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Oxycodone Addictions: Warning signs, symptoms, and treatment

Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of prescription pain relievers, such as oxycodone and opioids like heroin, has become a national crisis that is affecting the public well-being. A significant contributor to the opioid crisis is the over-prescribing of these drugs to those who show signs of addiction. Also, those who can’t afford prescription drugs often turn to heroin to fuel their habit.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated the economic burden of the opioid epidemic to be $78.5 billion a year in the United States.

This includes the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. These figures paint a startling picture of the actual battle being fought.

In the late 1990s, it was pharmaceutical companies that assured the medical community about the low risk of opioid addiction. This was when doctors began prescribing the drugs at increased rates. This, in turn, is where the widespread misuse of drugs such as oxycodone really began to develop at levels never seen. Opioid overdose rates peaked in 2015 when 33,000 Americans died.

Oxycodone is primarily used in short-term pain treatment, but it may be prescribed long-term for people who have chronic pain. The problem is that long-term oxycodone use can quickly lead to addiction. While oxycodone can be very useful in how it treats pain, it has the potential for adverse outcomes.

What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is the active ingredient in powerful opioid medications such as OxyContin, Endocet, Percocet, and Roxicodone. It is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain that results from injury, chronic pain, or recent surgeries.

Oxycodone has proven to be an extremely efficient pain reliever for those who struggle with chronic pain, but the dangers associated with oxycodone may not outweigh the benefits. While low doses of the medication won’t produce euphoria, larger doses result in the euphoria that users seek when taking oxycodone.

The more prominent side effects of oxycodone include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Mood swings
  • Happiness
  • Anxiety reduction
  • Mood swings
  • Relaxation
  • Sedation

Oxycodone abuse can be the result of an underlying mental health disorder. Most doctors find that depression and other mental illnesses fuel the urge to use drugs. Individuals who struggle with these disorders often self-medicate intending to numb the pain.

While this can be beneficial at first to mask depression or anxiety, the effects that were once experienced will decrease as drug tolerance sets in. The user will begin to take more of the drug to feel the same effects, but eventually, it will not numb the pain. At a certain point, the symptoms of their disorder can become magnified.

What Are the Signs of Oxycodone Addiction?

physical symptoms

While there are many outward signs of oxycodone addiction, some are easier to spot than others. If you suspect a loved one of being addicted to oxycodone, some of the physical symptoms to look out for are weight loss, pinned pupils, itchiness, numbness to pain, drowsiness, yawning, and problems with balance.

Fortunately, the symptoms exhibited by those using oxycodone is noticeable, both physically and psychologically. During active addiction, it is common for users to deny they are addicted to oxycodone and will make excuses for their use.

It is not uncommon for those taking oxycodone to inadvertently become addicted because they were prescribed it. It may seem harmless at first, but it can develop into one of the most powerful addictions. The statistics alone prove how deadly this drug is.

The physical symptoms can be good indicators of someone abusing this drug, but there are behavioral signs that should be watched for such as:

  • Trying to illegally obtain oxycodone prescriptions
  • Missing school or work
  • Stealing oxycodone from someone else’s prescription
  • Trying to borrow or stealing money to obtain oxycodone
  • A decline in work or school performance
  • Trying to quit oxycodone but failing to do so
  • Abusing after negative outcomes
  • Abusing when it is reckless to do so

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s possible that an oxycodone addiction has developed. The biggest step you can take is to seek treatment and forge a path to save a life.

Oxycodone Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms are likely to occur with sudden cessation of oxycodone. The higher the dose of the drug will indicate the severity of symptoms.

These can range from psychological to physical and include:

  • Watering eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sneezing
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Isolation
  • Yawning/fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Uncontrollable tremors

The symptoms are rarely deadly, but they are incredibly uncomfortable. If an individual decides to quit cold turkey, they can experience such severe effects that, in turn, will have them running back to the drug for relief.

Instances in which withdrawal can be fatal are if other drugs, such as Xanax, are being used along with oxycodone. Xanax can cause complications in oxycodone withdrawal that significantly increase these symptoms.

Quitting cold turkey is never something a user should consider. With the advancement of modern medicine and therapies, medical detox is easily accessible and highly effective. This will ensure a seamless transition back into sobriety and eliminate the urge to jump right back into the addiction when the symptoms become overwhelming.

