Oxycodone is an opioid medication designed to relieve moderate to severe pain. Since its launch as part of OxyContin, it has become one of the most abused prescription medications and is highly addictive. Millions of people have died due to overdosing on Oxycodone.
What Is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a type of opioid medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. It can be found in both short-acting and long-acting versions. Oxycodone is typically used as a pain reliever for cancer treatments, post-operative pain, or chronic pain resulting from trauma. It comes in either tablet, capsule, or liquid form.
Oxycodone has a high addictive potential, so it is classified as a Schedule II drug. This type of drug creates strong cravings in the user and it is difficult to quit without help.
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid analgesic that is considered the active ingredient in several prescription painkillers. Some of the most common prescription brand names include:
There are other prescription medications for pain relief that do not include oxycodone but are stronger than a basic pain medication such as acetaminophen. These prescription painkillers include hydrocodone, oxymorphone, morphine, codeine, and fentanyl.
Side Effects of Oxycodone
In addition to relieving pain, oxycodone can also cause patients to experience feelings of euphoria, which can lead to oxycodone drug abuse. However, there are several side effects associated with oxycodone, even when taken as prescribed, including:
- Drowsiness and sleepiness
- Confusion or being dazed
- Nausea or vomiting
- Physical dependence
Oxycodone Abuse and Addiction
Oxycodone is a highly addictive opiate. and can cause a person to develop a dependency in just a few weeks. As a semi-synthetic opiate derivative, its actions impact the delta and mu-opioid receptors in the central nervous system. It is not uncommon for a legitimate prescription to evolve into an opioid addiction within a few weeks of continuous treatment
Signs of Oxycodone Addiction
Here are some signs that you or a loved one has become addicted to oxycodone:
- Cravings for oxycodone
- Taking oxycodone for the feeling of euphoria or pleasure
- Early prescription refills
- Seeking alternative sources for the drug
- Changing your intake method, for example injecting or snorting
Generally, withdrawal symptoms begin anywhere from six to twelve hours after the last dose of the drug and subside after one or two days. However, some symptoms may occur for up to a week.
Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the following factors:
- The type of drug used
- How much of the drug is taken
- How long the drug was used for
- The person’s unique reaction to it
- How an individual metabolizes drugs
Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of morphine.
Here are the most common ones:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Aches and pains
- Anxiety and irritability
- High body temperature or sweating
- Flu-like symptoms
- Tremors/joint pain
Medically-assisted detoxification or ‘medical detox’ is highly recommended during the oxycodone withdrawal process to ensure your safety and help you avoid relapsing.
Oxycodone is a powerful pain reliever that interacts with the parts of the brain responsible for regulating breathing, heart rate, digestion, and other vital functions. Small doses of oxycodone produce euphoria, but larger amounts can slow breathing to dangerous levels—also known as respiratory depression. Abusing large quantities of this drug greatly increases the risk of overdose.
An overdose can either be accidental when a patient takes more oxycodone than prescribed because of pain, or it can be due to abuse/addiction.
How Do You Know When Someone Has Overdosed on Oxycodone?
Here are signs to look out for if you suspect an oxycodone overdose.
- Excessive sleepiness
- Pinpoint pupils
- Slowed breathing or an individual stops breathing altogether
What to Do in the Event of an Oxycodone Overdose
- Call 911 immediately to report the incident.
- Check their responsiveness – one way is by rubbing your knuckles over the victim’s chest bone.
- Try and perform rescue breathing.
- Administer Naloxone to reverse the toxicity of the overdose. It can be in the form of an injection or intranasal spray.
- Stay with the victim until help arrives.
Oxycodone Addiction Treatment
It is possible to find your way back to a world without the need for oxycodone. With professional medical treatment, counseling sessions, and other forms of therapy, you can break free from the addiction that has ruled your life.
There are various stages of oxycodone treatment, depending on the severity of your oxycodone addiction. The detox period helps to flush out the drug from your system, while different types of therapy and medication treatment can help reduce cravings and prevent future drug abuse.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the different types of treatment for oxycodone addiction, so you can decide on the one you are most comfortable with.
Oxycodone Detoxification and Withdrawal
When you are suffering from addiction, detoxification is the first step towards being able to lead a productive life again. As your body begins to adjust to the lack of oxycodone, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms.
The withdrawal process begins when you decide to stop taking oxycodone. Oxycodone has a short half-life, which means symptoms of withdrawal can appear just a few hours after your last dose.
Detoxification is best done with the support of a medical or addiction service team.
Oxycodone Treatment Programs
Oxycodone treatment programs are one of the best ways to fight addiction, and may even help you develop stronger relationships with family members or friends if you choose to keep them involved in your recovery.
