Even when taken following a doctor’s prescription, oxycodone has side-effects. Oxycodone addiction creates worse symptoms, and poses a grave risk to the user’s health.
What is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic analgesic, a medication belonging to the category of prescription painkillers. Just like heroin, the source ingredient of oxycodone is the poppy plant, and it is an opioid medicine. It is marketed under the brand names OxyContin and Roxicodone, among others, and falls under schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act – substances with a high potential for abuse and dependence. Like other narcotics, (heroin, morphine, fentanyl, and opioid prescription painkillers), oxycodone has a very high addiction profile, and its use frequently leads to substance abuse.
What is Oxycodone Prescribed For?
Oxycodone is prescribed as a pain reliever for moderate to severe pain. It is often given, for example, to patients in a postoperative phase, or to cancer sufferers, though it can also be recommended for treating chronic painful conditions Alongside pain relief, oxycodone induces a feeling of relaxation and euphoria in the user, hence the potential for oxycodone abuse.
How is Oxycodone Taken?
When taken on prescription, oxycodone is ingested orally, in the form of extended-release tablets or immediate release capsules. People abusing oxycodone may also dissolve crushed tablets in water and inject it, or heat a tablet on silver foil and inhale the vapors.
Can Oxycodone Use Lead to Oxycodone Addiction?
Simply using oxycodone in any shape or form can be one of a number of causes and risk factors in developing an oxycodone addiction. Oxycodone’s potency, the sense of well-being it causes, and the psychoactive effects of oxycodone when it is taken in even marginally higher than recommended doses, make it a prime candidate for substance abuse. In 2020, the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics found that over 30% of Americans aged 12 and over were using prescription painkillers, and that more than five million were misusing hydrocodone, a very similar opioid medication to oxycodone.
Oxycodone abuse is, by definition, non-medical use of the medication, and is one of the risk factors that can lead to oxycodone addiction – when a person starts taking it in quantities larger than recommended, in order to improve how they feel, a substance abuse disorder may be just around the corner. Opioid use disorder is one of the most lethal forms of drug abuse, and in 2017, 67,8% of drug overdose deaths were opioid-related (source: NCDAS, as above). From an outsider’s perspective, oxycodone addiction signs may, at least initially, be difficult to detect, since the appearance of some side-effects of oxycodone is par for the course. However, these are mostly physical and may be felt only by the user. Nevertheless, signs and symptoms of a substance use disorder will always become apparent sooner or later. When a person is abusing oxycodone, changes in lifestyle habits, behavioral symptoms and cognitive symptoms usually surface even when physical symptoms are kept hidden or are less pronounced.
Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Abuse
Prescribed oxycodone has predictable side-effects, which do not normally outwardly affect a person’s life. Anyone concerned their use of the medication may be becoming habitual would do well to be wary of further symptoms appearing, as these might represent early oxycodone addiction signs.
Side-Effects of Oxycodone Use
Expected side-effects include:
- headache, dry mouth, tiredness
- sweating, itchiness
- loss of appetite, nausea
- vomiting, constipation.
In medical circles, the term substance use disorder is sometimes used in place of the term addiction, as a more clinically accurate description of this behavioral health issue. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is even more specific, and refers to opioid use disorder, which oxycodone addiction would come under. Regardless of terminology, the point of the manual is to establish, with some thoroughness, whether the magnitude of a person’s substance abuse justifies regarding it as an actual addictive pattern of substance abuse. However, ideally, nobody would wait for such a diagnosis before they seek professional treatment, since the risk of fatal overdose is very real with oxycodone, and therefore its abuse represents a threat to an individual’s life.
Certain risk factors can predispose a person towards developing an addiction to prescription opioids like oxycodone. Genetic and environmental factors play a big role, for example, whether or not there is a history of addiction in the family, or if the person grew up or is currently surrounded by people who abuse drugs. The person may also have a personal history of substance abuse problems, a mental health disorder of some kind, or behavioral health concerns. Coping with a challenging life situation may also create the temptation to abuse oxycodone.