Oxycodone withdrawal is intense, but it can be conquered.

Oxycodone Overdose

As an opioid, taking too much Oxycodone in a short amount of time can cause a potentially dangerous overdose. An overdose occurs when the drug’s effects start to damage the body or become too intense for your body to process safely.

An overdose can happen accidentally if you don’t pay attention to dose instructions and take doses too close together. In some cases, the sedative effects of a drug can cause you to become confused, particularly when waking up in the middle of the night, and accidentally take more.

Accidental overdose is more likely when the drug is taken recreationally. High doses all at once can lead to dangerous effects that suppress important nervous symptom functions.

Opioids like Oxycodone work to suppress the body’s pain response, but it can also generally slow down your nervous system. For that reason, it can make you feel sluggish, sleepy, and sedated. However, in high doses, it can also suppress some automatic functions of your nervous system like your heart rate and breathing. Symptoms of an Oxycodone overdose can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak pulse
  • Difficulty maintaining consciousness
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow breathing
  • Not breathing at all
  • Blue fingertips and lips

If left untreated, Oxycodone withdrawal can lead to coma, oxygen deprivation, brain damage, and death. Opioid overdoses can be reversed with a medication called naloxone or Narcan. In some states, the drug is sold over-the-counter. It’s carried by paramedics and sometimes by other first responders like fire-fighters or police officers.

Oxycodone overdose is more likely when the drug is mixed with other substances that suppress the nervous system like alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and sleeping pills. Together, these drugs can cause a phenomenon called potentiation, which is when two or more substances combine to create more intense effects. When opioids are mixed with central nervous system depressants, it can cause an overdose with relatively moderate doses of each substance.

Oxycodone Addiction Treatment

oxycodone use

The type of treatment that you will receive for your oxycodone addiction will rely on several factors. Someone in the early stages of addiction can be in much less intensive care than someone who’s used for years. While all standard addiction treatment starts off with medical detox, the following stages in the continuum of care will differ from person to person. All cases are unique and should be treated as such.

Detox

Medical detoxification often referred to as detox, is the first and most difficult step in the treatment process. The purpose of detox is to carefully remove all foreign substances from the body, including the oxycodone. Due to the high relapse rate in part from the extreme withdrawal symptoms, engaging in medical detox is the most effective way to transition into sobriety. Offering a 24-hour supervised support system during this intesely challenging phase is vital for comfort. When you pair it with medication that alleviates the worst symptoms, this will deliver the most successful results.

During this period, a medical team will meet with you to discuss the plans for continued treatment. This will be the time where it will be determined in which level of treatment you will be placed. You will also go over the types of recommended therapies, and the team will evaluate your mental health to see if there are any underlying conditions that fuel your addiction.

Residential

If the medical team determines residential treatment is the best option for your unique needs, this will be the next step in the continuum of care. Residential treatment will require a patient to live on-site anywhere from 30-90 days, depending on the severity of your addiction. During this phase of treatment, you will go through in-depth behavioral therapies that will get you in touch with the root of your addiction. You will have the support of other recovering users to lean on and will learn how to deal with triggers.

Outpatient

Outpatient programs are for individuals who are determined to have less risk of relapse. This is especially useful for those with careers or school obligations they cannot neglect by going to treatment. This is common for people who don’t have drug use going on at their homes and can still reap the benefits of treatment with less supervision.

Outpatient in the past was said to be less effective than living on-site, but over the years, the level of treatment has become a lot more efficient. You will be required to attend therapy sessions several days out of the week and pass drug tests when not on-site.

Oxycodone Statistics

  • Roughly 21% to 29% of people prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8% and 12% develop an opioid use disorder.
  • About 80% of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

Start Your Journey To Recovery Today

If you or someone you care about is struggling with Oxycodone addiction and is ready to take first steps toward recovery and a better, sober tomorrow, The Palm Beach Institute can help. We offer medical detox treatment with a seamless transition into ongoing care through to our post-treatment alumni program.

Sources

Depression and Opioid Abuse: How Painkillers Affect Your Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.opioid.abuse.html

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 06). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, April 04). Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/opioid-overdose-reversal-naloxone-narcan-evzio

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

US National Library of Medicine. (2019, July 10). Hydrocodone/oxycodone overdose: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007285.htm

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