Understanding Oxycodone Addiction and Treatment
Prescription opioid painkillers like oxycodone are among the most commonly abused drugs in the world. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, anywhere from 26 million to 36 million people worldwide currently abuse opioids.
In the United States, more than 2 million people alone are estimated to be struggling with a substance use disorder related to opioid painkillers. Even worse, the number of overdose cases related to opioid painkillers such as oxycodone have quadrupled since 1999.
Historically, oxycodone has been one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs available, especially in its controlled-release form, more commonly known as OxyContin. Any parent, friend or spouse concerned that their loved one may be misusing prescription pills should consider oxycodone abuse a very real possibility.
Unfortunately, oxycodone has a high potential for addiction, even when properly administered by an experienced physician. Individuals can best protect themselves and their families from oxycodone addiction by learning everything they can about the substance, its history and its effects.
What Is Oxycodone?
Derived from thebaine, a naturally occurring chemical found in the poppy plant, oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid primarily used as a painkiller. In particular, oxycodone has been used to treat chronic severe pain in cancer patients, thanks to its limited amount of side-effects when compared to morphine. The chemical composition of oxycodone is very similar to that of the naturally occurring opioid codeine.
Like fellow popular opioid hydrocodone, oxycodone is typically combined with less potent analgesic and fever-reducing products such as acetaminophen – in order to make drugs such as Percocet. Unfortunately, oxycodone and its derivatives share hydrocodone’s highly addictive properties as well.
How Does Oxycodone Affect the Body?
Oxycodone affects the human body by interacting with the body’s opioid receptors. These special nerve cells, located in the brain, spinal cord and other organs, are responsible for controlling the pain and reward centers of the brain. Opioid painkillers like oxycodone are so effective at providing relief to cancer patients, for example, because they can directly influence how the brain perceives pleasure and pain.
The advantageous properties of oxycodone are offset by numerous medical concerns. First and foremost, long-term use of any opioid painkiller is inherently dangerous because these drugs have a strong tendency to quickly induce tolerance. As a result, chronic oxycodone users must continue upping their dose to receive the same pain-relieving, euphoria-inducing effects.
In addition to increased overdose risks, extended oxycodone abuse is responsible for a long list of unwanted symptoms:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Intense constipation
- Unpredictable sleeping patterns
- Labored breathing
- Loss of focus and awareness
The longer an individual abuses oxycodone, the greater his or her tolerance, as well as the risk of overdose. Overdose risks are even higher when users crush, snort or inject oxycodone directly into the bloodstream. It’s important to be aware of the signs of overdose, especially if you suspect that a family member is currently struggling with oxycodone addiction.
These debilitating symptoms are clear signs of oxycodone overdose:
- Respiratory failure
- Deoxygenation and cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin)
- Lack of responsiveness
- Non-reactive, constricted pupils
- Inability to wake up or respond to outside stimulus
Who Is Abusing Oxycodone?
Like other opioid painkillers, oxycodone’s widespread accessibility make the drug extremely dangerous. Considering that millions of Americans are prescribed opioids ever year, it is very common for abusers to access a steady supply of the drug from the medicine cabinets of friends and family. Understanding how pervasive the problem makes it easier to dispel myths about oxycodone abuse and recognize when the addiction threatens a loved one.
The following statistics provide valuable insight into the state of oxycodone abuse in the United States:
- A study performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed that 483,000 Americans aged 12 and older experimented with oxycodone in 2011 for the first time.
- Just a year earlier, in 2010, SAMHSA estimated that 600,000 Americans tried oxycodone for the first time.
- According to a 2013 Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) survey, 3.6% of high school seniors abused oxycodone that year.
- More than 33,000 Americans lost their lives to opioid overdose deaths in 2015, with more than half of those deaths attributed to painkillers such as oxycodone.
Getting Treatment for Oxycodone Addiction
The symptoms and side effects of oxycodone abuse are severe, but there is hope for recovery. Individuals who participate in inpatient recovery programs have an opportunity to clear the drug from their system, practice a sober lifestyle and address the issues that lead them to abuse drugs in the first place.
Friends and family who suspect a loved one may be abusing oxycodone should take action as soon as possible. Get in touch with The Treatment Center of the Palm Beaches if you have questions about oxycodone addiction, symptoms of abuse and strategies for treatment.