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One of the oldest and biggest contributors to the ever-growing opioid epidemic is oxycodone. Oxycodone addiction is overpowering, widespread, and deadly. It is one of the most abused prescription opioids in America right now.
In fact, according to the DEA, an astounding 58.8 million prescriptions for oxycodone were dispensed in 2013 around the country. Many doctors are handing out prescriptions as if they were candy.
Abuse of oxycodone drugs like OxyContin and Percocet have become so extensive that they are often used as the face of the current opioid crisis today.
And while the drugs themselves are undoubtedly notorious when it comes to addiction, many people don’t know even the most basic information about it. For example, how does it work? What makes it different from other drugs? How addictive is it and what does it take to push through oxycodone withdrawals and finally get clean?
This master guide to oxycodone addiction will tackle all of the questions above and more. It will help you understand just how this powerful drug has become so popular and why it so dangerous and feared today.
Oxycodone is the technical name for a certain kind of opioid pain reliever. This chemical is a narcotic analgesic. These drugs are prescribed for patients going through both acute and chronic moderate to severe pain.
There was a time when the dangers of opioids weren’t as well-known as they are today. Part of this misinformation is caused by pharmaceutical companies not properly disclosing the risks despite knowing about them. Some states have actually begun suing these pharmaceutical companies as a result. Consequently, many doctors tended to over-prescribe these medications. They may give these medications to patients for treating anything from a sore back to a headache.
Many physicians, however, have begun prescribing opioids like oxycodone as a last resort to patients. They try to avoid doing so due to the high addictive potential of these drugs.
Instead, Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic (partially man-made) compound that comes from naturally occurring thebaine. Other semi-synthetic opioids include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxymorphone, and hydromorphone (e.g., Dilaudid).
While oxycodone can be quite powerful and can even be deadly when abused, it actually isn’t the most potent opioid drug.
For example, oxycodone is about 50% more powerful than morphine and hydrocodone, but methadone is about 3 times stronger than morphine. This means that methadone is stronger than oxycodone. Heroin is about 2 to 5 times stronger than morphine.
Fentanyl is easily one of the strongest of all opioid drugs – coming in at anywhere from 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. This is the prescription opioid that has been catching the most media attention lately.
That being said, the real danger of this drug isn’t necessarily because it’s the most powerful. Instead, it’s partly because Oxycodone is so freely available. OxyContin, one formulation of Oxycodone, became so popular so quickly that prescriptions increased tenfold over the course of 1996 to 2002.
One reason that opioids like Oxycodone have become so popular in the medical field today has to do with the fact that they’re fantastic at relieving pain. It all boils down to how these drugs interact with specialized cells in the brain and body. These cells are called opioid receptors.
Opioid receptors, specifically the mu-opioid receptors, help control pain and regulate emotions. There are also delta and kappa receptors. Each type of receptor has its own role and job.
These receptors are normally stimulated by naturally occurring chemicals in the body called endorphins. The chemical structures of prescription opioids like oxycodone mimic that of endorphins. The chemical structures give them the ability to activate these same receptors. And oftentimes, they end up doing so to a much higher degree.
What makes opioid medications so fantastic at treating pain is the fact that these receptors are found in three critical parts of the body: the limbic system, the brainstem, and the spinal cord.
Despite what many people may think, Oxycodone is not the same as OxyContin. OxyContin is one of the most popular brands of the opioid, but it’s not exactly oxycodone. These two terminologies should not just be used interchangeably.
In fact, there are plenty of other brand names besides OxyContin that contain oxycodone. Some of the most popular ones are:
However, all of these products fall under three main categories of how oxycodone is used in their formulation:
Oxycodone – This is the most basic formulation. Oxycodone is the main active ingredient, and there aren't any additives that change how the drug affects the body or its ability to sense pain. The most recognizable brands that use this formulation include:
Oxycodone with Acetaminophen – This formulation includes acetaminophen to make pain relief even more powerful. The acetaminophen actually enhances the potency of oxycodone rather than just working alongside it. The biggest brands that use this combination include:
Oxycodone with Aspirin – Similar to previous formulations, this combination is used to enhance pain relief. Oxycodone and aspirin can also help reduce inflammation as well. Some of the most notable brands of this kind include:
Like many other prescription drugs today, oxycodone is also sold on the street, and can be acquired through illegal means.. As a result, users and pushers have developed street names for the drug. Some of the most popular ones include:
Oxycodone is an opioid agonist used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. It has a structural formula of C18 H21 NO4, and a chemical name of 4, 5α-epoxy-14-hydroxy-3-methoxy-17-methylmorphinan-6-one hydrochloride. This chemical comes in the form of a salt, and is white and odorless. It can be dissolved in water, and is slightly dissolvable in alcohol. This chemical is derived from the opium alkaloid, thebaine.
Oxycodone is the main ingredient in OXYCONTIN® and other similar prescription pain pills. This is an extended-release tablet. The inactive ingredients in this tablet include butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), hypromellose, polyethylene glycol 400, magnesium stearate, titanium dioxide and polyethylene oxide. OxyContin comes in the following doses:
The dosage prescribed will depend on the tolerance level of each patient. It will also depend on his or her genetics and condition. OxyContin tablets should be swallowed with a full glass of water or other fluid. Those who are prescribed OxyContin should not attempt to crush, chew or break the tablets. Tablets should be taken every 12 hours.