Physical Symptoms of Oxycodone Abuse
When under the influence of a high dose of oxycodone, people may display these symptoms:
- drowsiness, disturbed sleep
- pupil constriction
- poor coordination
- psychomotor agitation.
Emotional and Cognitive Symptoms
Oxycodone can be severely disruptive to a person’s thought processes and feelings. They may visibly be experiencing:
- difficulties concentrating or focusing
- memory problems
- impaired judgment
- abnormal thoughts or even hallucinations
- extreme mood swings, outbursts of anger or violence
- anxiety and paranoia
- social withdrawal and other psychosocial symptoms.
These can be signs and symptoms both of a developing oxycodone addiction or of a full-blown substance abuse disorder. A person will begin to display behaviors characteristic of a person trying to conceal or feed their habit, such as:
- attempting to borrow or steal oxycodone that has been prescribed to someone else
- trying to borrow or steal money in order to buy oxycodone
- visiting a number of doctors in different places, in order to try and get oxycodone prescriptions (known as doctor shopping)
- jeopardizing home and work obligations and responsibilities by prioritizing the acquisition of oxycodone
- being untruthful or deceptive about their whereabouts or activities
- using oxycodone with a complete disregard for their own and other people’s safety, such as when driving, or when already drinking alcohol
- Neglecting their appearance and personal hygiene
- Attempting unsuccessfully to stop or reduce their oxycodone use
- Persisting in their use despite negative outcomes.
Oxycodone Overdose Effects
One of the principal dangers of oxycodone abuse is the risk of overdose. Symptoms of an oxycodone overdose vary depending on the individual and the quantity of the medication taken, but include:
- extreme lethargy
- slurred speech
- extreme disorientation and confusion
- difficulty breathing or respiratory depression
- cold, clammy skin
- bluish lips and fingertips
- seizure or blackout.
These are all definite signs that a person’s body is unable to safely process the amount of oxycodone ingested, and requires urgent medical attention.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Oxycodone abuse will result in a person developing a degree of tolerance to the synthetic opioid, as well as a certain physical dependence. As a result, any attempts to abruptly reduce, or even completely discontinue, their oxycodone intake will lead them to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can manifest to some extent even with prescribed oxycodone, if a person takes the progressive lowering of their dosage into their own hands.
Withdrawal symptoms can appear as soon as six hours after use, or as long as 30 hours afterwards. They include:
- excessive perspiration, nausea, vomiting
- diarrhea and abdominal cramps
- high body temperature and muscle aches
- bone pain
- runny nose and dilated pupils.
Emotionally a person may feel surges of anxiety, depression or agitation.
The opioid withdrawal process has its own risks, including severe dehydration from vomiting, sweating and diarrhea. A person may also be tempted to relapse, or reach for any other drugs or medication they use, in order to escape the pain. This is why whenever possible, it is advisable to seek medical help and advice, and perhaps even enter a treatment center for a supervised detox.
Oxycodone Addiction Treatment
As with all opioids, excessive use of oxycodone puts the body and mind under great strain. There is a genuine risk of permanent liver damage, and irreversible harm to the body from overdose. That’s why oxycodone addiction treatment needs to help the person not only quit oxycodone, but also help them on the path to lifelong recovery, if they are to avoid further negative impact on their health and lives.
Treatment of opioid use disorder is often medication-assisted – this approach allows a person’s system to get gradually accustomed to no longer ingesting oxycodone, and lessens the urge to return to it. In comparison to other types of drugs that are regularly abused, there are many pharmacological options for treating opioid abuse. However, it is a fact that medication alone is unlikely to produce lasting freedom from a drug habit. Appropriate therapy and an adequate support network are required if a person is to find stability in their recovery.
The sooner a person finds the right treatment for their oxycodone addiction, the better their chances of avoiding lasting mental and physical health concerns and especially overdose. At the same time, it is never too late to reach out for help. At NP Addiction Clinic, we offer a wide range of treatment programs, and a safe, nurturing environment, to help our clients regain wellness and find freedom. With a compassionate team of experienced experts in our field, we are here to serve.