As the opioid epidemic rages around us, addiction rates and overdose numbers have been on the steady rise. A major contributor to this outbreak of opioid use is oxycodone and oxycodone products like Oxycontin, Percocet, and Roxicodone, which nearly 28 million people misused. Oxycodone misuse accounts for using oxycodone when it wasn’t prescribed, using a different amount than what is prescribed, or simply using oxycodone recreationally “for fun.”
Typically used to help treat pain, oxycodone is intended for short-term used, and using oxycodone in the long-term very quickly leads to addiction. Addiction can start in a variety of ways, both physical and psychological, and is defined by compulsive intake of a drug despite all of the negative drawbacks of chronic use. Though oxycodone is very powerful in treating people that are prescribed it, it is even more powerful in negatively affecting those that abuse it.
Oxycodone is a relatively potent opioid pain reliever, orally 1.5 times stronger than morphine. In low doses, it does its job as a narcotic pain reliever and reduces sensitivity to pain. Low doses of oxycodone very rarely bring euphoric feelings, however, large doses can easily result in euphoria, as well as:
In developing an oxycodone addiction, there are many factors that can determine the likelihood of addiction actually taking root. For example, someone with a co-occurring disorder such as anxiety or depression is much more likely to abuse oxycodone due to the fact that oxycodone treats their mental health disorder symptoms.
Before full-blown addiction begins, a dependence on oxycodone forms. When someone is dependent on a drug, their brain and body simply cannot function correctly or accomplish everyday tasks without difficulty. As someone uses oxycodone, an opioid, the oxycodone will bind to the opioid receptors in the brain to cause a surge of pleasure. Chronic oxycodone use will cause the brain to stop producing its own dopamine and rely solely on outside sources (oxycodone) to become happy.
By abusing drugs on a frequent basis, a person prevents the recycling of dopamine in the brain and will steadily require more and more of the drug in order to feel the effects. This is known as tolerance, and in the case of opioids such as oxycodone, tolerance forms extremely fast. Dependence turns into addiction as soon as tolerance and dependence work together to pretty much take over your life. The choices you make and the way you behave are both directly dependent on oxycodone.
At this point, oxycodone becomes exceptionally dangerous. Overdose is not as unlikely as you think, as the current opioid crisis brings more dangerous drugs and methods of obtaining them. While most people believe that they are receiving safe, prescription oxycodone from a street dealer, it can be laced or cut with illicit and deadly drugs like fentanyl and heroin.
The side effects of oxycodone addiction are similar to those of other opioid addiction cases. Oxycodone, in particular, is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, further adding fuel to the fire of the opioid epidemic. While a substantial number of people abuse oxycodone recreationally and thus become addicted, it is not uncommon for someone to accidentally become addicted. Doctor-prescribed oxycodone may seem harmless at first, but if someone carries an addictive gene and/or has an addictive personality, it is very likely they will keep using oxycodone even after the prescription instructs.
Oxycodone addiction, thankfully, causes the addict to exhibit very noticeable symptoms, both physical and psychological. In an active addiction, many addicts will refuse to accept that they have an oxycodone abuse disorder, using the fact that it was prescribed as an excuse. Denial is one of the main causes of overdose, as an addict neglects seeking the proper treatment they need. They may have developed a tolerance to the point that they have begun mixing drugs, such as oxycodone and alcohol or benzodiazepines.
Among the most noticeable side effects of oxycodone addiction are the behavioral changes in an addict. While suffering from an active addiction, a person will begin to lose motivation for pretty much everything except for ways to obtain oxycodone. Previously enjoyable activities will become uninteresting and dull, and daily tasks and responsibilities will seem unimportant compared to getting another dose of oxycodone.
Certain behavioral actions may also present themselves if someone is developing an addiction to oxycodone. Immoral decisions to lie, steal, become physically aggressive, and a number of other dangerous activities may show themselves as a user become addicted to oxycodone.
An addict may exhibit changes in their personality as addiction continues to affect them. While behavioral symptoms technically fall under personality changes, speech, actions, and general train of thought are both heavily affected by chronic oxycodone abuse. Fortunately, most of the personality changes are an effect of using the drug (oxycodone), are not permanent, and the user will generally find themselves back to “normal” after becoming sober.
Unfortunately, the actions and thoughts of the addict, while not permanent, can indirectly cause permanent damage to themselves and those that love them. For example, an oxycodone addict may find themselves stealing things while under the influence to sell for money so that they can buy more of the drug. If that person is caught stealing, the effects of going from a clean slate to being a convicted felon can be permanent, while the behavioral trait of “stealing” may fade in the future.
As a user continues to fuel their addiction, withdrawal symptoms become more likely and severe. Withdrawal symptoms from oxycodone are various, ranging from psychological to physical, and are similar to those of other opioids. They can include, but are not limited to:
While the withdrawal symptoms of oxycodone are technically non-lethal, they are extremely unpleasant and can actually be fatal when mixing drugs. For example, mixing Xanax and oxycodone can easily cause complications in the withdrawal phase, exponentially increasing the severity of every withdrawal symptom.
Treatment for oxycodone addiction and the methods used in treatment depend largely on the severity of the patient’s addiction. While treatment may vary due to addiction severity, every addiction treatment begins with medical detoxification before transitioning to either an outpatient or inpatient treatment program.
Medical detoxification, simply known as “detox,” is the first and consequently most difficult step in addiction treatment. The point of medical detox is to completely rid the body of any drug residue or toxin buildup after chronic oxycodone abuse. Because you are removing a drug that your body is dependent on, detox is commonly associated with high relapse rates and withdrawal symptoms. This is evidence that engaging in medically-supervised detox is the safest and most effective way to start your treatment. By offering 24/7 medical support and intervention as well as administering different medications, treatment centers almost guarantee a successful detox for you.
In ignoring the fact that professional treatment is almost always required, many people will attempt to self-detox at home by going cold turkey. The term “cold turkey” refers to the immediate cessation of a drug in an attempt to detox. While it sounds good at first, quitting cold turkey not only leads to lower success rates but also can easily bring upon the victim the most severe withdrawal symptoms.
Outpatient treatment is the level of care directly after detox. It consists of a patient engaging in treatment and therapy at a center, while also being able to return home to sleep and take care of any out-of-treatment responsibilities, such as jobs or school. If you find you have an addiction problem, but you are not at risk of relapsing at home, outpatient treatment should be considered. While it is generally shorter than inpatient treatment programs, it is just as effective at treating certain cases.
Because outpatient treatment requires the patient to be responsible and not use drugs, many treatment centers suggest participating in an outpatient treatment program even after you finish treatment as a form of aftercare.
Inpatient treatment programs are the next level of care above outpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment, unlike outpatient, requires the patient to live onsite while they engage in treatment. Inpatient treatment is generally longer than outpatient and explores more the psychological reasoning behind a patient’s addiction than the actual physical addiction. The intensity of inpatient treatment can range from relaxed (residential treatment) to intensive (intensive inpatient treatment.)
While detox technically is classified as inpatient, as the addict stays onsite with 24/7 medical surveillance, the term “inpatient treatment” usually refers to post-detox treatment.
SAMHSA: Arthur Hughes, Matthew R. Williams, Rachel N. Lipari, and Jonaki Bose; RTI International: Elizabeth A. P. Copello and Larry A. Kroutil (September, 2016) “Prescription Drug Use and Misuse in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health” Retrieved (May, 2018) from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR2-2015/NSDUH-FFR2-2015.htm