For one, oxycodone should never be mixed with any illicit substance or with alcohol. As oxycodone is a depressant, mixing it with another depressant, like alcohol, can magnify its effects and cause the user to have an increased risk of overdose.
Mixing oxycodone with an illicit stimulant, like cocaine, is just as deadly. Both substances will have the opposite effect on the body. As a result, it’s easy for both drugs to mask the effects of the other. This means that many drug abusers who mix stimulants with depressants will take more of each type. Mixing the two substances will also increase the person’s risk of an overdose or sustaining permanent bodily damage.
If you’ve been prescribed oxycodone, you may also be prescribed other drugs and medications as well. Unfortunately, it’s possible for oxycodone to interact with other prescription drugs. You should never take oxycodone if you are also taking the following:
If you are already taking any of the drugs listed above, speak with your doctor. He or she may weigh out the pros and cons to see whether you should stick with oxycodone or whether you should switch to an alternative.
Humans have long known about both the power and the pull of opioids. According to the History Channel, references to the cultivation and use of the opium poppy go as far back as 3,400 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia.
Since then, opium has been used to aid in pain relief, insomnia, and even in treating minor conditions like the common cold. Heroin, the most infamous opioid, was actually developed as a medical pain reliever and a less-addictive alternative to morphine.
In that same vein, Oxycodone was developed in 1916 as a safer alternative to heroin, which was outlawed completely in 1924.
Oxycodone was later deemed a Schedule II narcotic by the DEA in the 1970s. It was around this time that two big-name prescription opioids, Vicodin (hydrocodone + acetaminophen) and Percocet (Oxycodone + acetaminophen) came onto the market. However, most physicians were well aware of the addictive potential of opioids in general and prescribed them conservatively.
It was the development and aggressive marketing of OxyContin, a purely Oxycodone product, that truly changed the medical community.
Although this drug is incredibly good at relieving the pain of patients, it has helped set the foundation for the opioid epidemic that’s still raging today. This is due to the fact that it has a high addictive potential and it was overprescribed by many physicians.
Before getting into just how oxycodone helped create one of the largest health crisis the United States has ever seen, let’s take a minute to recognize just how bad the opioid epidemic has become.
Up until the development of OxyContin, most doctors knew just how dangerous opioids like Oxycodone could be. And as a result, they tended to prescribe these drugs only when there was no other alternative – especially when it came to patients with chronic pain.
However, a series of studies and essays within the medical community at the time began pushing back on the idea that opioids were a risky treatment option. As CNN notes, papers from Jane Porter and Dr. Hershel Jick, as well as a 1983 study from Dr. Russell Portenoy, concluded that addiction was a rare outcome for those using drugs like oxycodone to treat pain. This gave many doctors the confidence they needed to start prescribing these drugs again.
Medicine as a whole was shifting towards doing a better job of treating pain in general. This made it even more vital for there to be a safer, more powerful treatment alternative.
This perfectly set the stage for the entrance of OxyContin – a new pain reliever that was potent, effective, and marketed as having a low risk of addiction. Purdue Pharma, the drug’s manufacturer, sponsored numerous studies and educational materials aimed at downplaying the addictiveness of the drug. And consequently, doctors began prescribing it at an ever-growing rate.
It wasn’t until much later that physicians and the public at large realized just how addictive these drugs really were. Many companies tried to employ abuse deterrents to keep addicts from using prescription opioids illicitly. Unfortunately, many users were already hooked. Instead of looking for a way out, they simply shifted their focus to another cheaper, more freely available opioid – heroin.
Drugs like OxyContin created a highly addicted population. These drugs were over-prescribed thanks to misinformation. The United States of America has been suffering the consequences for almost two decades now.
It is without a doubt one of the deadliest and costliest health crises the country has ever seen. Much of the blame rests on just one little pill.
Oxycodone is a prescription drug. When it’s used properly, it can be not only 100% legal, but can also dramatically improve the quality of life for the user. With that said, it is illegal to abuse the drug or use it improperly.
This powerful medication is a controlled substance – meaning it’s manufacture, possession, or use is regulated by the government due to its potential for abuse. Oxycodone is considered a Schedule II substance, which the DEA defines as:
Drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.
Some examples of Schedule II drugs include:
Consequently, if someone is caught using, trading, selling, stealing, or lying to a physician in order to obtain more Oxycodone, they may be subject to some pretty substantial legal penalties.
Below are some of the maximum fines and penalties for trafficking, possession, or smuggling of Oxycodone without a valid prescription according to the Congressional Research Service.
Recent Oxycodone abuse statistics indicate that about 11 million people in the U.S. will take at least one dose of this drug in a non-medical way.
Many of these individuals are possibly taking it at a dosage that’s too high for them or that goes against their prescription. Others are using the drug just to get a buzz. While the intent might be different between each situation, both cases are considered to be abuse – even if it’s accidental.
