psychological, social, legal, and financial needs that are directly or indirectly related to your addiction. Addressing all of your needs it the best way to ensure long-lasting sobriety.
Addiction treatment often starts with medical detoxification to treat withdrawal and any other medical concerns that need immediate attention. Oxycodone isn’t known to cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, but it can be dangerous if vomiting, sweating, and diarrhea lead to dehydration. Plus, detox can help you if you have any other medical needs such as a disease or injury, that needs to be treated.
After detoxification, clinicians will help place you in a level of care that’s right for your needs. This can include inpatient residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient services, and outpatient services. Through treatment, you will complete a treatment plan that you created with your therapist that addresses your most important needs and concerns. Plans can include individual, group, and family therapy and a number of treatment modalities. The most common type of therapy is behavioral therapy, which involves motivating clients, helping them identify triggers, and prevent relapse.
After treatment aftercare programs can connect you to community resources that can help you continue your commitment to recovery.
Oxycodone isn’t as powerful as some opioids on the market and on the streets, but it is slightly more powerful than morphine. Normal prescribed use of the drug isn’t likely to lead you into deadly heroin addiction. Only a fraction of people who use opioids as directed have problems with dependence and addiction. However, oxycodone can be dangerous when it’s abused and when it’s mixed with other drugs. High doses can build up your tolerance and lead to dependence, which can cause you to develop an addiction. Extremely high doses can cause an overdose which can be fatal.
Opioids are especially dangerous when combined with central nervous system depressants like alcohol, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines, which can happen in some party settings. In combination, these drugs can lead to fatal respiratory depression, which is when your breathing is slowed to the point of oxygen deprivation. In fact, more than 30 percent of opioid overdoses also involve benzodiazepines, which is a common sleep aid and antianxiety medication.
If you abuse oxycodone to the point of developing dependence or addiction that leads to the use of illicit drugs, your risk of dangerous side effects increases. Heroin can be unpredictable in that it can contain dangerous adulterants and needles can be contaminated with infectious diseases.
The opioid epidemic has risen steadily for more than a decade, but the rate of growth has increased quickly in the past few years because of illicit fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and cheaper to buy. The drug makes its way into heroin supplies because of dealers who want to stretch profits. Users may not even realize that the heroin also contains fentanyl which dramatically elevates its potency, which leads to overdose.
Oxycodone addiction is a disease, and it can have lasting consequences if left untreated. Though addiction is a chronic disease, it is treatable with the right therapy options and professional help. If you are worried about an opioid use disorder that’s affecting yourself or a loved one, speak to an addiction specialist at Ocean Breeze Recovery. Call 855-960-5341 to learn more about your addiction treatment options. Addiction is difficult to go through on your own, but with the right help, you may be able to achieve lifelong recovery.
CDC. (2018, October 03). Opioid Overdose. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/maps/rxrate-maps.html
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, June). Heroin. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2019 September 15) Definition of Addiction. ASAM Board of Directors from https://www.asam.org/resources/definition-of-addiction
Scheve, T. (2018, October 10). What are endorphins? Retrieved from https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/endorphins.htm
MJH life sciences. Drug Topics. (2019, August 23) Physician Dispensing and the Opioid Crisis. Ni, J., Benedict, N. MBA from https://www.drugtopics.com/viewpoints/physician-dispensing-and-opioid-crisis
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, October 3)U.S. Opioid Prescribing Rate Maps. Key Highlights from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/maps/rxrate-maps.html
NIDA. (2019, November 21). Heroin. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin