Oxycodone is an opiate that doctors commonly prescribe for moderate to severe pain management. When patients first start taking oxycodone to treat pain, they may experience negative side effects from the drug. These include:
These side effects usually subside as the body gets used to the dosage; however, according to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), some more serious negative side effects can occur, even in those who are taking oxycodone as directed by a doctor. Individuals should seek immediate medical attention if they experience any of the following while taking oxycodone:
- Chest pain
- Faster or slow heartbeat
- Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, or ankles
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Extreme drowsiness
The FDA states that patients who take the wrong dosage or strength of oxycodone to treat their pain could overdose and die, which highlights just how concerning it can be to witness a loved one taking oxycodone without a prescription at all. Unfortunately, oxycodone abuse is a very real problem in America. According to a survey conducted by IMS Health and Vector One: National, the total number of opioid pain relievers prescribed by doctors in the United States has increased dramatically in the past 25 years, and Americans alone consume 81 percent of the world’s oxycodone though they make up just 5 percent of the global population.
Types of Oxycodone
Because oxycodone is incredibly prevalent around the country, it is highly accessible for individuals to abuse it, and it is a popular recreational drug because of the effects it has on the brain. Oxycodone works by blocking pain receptors in the brain, and it can lead to feelings of relaxation and euphoria.
Oxycodone comes in a few different brand name medications, and family members who are worried about a loved one abusing oxycodone can benefit from knowing its various forms. The medications that contain oxycodone are:
- Percocet: This drug contains a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen, which enhances the pain-relieving effects of oxycodone. According to NLM, Percocet tablets are Schedule II controlled substances, meaning they have a high potential for abuse, which can lead to severe dependence and addiction.
- OxyContin: This drug is often used to treat pain around the clock, and it is not used on an as-needed basis like other forms of oxycodone. It is made in extended-release tablets, which should never be broken or crushed, as that could deliver a fatal dose. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, there were more than 47,000 lethal drug overdoses in 2014, and prescription opioids were responsible for nearly 19,000 of then.
- OxyIR and Oxyfast: OxyIR is an oral capsule, and Oxyfast is a concentrate solution. People can take either one for immediate pain relief.
- Percodan: This drug consists of oxycodone and aspirin, and doctors often prescribe it to relieve moderate to severe pain.
As an opiate, oxycodone is highly addictive. That means even people who take it as directed by a doctor can build up a tolerance and eventually develop a dependence on it.
It is important to remember that addiction is a disease, and it should be treated as such. If a loved one were suffering from a different disease, like cancer or diabetes, family and friends would truly show support and encourage treatment. Likewise, individuals who are addicted to oxycodone can enter recovery if they commit to treatment. Berating a family member for an addiction or the consequences it has had is rarely an effective way to induce sobriety.
Oxycodone Abuse and Addiction
Oxycodone is an opiate receptor agonist, which means it increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward system, and individuals who experience an increase in dopamine will often do whatever they can to repeat that sensation in the future. When an individual connects oxycodone to those feelings of euphoria and relaxation, it can lead to abuse and even addiction.
As the body gets used to the effects of oxycodone, it adjusts to the drug until the original dosage is no longer effective at producing the desired high. This process is called tolerance, and it forces the user to seek out more of the drug more frequently in order to experience the same pleasurable sensations.
People who take oxycodone under the guidance of a doctor may develop a tolerance to it without developing an addiction; however, many people simply begin taking the drug recreationally, without a prescription.
Once oxycodone begins having an unwanted influence on someone’s life, an addiction has developed. No one is immune to the effects of oxycodone, and ultimately anyone can eventually become addicted to it if they abuse it.
Some people are better at hiding addiction than others, but as it becomes more severe, it will be harder to hide. It can be helpful to know what to look for if there is the chance a loved one could be addicted to oxycodone. Signs of addiction to oxycodone include:
- Acting uninterested in favorite activities
- Devising false medical issues to obtain more oxycodone
- Continuing to use it despite medical, personal, or financial problems
- Lying about use of the drug
- Combining oxycodone with alcohol or other substances of abuse
- Experiencing increased sensitivity to lights and sounds
Abusing oxycodone brings serious risks of health complications and even death. Some long-term effects of abusing drugs that contain oxycodone are kidney failure, liver failure, and brain damage. Overdose is also a possibility every time a person abuses the drug.
Many people are scared to enter treatment for oxycodone addiction because of the potential withdrawal symptoms. In an ambulatory detox program, however, clients have access to healthcare professionals who know how to ease the most common withdrawal symptoms. Going through a detox program may not be enjoyable, but it is not nearly as uncomfortable or dangerous as attempting to quit on one’s own. Stopping opioids without the help of a doctor could lead to serious complications and an increased risk of relapse, so medical detox is always recommended for opiate withdrawal.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), common symptoms of withdrawing from opioids include nausea, vomiting, hypertension, seizures, and tachycardia.
The intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms depend on a lot of factors, including the extent of the addiction and how long it occurred for; however, there is no foolproof way to determine who will experience severe withdrawal symptoms and who will not.
For that reason, family members should encourage their loved one to enter an ambulatory detox program since the withdrawal process can be challenging. Even newborn babies can experience withdrawal symptoms if their mothers abused opioids like oxycodone during pregnancy. NIDA reports that every 25 minutes a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal.
In medical detox, professionals may prescribe replacement medications, such as buprenorphine, to ease the withdrawal process. These medications are generally used on a long-term basis, and clients are then slowly weaned off the replacement medications over time. In other instances, medications may be used to address specific withdrawal symptoms, such as anti-nausea medications or sleep aids.
In an intensive outpatient program (IOP), clients will attend different kinds of therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy challenges negative thought patterns to alter behavior, whereas Motivational Interviewing is a goal-focused form of therapy in which clients attempt to resolve ambivalence about certain aspects of their lives. The goal of therapy is to address the reasons why abuse and subsequent addiction developed in an effort to manage those issues and prevent relapse.