And while you should never abuse oxycodone due to the high risk of overdose and dependency, a full-blown addiction to the drug is one of the worst outcomes.
But, what differentiates abuse from addiction? We’ll explore that in detail in this section.
While using other drugs like heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth even once is considered to be abuse since they’re illicit, things get a little trickier when it comes to legal drugs like Oxycodone. And sometimes, it’s hard to know what’s considered abuse with prescription drugs.
Essentially, oxycodone abuse includes any use of the drug that doesn’t follow a doctor’s prescription. If you’re taking this drug in any way that doesn’t fall under your doctor’s orders, then you’re abusing it.
Now, abuse can include a lot of different things. Some things, most people wouldn’t think twice about. So, to clear things up a bit, all of the following are a form of oxycodone abuse. Anyone who abuses oxycodone will have an increased risk of adverse reactions, dependency, and addiction.
While abusing oxycodone is simply a matter of using it in a way it isn’t prescribed, being addicted to it is something different altogether.
Here’s the definition of addiction according to NIDA:
Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.
Addiction, then, is about a pattern of compulsive behaviors – not just the act of using oxycodone improperly. Over time, these behaviors become so physically and psychologically ingrained in you that you simply can’t control your drug use anymore.
Addiction causes real observable physical changes in the brain. And while the first decision to abuse drugs like Oxycodone is often a choice, an addict’s brain makes it difficult (if not impossible) to stop using without professional help.
The very first step to getting help for an oxycodone addiction is to acknowledge that the problem actually exists.
Many addicts are in denial. Their denial is so strong that the overwhelming majority of addicts don't get help simply because they don't believe they have a problem.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that only 10.8% of the 19.9 million Americans that needed addiction treatment actually got it. And of those that didn’t, a whopping 95.5% didn’t think they had an addiction problem at all!
That’s why it’s so important to know how to spot the warning signs of an Oxycodone addiction before it’s too late. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this.
First, you can take a short online addiction quiz. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to complete. It is a great way to get a solid answer to the question, “are you addicted to oxycodone?”
You can also take advantage of the numerous self-assessment tools offered by NIDA. These tools are developed from extensive research in the addiction field and are used by professionals around the world. There are also plenty of options available. There are tools available for people who don’t have a lot of time and more detailed ones for those who want to really take a deep dive into their addiction.
You can also use the guidelines set out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM-V. If you’ve experienced at least two of the following symptoms (provided by NIDA) in the past 12 months, it’s likely you’re struggling with an oxycodone problem and should seek help.
If you have four or more symptoms, you likely have a moderate substance use disorder (SUD). If you meet 6 or more criteria, then you have a serious problem, and need to get professional help for it.
Oxycodone can have a serious effect on the body, both in the short and long-term. Some of these side effects can manifest with regular use, but they become more intense when you’re addicted to it.
The short-term side effects include:
Long-term use can also cause a number of undesirable effects as well. These include:
Oxycodone is not suitable for everyone. Some people react poorly to this drug. It could be due to their genetics. Oxycodone use can lead to some serious side effects even when taken properly. Tell your doctor immediately if you experience the following:
If you faint while on this prescription drug or have a seizure, you’ll need to get medical help and attention right away. You should also seek medical attention if you notice that you are having difficulties waking up.
In general, it’s not common for people to have an allergic reaction to oxycodone. Unfortunately, for those who do experience an allergic reaction to this, medical attention is needed immediately. If left untreated, an allergic reaction to oxycodone can cause some devastating consequences.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to oxycodone include:
In the event that a patient is allergic to oxycodone, your doctor will try to see whether there are other alternatives available. Your doctor will try to determine whether other prescription opioids may be more suitable. They may also want to consider the cross-reactivity of other prescription opioids. Someone who is allergic to oxycodone may not necessarily be allergic to morphine.
Most patients do not have a true opioid allergy. Instead, they are allergic to a specific type of opioids. For example, they may only be allergic to natural opioids, or semi-synthetic ones. If you show any signs of having an allergy, your doctor will need to determine whether or not you have a true allergy.
While Oxycodone and heroin are both types of opioids, they aren’t the same.
Heroin, for example, is 100% illegal and doesn’t have any current legitimate uses accepted by the medical community. Oxycodone, on the other hand, is prescribed hundreds of times a day by real physicians trying to treat real conditions.
But just because oxycodone is a legitimate medication doesn’t mean it can’t be just as deadly as it’s street counterpart. In fact, more than 40% of all opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016 involved a prescription drug like oxycodone according to the CDC. In short, just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s safe.
However, there is another connection here that most people may not realize. And it’s that prescription opioid abusers have a significantly higher risk of developing a heroin addiction at some point in their lives.
The risk increase isn’t small either. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) points out that “the incidence of heroin initiation was 19 times higher among those who reported prior nonmedical pain reliever use than among those who did not.”
Added to that, “A study of young, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86 percent had used opioid pain relievers nonmedically prior to using heroin.”
It’s important to recognize that this is a new trend. More than 80% of heroin users reported that their first opioid was heroin in 1960. On the other hand, 3 out of 4 heroin users in the 2000s reported their first opioid was a prescription drug.