There are several types of oxycodone treatment programs in the US, including medically-assisted withdrawal methods (detox) and inpatient or outpatient treatment programs.
Medical Detox Programs
Medical detox is the safest method of withdrawal. It is designed to make this challenging time easier and help you avoid relapse.
Medical detox is available on both an inpatient and an outpatient basis. During medical detox, you may be prescribed medication (such as clonidine or buprenorphine) to assist with the process. These prescription addiction medications help by lessening cravings, reducing withdrawal symptoms, and/or helping you to avoid relapse.
Oxycodone Inpatient Rehab Program
Inpatient rehab programs offer a more involved experience with an enhanced level of care, amenities, and treatment options. They offer 24-hour attention and monitoring for those who seek help for oxycodone addiction. This is a more intense treatment process that can last from 28 days to six months, depending on your needs. Therefore, it is a great option for those who have a severe addiction to oxycodone.
Oxycodone Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
The Partial Hospitalization Program is a good choice for those who need more support and treatment than other outpatient therapy programs offer. You will attend a treatment center about 2-5 times per week to receive around 25 hours of therapy.
This program works with individual patients on developing skills and resistance tactics to manage and control their mental health conditions.
Oxycodone Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is for individuals struggling with a mild addiction to drug use or those who have recently completed a treatment program. IOPs are designed to help patients avoid relapsing by providing extended substance abuse counseling under the care of health professionals. The IOP lasts about three months and requires about 15-20 hours per week of participation.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Medication-Assisted Treatment programs are a proven treatment option for individuals with opioid use disorder and have added benefits of being more cost-effective than residential care while improving treatment retention rates.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for oxycodone addiction works by blocking the drug’s effects on the brain, preventing the user from feeling high. This allows patients to taper off from their abuse without suffering uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
The medications commonly used to treat oxycodone addiction include:
- Buprenorphine – suppresses the cravings for oxycodone and reduces withdrawal symptoms
- Methadone – blocks oxycodone effects and reduces withdrawal symptoms
- Naltrexone – stops the feeling of euphoria caused by oxycodone
Oxycodone is one of the most abused prescription drugs in the USA. This is because it provides much-needed relief for pain for many people.
When taken in high doses, opioids are very addictive, making them desirable to people who abuse prescription drugs. In fact, 25% of patients getting long-term opioid treatment for chronic pain in primary care centers become addicted.
The CDC reported over 11.5 million Americans misusing prescription opioids in 2016 alone. Additionally, in 2019, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that about 136 people die every day from overdoses due to opioid abuse.
The opioid crisis in the US has become so significant that one of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) highest priorities is focused on eliminating new opioid addiction and assisting those who are currently addicted.
There has been a recent meteoric rise in opioid-related deaths, partly due to the isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, more than 100,000 deaths occurred as a result of opioid misuse.
Drug 101: The OxyContin Problem
In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies strongly recommended medication with oxycodone as a form of pain relief. One of these medications, OxyContin, was made to have extended-release properties. Healthcare professionals began prescribing OxyContin often, thinking that the extended-release format would make this drug hard to abuse.
Unfortunately, drug users began crushing OxyContin (colloquially known as “oxy”) and snorting it to experience an intense high. Abusing OxyContin in this manner can also result in developing a substance use disorder or experiencing an opioid overdose.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that OxyContin presents a higher risk to illicit drug users than other prescription drugs that contain oxycodone due to its potency.
Recovery Support and Peace of Mind
When someone is struggling with an addiction, the situation can be difficult to manage. Even after treatment, family members and friends often feel anxious about returning to their normal routine.
If you are seeking care for your loved one, we can help you find treatment for oxycodone addiction close to home. And if you would like some additional support while your friend or family member is in addiction recovery, there are several options.
Frequently Asked Questions about Oxycodone
How can I prevent an overdose of oxycodone?
You can prevent an oxycodone overdose by taking the drug as prescribed and avoiding mixing it with alcohol or other drugs. Also, ensure to seek treatment in case of signs of addiction.
What is the difference between OxyContin and oxycodone?
OxyContin is a brand name for an extended-release version of oxycodone, which is an opioid drug. It is used in the management of moderate to severe pain and can be effective when other drugs have not worked or are inappropriate for the patient.
Can an oxycodone overdose be treated?
Yes. An oxycodone overdose can be treated using the Naloxone medication, which reverses the toxic effects of an overdose. However, you should note that if Naloxone is not administered on time, the overdose could lead to death. It is therefore important to always use oxycodone medication as prescribed.