The dangers of Oxycodone abuse, then, aren’t just about long-term health effects. They aren’t just about the risk of overdose. And, they aren’t just about getting addicted to this powerful drug.
Instead, getting hooked on oxycodone is statistically linked to eventually developing an addiction to heroin. And there are few drugs as deadly as that.
Oxycodone is not suitable for some people. This is why each type of oxycodone-containing product will come with warning labels. Make sure to read the warning labels because they’ll give you some insight on whether or not you should take this drug. Do not take oxycodone if you:
Make sure to read the warning label ahead of time. If any of the conditions or situations apply to you, speak with a doctor immediately. Oxycodone may not be a suitable drug for you. In which case, you may need to seek other alternatives.
There’s a possible link between a birth defect known as gastroschisis and oxycodone. Gastroschisis happens in roughly 1,800 births each year in the U.S. This condition happens when a baby is born with a hole in its abdominal wall. This causes its intestines to hang outside its stomach.
A recent study has found that gastroschisis was 60% more common in places with high opioid prescription rates. It appears that mothers who take opioid painkillers, like oxycodone, either just before or early in the pregnancy are more at risk of giving birth to a baby with gastroschisis.
Treatment for gastroschisis happens immediately after the baby is born. The baby will need surgery. Its abdominal organs will be placed back into their body to repair the defect. The opening is then closed. If the condition is serious, the repair might happen slowly in several stages. The babies’ exposed organs will be covered with a special material and, then, slowly moved back into the belly.
In addition to surgery, the baby will also need other treatments, like an IV line for nutrients, antibiotics to fight off and prevent infections and around-the-clock supervision.
Pregnant women also need to be careful when taking oxycodone, as it can lead to neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. This happens because the oxycodone travels through the mother’s bloodstream and into the placenta. The drug is then delivered to the fetus. A pregnant woman who is taking oxycodone will deliver the drug to her baby. As a result, the fetus will also develop a dependence on the drug.
Once the baby is born, it will no longer receive any drugs. This causes the baby to start to develop opioid withdrawal symptoms. Neonatal opioid withdrawal symptoms can emerge as soon as 24 hours after birth. They can also last for months. Some common symptoms to keep an eye out for include:
The baby will require detox and withdrawal services as well if it struggles with neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. In some extreme cases, the withdrawal symptoms can either lead to severe consequences or become deadly.
There are many treatment options available for the babies. Buprenorphine treatment is highly recommended. This type of treatment can help babies deal with withdrawals and get back on the right track of developing healthily and happily.
Another important and serious side effect of opioid abuse is a decrease in sex hormone levels in the body. This will have a different effect on each gender. For men, this can result in lowered sperm production. For women, a decrease in sex hormone levels can have a negative impact on her menstrual cycle.
Adrenal insufficiency can also happen with opioid abuse. This usually happens after one month of oxycodone use. Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include:
If a patient is struggling with adrenal insufficiency, he or she will need to wean off the drug slowly. This will encourage the patient’s adrenal function to slowly recover. Patients may also be treated with corticosteroids.
Anyone can be addicted to oxycodone. Addicts can be family members and close friends. In fact, many Americans know someone who is addicted to drugs and alcohol. It’s a huge issue close to home for many people.
Many addicts are high-functioning, and even have regular jobs. Addicts can be teachers, accountants, librarians, bartenders, grocery store clerks and more. With that said, celebrity drug addictions tend to be showcased and highlighted by the media.
“Oxycontin can be very expensive, at usually 20 to 40 dollars for a single pill... "We have seen celebrities that have spent thousands of dollars a week in order to have these pills delivered directly to them."
Celebrities, like Amanda Bynes, are prone to drug and alcohol abuse, as they use these substances to help them blow off some steam or avoid any issues that they may be dealing with. Some celebrities even use drugs and alcohol as creative outlets for their next inspiration.
Oxycodone and other prescription opioids are no strangers to celebrities. Some celebrities even have personal doctors who they get their prescriptions from. In this section, we’ll explore in detail some celebrities who have abused oxycodone.
Even a senator’s wife can become addicted to prescription opioids. Cindy McCain is perhaps one of the most famous political figures who have abused Oxy, and has been vocal about her addiction.
McCain’s struggle with addiction first began in 1989. She was prescribed oxycodone-containing drugs after rupturing two disks and needing back surgery. She quickly became addicted to the drugs, and would even use them as an escape from reality. McCain hid her addiction from her husband, Senator John McCain, and claimed that she stopped taking the painkillers in 1992.
The protagonist of the most famous tale of oxycodone addiction in Hollywood is Heath Ledger, who is most well-known for his role as Joker. Ledger died at the age of 28, and was found by his housekeeper and masseuse at his SoHo loft. An autopsy found that he had overdosed on a cocktail of drugs and alcohol. Some of the prescription medications found in his system included oxycodone and alprazolam.
Ledger’s demise is highly attributed to the fact that he would mix drugs and alcohol. Many of these substances would interact with one another and magnify the other’s effects. All in all, these cocktails would lead to devastating consequences that would take the life of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Anyone who listens to rap or the top hits on the radio will be familiar with Eminem. It’s hard not to know who this legend is. Eminem has never been shy about his drug addiction. He was addicted to a whole bunch of drugs. He used oxycodone-containing drugs, like Percocet, and illicit drugs, like ecstasy.
At one point in time, Eminem had a 20-pill-a-day addiction. He first started abusing drugs after going through a surgery. He felt that he needed them to deal with the pain. With that said, his drug use also quickly spiralled out of control to the point where he needed to go to rehab.
Eminem credits his current sobriety to his daughter, Hailie. He wanted to be a better person for her.
Actors and actresses are not the only people who struggle with prescription opioid abuse. Many athletes also abuse prescription opioids, as they are prone to be prescribed them due to the many injuries they sustain. Derek Booggard was a 6-foot-7, 265-pound enforcer for the Rangers. He was first prescribed oxycodone after sustaining a season-ending concussion.
He died at the age of 28 due to an accident mixing alcohol and oxycodone. 2 people were charged due to his death. The prosecutors believed that these people were medically responsible for Booggard’s addiction. They provided him with the prescriptions without medically examining it.
Olympian Shelley Ann Fraser tested positive for oxycodone at the Diamond League meeting. She was banned for 6-months due to this. Fraser claimed that she took the medication for a toothache. Unfortunately, although oxycodone is not considered a performance enhancing drug or a masking agent, it is banned as a narcotic.
Although it’s not clear whether Fraser abused oxycodone or not, this incident makes it clear that it’s easy for the average person to get his or her hands on oxycodone. This prescription opioid has such widespread use that it is one of the most common prescriptions written by doctors. Many people don’t even realize how dangerous or how addictive this prescription medication truly is.
Not everyone will experience the same set of symptoms during withdrawal. Some may go through hellish muscle aches and knee-buckling nausea while others may feel fatigued and have difficulties sleeping. It simply depends on the individual.
Having said that, there are a wide variety of symptoms that an Oxycodone addict may end up experiencing during withdrawal.
Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms from oxycodone addiction include:
The intensity of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on the individual. The intensity and severity could differ based on the length of the abuse, the drug abuser’s genetics, the dosage taken and other factors. It’s because the withdrawal symptoms are so complicated that most people require drug detox and rehab.
Withdrawals from opioids like Oxycodone usually can be broken down into two stages: acute and post-acute. Each of these stages happens at different times during the withdrawal process. And on top of that, each also has its own set of symptoms too.
With that said, not everyone’s withdrawal is going to be the same. Some people may experience symptoms for several days, but feel normal again in less than a week. Others may end up taking much longer to recover. Once again, it simply just depends on the individual.
In general, though, most Oxycodone withdrawal timelines will take about 7 to 10 days to get through.
Let’s take a look at what to expect during each stage of the process.
This first stage of withdrawal usually begins within 12 hours of taking the last Oxycodone dosage. For some people, oxycodone can stay in their system for as long as 20 hours. In these situations, the onset of withdrawal symptoms will take longer to kick in.
Symptoms usually begin around the same time. The intensity of symptoms in this stage will usually peak around day 3 of detox. Symptoms include:
In general, the physical symptoms will begin to subside and disappear within a week. At the very most, these symptoms should completely subside within 14 days. The only symptoms that may still linger on are the psychological symptoms, like cravings. These symptoms are most responsible for relapses.
This stage will typically begin after the peak intensity of the acute stage. Onset starts at around day 3. The symptoms during this phase are considered to be a bit milder but don’t be fooled – they can be just as grueling to get through. This is especially true because this phase can last anywhere from 4 to 7 days as well.
Symptoms during the post-acute stage will usually include:
The intensity of the withdrawal symptoms that appear during the post-acute stage will vary from one patient to another. It all depends on the intensity of the drug abuse and the length of the drug abuse. Some patients may have a very mild post-acute stage.
Patients must stay hydrated during this time, as they are losing a substantial amount of fluid from their body.
One of the most dangerous effects of continuing to abuse Oxycodone is a heightened risk of overdosing. Whether it’s by combining it with other drugs, like benzodiazepines and alcohol, or by taking more and more of it to get a more enhanced high, the more you abuse this drug, the more likely you are to overdose.
When it comes to oxycodone and other opioids, overdoses can be especially deadly. That’s why it’s so critical to know exactly how to spot the signs of taking too much of this drug before it’s too late.
According to MedlinePlus, some of the most common signs of Oxycodone abuse include:
If you notice these symptoms in yourself or in someone close to you, it’s vital that you contact emergency services immediately. Although oxycodone overdoses are often fatal, those who act quickly are often able to save the overdose victim.
Even someone who is taking oxycodone as prescribed can still overdose on this medication. It’s potent and strong. Anyone who takes oxycodone should be careful when taking the prescription drug. They must understand that the risk of an overdose is extremely real.
To avoid overdosing on oxycodone, you should:
It’s possible to avoid overdosing on this drug. In the event that you ever take this drug, you might want to consider taking it with a family member or friend nearby. This way, someone will quickly notice if you are reacting strangely to the medication.
It’s really easy to accidentally overdose on opioids. So, what should you do in the event that you walk into someone overdosing on oxycodone?
First things first, you should immediately call 9-1-1. Don’t hesitate. Don’t try to wake the overdose victim up or try to wait out this period with the victim. The longer that you wait, the more dangerous the situation becomes. Once the opioids overwhelm the body to a certain point, there’s no turning point.
When you call 9-1-1, the operator will begin to ask you a lot of questions. These questions will help the operator assess the severity of the situation and determine what possible solutions are available. The type of answers that you should have an answer for include:
This is also a good time for you to look for the overdose victim’s medical card. It’s important to note that the overdose may become very serious. The overdose victim may need immediate help. If the overdose victim is awake and conscious, try to keep him or her entertained. The goal is to keep the overdose victim from sleeping.
If the overdose victim loses consciousness at any time, it’s time to put him or her on the side and in the recovery position, like in the video below:
This position is actually really helpful. It will prevent the overdose victim from choking. It will also keep his or her airway open.
Another important note to consider is that you’ll need to perform CPR immediately should the victim stop breathing.
The only drug that can save an overdose victim is naloxone. This drug is an antidote or an opioid reversing medication. It’s also one of the many ways that the government is using to fight off the opioid epidemic. After all, it can help increase the amount of time that opioid abusers have.
At the heart of it, naloxone is an opioid antagonist. This means that it attaches to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS), and block them from being stimulated. The opioid molecules in your body will not be able to attach to the opioid receptors. As a result, they slowly get excreted from the body without harming it.
“At least 26,500 opioid overdoses were reversed by naloxone from 1996 to 2014.”
Naloxone comes in several different forms. In particular, the three main forms that it comes in include:
In general, each naloxone form will begin to have an effect within 2 to 5 minutes. You should see a visible change in the overdose victim’s breathing once the medication is administered. It should go from shallow breathing to a normal state again. If no effects are seen, a second dose may be needed.
Another important thing to understand is that the effects of naloxone will start to wear off in about 30 to 90 minutes. When this happens, any remaining opioids in the body can, once again, overwhelm the opioid receptors and cause an overdose. This is why it’s so important to call 9-1-1 and to get the overdose victim immediate medical help and attention.
If you have naloxone handy, don’t want for medical professionals to arrive. Administer the naloxone immediately by yourself. Every second that you waste, the overdose victim will be in more danger.
The Narcan spray is the easiest to use. You simply spray it into one nostril, like you would with allergy medication. The process is fairly simple, and it’s unlikely that you’ll mess it up. Learn more about how to use Narcan below:
Those who have an injectable like Evzio may need a bit more experience. It always seems scary when you have to inject a substance into a person. With that said, injecting naloxone is actually a lot easier than it looks or seems. Check out the video below for more information as well:
Anyone can administer naloxone without facing any legal repercussions. Thanks to the Good Samaritan Law, those who administer naloxone to someone who needs it will be exempt from any civil liabilities. They cannot be held responsible should anything out-of-the-ordinary occur. This is to encourage people to use naloxone when faced with an overdose, as quick action can save the overdose victim’s life.
Being such an important drug, it’s critical for opioid addicts and their friends and family to know where to get naloxone from. The easiest way to get your hands on naloxone is to purchase it from a pharmacy. Almost every single pharmacy in the U.S. will sell naloxone to consumers without a prescription.
The cost of the naloxone may also be covered by your private health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. This can really help lower the cost of naloxone. When you verify your insurance information with us, we can help you figure out whether your insurance company will cover the cost of naloxone.
You can also find naloxone at outreach centers, community centers, police departments, fire departments and more. This drug is becoming extremely easily accessible. The government hopes that the accessibility of this drug will help lower opioid overdose rates in America. Unfortunately, opioid overdose rates are skyrocketing as we speak. They’re becoming one of the leading causes of death in America.
Like with so many other addictive substances, the absolute best way of getting clean from an Oxycodone addiction is by seeking out professional help from a treatment center. The expertise and cutting-edge treatments offered by these programs will not only make your recovery more successful, but they’ll also keep you safe and comfortable along the way.
When it comes to treating an addiction to opioids, like with oxycodone, professional help is especially needed. That’s because opioids have both an incredibly uncomfortable withdrawal process as well as a sky-high risk of relapse. Relapsing on opioids can be quite deadly.
For most people, treatment can be broken down into two distinct and equally necessary phases: detoxification and rehabilitation. It’s important to recognize that while you may be tempted to stop treatment after detox or to skip it all together and go straight to rehab, each phase has its purpose during your recovery.
In order to get the absolute most out of your recovery, you simply must go through both.
Accidental overdosing during relapse is a very real and grave concern when it comes to opioid abuse. It has to do with how this class of drugs changes an individual’s tolerance.
To explain, opioids tend to increase tolerance particularly quickly. In fact, research has shown that some patients can develop a physical tolerance to the drug within just several hours at high doses. This is a condition known as tachyphylaxis.
However, tolerance to opioids also tends to drop especially quickly as well. And that can spell trouble for recovering addicts that go back to using the same dosage.
If, for instance, an opioid addict gets clean for several weeks, their tolerance is going to end up dropping substantially during that time. If the same addict ends up relapsing and taking the same dosage that got them high before, it can actually end up causing a fatal overdose for their less tolerant body.
It’s critical, then, that any effort to give up opioids like Oxycodone are both taken seriously and are supplemented with only trusted, evidence-based care that has been proven to help users get clean and stay clean.
Over the course of an addiction to Oxycodone, the body goes through a host of physical changes. Specialized cell receptors die off or multiply. Brain chemicals increase and decrease in potency. Overall, the body becomes more accustomed to the drug coursing through its veins.
Most addicts become physically dependent on their drug of abuse in no time. When this happens, the body actually needs Oxycodone in order to function normally.
When Oxycodone is taken away from a physically dependent system, it needs to re-acclimate itself to working without the presence of this drug. And that means reversing or finding new ways to cope with all of the physical changes that have taken place.
This period of adjustment can end up resulting in some incredibly uncomfortable side effects known as withdrawals. For opioid users, the withdrawals are especially intense. Many oxycodone addicts actually end up using again to simply avoid feeling these excruciating symptoms.
Opioid detoxification is the process of getting users through these symptoms of withdrawal safely and comfortably without relapsing. It allows the body to get used to living without oxycodone and other opioids. It also sets the foundation for a more successful rehabilitation.
A professional detox program will usually have two goals in mind: to keep patients comfortable during withdrawals and to keep them safe.
Comfort is a major concern. Not only does a more comfortable experience help make the process less painful for the patient, but it also reduces the likelihood of relapsing as well.
And since relapsing on opioids can end up being deadly, recovering addicts should only use the most successful methods of treating their addiction.
Safety is also a critical issue during detox. While the symptoms of withdrawal for opioids aren’t directly fatal (like they can be with benzodiazepines and alcohol), they can still result in deadly complications without proper medical expertise.
Dehydration, malnutrition, tachycardia, aspiration pneumonia, and even self-harm are all very real and dangerous threats. Having the proper expertise to deal with these problems directly can end up saving lives.
The detox process can be boiled down to one of two types: medical detox and drug detox. We’ll explore both in detail.
Medical detox is one of the most important parts of any opiate addiction treatment plan. This type of detox involves using medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. The medications may either mask withdrawal symptoms to lessen their intensity or normalize neurochemical levels to eliminate withdrawal symptoms.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help patients avoid life-threatening and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. They can help ensure that patients will, at the very least, survive the withdrawal process. They can also help patients avoid relapses.
Detox can cost anywhere from $300 to $800 per day. The process usually takes at least 5 days, so you should expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 on detox alone. Keep in mind that emergency detox services or luxury detox services can cost considerably more.
Is detox covered by your insurance? There’s a good chance that it is. Medical detox is usually covered by most private health insurance plans. It’s also covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
The amount that is covered will depend on the type of medications that you take, and your overall treatment plan. We’ll take a look at some of the medication options in this section. Learn more about non-opioid drugs, opiate replacement therapy and non-FDA-approved drugs.
Opiate Replacement Therapy (ORT) is one of the most popular types of medications used to treat an opioid addiction. These medications are basically weaker opioids. They interact directly with opioid receptors in the CNS to treat withdrawal symptoms.
Methadone is a full opioid agonist. This means that it works in the same way as heroin. It attaches to opioid receptor in the CNS and stimulates them in order to convince the body that it is still getting the drugs that it needs. With that said, this drug is a lot easier to wean off from. Opioid users that rely on this medication will find that their withdrawal symptoms are reduced in intensity quite quickly. They will feel comfortable during the detox process.
With that said, since methadone is a full opioid agonist, this medication does come with some risks. It’s possible to develop a secondary addiction to this drug if it is not used properly. Some addicts may have to go through the addiction treatment process all over again for methadone.
Another important thing to note is that methadone is often used for maintenance therapy. This means that some patients may end up taking this drug for years before they become fully clean and sober.
Suboxone is a medication that contains both naloxone and buprenorphine. It’s a bit different from methadone although it essentially works in the same way. This prescription drug is a partial opioid agonist. It basically means that it works in the same way, but has a “ceiling effect”. Once drug users take a certain dose, a larger dose will not have any effect on their body.
This “ceiling effect” is life-saving. Since a larger dose won’t have an effect on the drug abuser at all, it decreases the potential for abuse. It’s much harder to get addicted to Suboxone than to methadone.
The last drug used in ORT is Vivitrol, or naltrexone. This medication is a bit different. It is an opioid antagonist. This means that it attaches to the opioid receptors and blocks them from interacting with any opioids in your system. This drug is also unique in the sense that it is administered as an injection.
Before you can take Vivitrol, you must be opioid-free for at least 7 to 14 days. If not, you may be susceptible to a bunch of side effects.
There are also non-opioid alternatives for those who don’t want to risk taking ORT medications. Non-opioid drugs are designed specifically to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms. As they are not opioids, they are non-addictive. These drugs may or may not be as effective as ORT choices.
There are several different types of non-opioid drugs for you to choose from. The most popular ones are:
Each non-opioid drug has its own distinct features and benefits. You’ll need to learn more about each type of drug to get a better idea of what will work for you.
Some medications that drug treatment centers use may not necessarily be approved by the FDA. These medications may or may not be useful to patients. It all depends on each patient’s individual circumstances. Rehab facilities will prescribe these medications based on the type of withdrawal symptoms that each patient struggles with, as well as the intensity of the symptoms.
Some non-FDA-approved medications include:
It’s important to remember that these medications are not approved by the FDA to treat opiate withdrawals. Due to this reason, alcohol and drug rehab facilities will prescribe these medications at their discretion. Whether a patient can take any of these medications will also depend on their treatment plan. It depends on what other medications they may be taking, and whether these medications may interact with the ones above.
Other than medical detox, another common type of detox that can supplement drug detox is holistic detox. Holistic detox services use natural approaches to treat and ease withdrawal symptoms. They do not rely on any medications or chemicals.
Holistic detox services encompass a wide range of services. Some popular techniques include:
There are plenty of different types of detox services that can make a difference. Medical detox is absolutely necessary when it comes to treating an opioid addiction. Holistic detox is only used as a supplement to reinforce recovery.
Detoxification is a way of cleansing the body of an addiction, so to speak. Rehabilitation is more about cleansing the mind.
And without it, recovery is highly unlikely. In fact, NIDA states that “medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug use.”
In order to truly kick an Oxycodone addiction, users have to address the problematic behaviors that led to addiction, not just the physical dependency that developed as a result.
During Oxycodone rehab, patients learn new ways of coping with life’s stresses. They learn how to avoid overpowering cravings and triggers, and essentially how to take back control of their lives.
But not all levels of care are the same. In most cases, rehab boils down to three main categories: inpatient, outpatient, and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs).
Inpatient Rehab – An inpatient rehab program is often considered to be the “gold standard” of treatment. Patients are confined to the boundaries of the campus and typically aren’t allowed to leave without chaperones. This, of course, is meant to limit the risk of exposure to drugs and alcohol and to help keep patients focused on their recovery.
There are some downsides though. First, patients must be willing to take off a hefty amount of time from work, school, or other personal obligations. Most inpatient programs last for about 30 days. Inpatient programs also tend to be costlier based on the amenities provided.
Outpatient Rehabilitation – Outpatient rehabilitation is a more flexible alternative to inpatient treatment. Instead of being confined to the campus, patients attend several treatment sessions a week, usually taking place in the evenings. This allows recovering addicts to tend to daily obligations while still getting treatment for their oxycodone problem.
Outpatient programs are often cheaper than inpatient ones and usually last around 3 months at a time.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) – As the name suggests, an IOP is a treatment program that offers the flexibility of an outpatient program, but with a higher level of care. Patients in these programs will typically attend more evening treatment sessions a week than with standard outpatient programs. The length of the program will also usually be longer.
The length of these programs is normally around 3 months. These programs will usually be slightly more expensive than outpatient programs but less expensive than inpatient ones.
During rehabilitation, recovering addicts will go through a number of different therapies, each aimed at getting to a different core issue behind addiction.
One-on-One Counseling – While addiction certainly has a physical component, many addicts end up using drugs as a way to cope with emotional problems or other underlying issues.
Childhood trauma, mood disorders like depression or anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many other problems can all contribute to developing an addiction. One-on-one counseling in rehabilitation helps addicts get to the root of their substance use disorders and learn new healthier ways of coping.
Group Talk – Having a strong social network is crucial to a successful recovery. Not only does it help recovering addicts maintain their sobriety by making them more accountable, but it can also provide some much-needed emotional and motivational support.
Group talk sessions can provide a strong social connection as patients share their stories and hear from others who have gone through a similar situation.
Behavioral Therapies – While counseling and group talks are great for addressing the emotional and social aspects of recovery, behavioral therapies offer patients real-life actionable strategies for coping with cravings and avoiding triggers.
The best rehab programs will offer only evidence-based behavioral therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Enhancement Therapy, and maybe even techniques based on the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous.
Many people are quite surprised or even shocked when they learn that they have become addicted to oxycodone. This is either because they truly believed that addiction was something that couldn’t happen to them, or because they didn’t realize it was addictive while they were taking it.
Regardless of the reason for your Oxycodone addiction, it’s so important for you to take the proper steps to get help as soon as possible. There are terrible side effects that come with abusing this drug.
At Northpoint Washington, we understand how it can feel to be surprised about an addiction to a drug like Oxycodone. After all, this was a drug that you were taking to control pain, and now you’re addicted to it. You may not be sure about where to turn for help.
As one of the best oxycodone addiction treatment centers in Washington State, we’ve been able to help a countless number of people to overcome their addiction to oxycodone. Check out our testimonials for more information.
Our state-of-the-art programs are evidence-based, highly effective, and nationally endorsed by the Joint Commission. We offer individualized treatment plans that are based on your unique needs. There are no cookie-cutter programs here. And, with one of the highest staff-to-patient ratios, we guarantee you’ll get the level of attention you need and deserve.
Addiction to oxycodone doesn’t have to be permanent. You can recover – and we can help.