Oxycodone is a prescription narcotic pain reliever that is often prescribed to patients for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. Shortly after Oxycodone was released for medical use it quickly became a very common drug of abuse. Despite FDA warnings that Oxycodone had the potential to be habit-forming, doctors began openly prescribing the medication for an array of mild to moderate pain ailments. As a result, Oxycodone would quickly become one of the most widely abused prescription medications in the U.S.
According to the DEA, "Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic analgesic and historically has been a popular drug of abuse among the narcotic abusing population."
The medication is general prescribed in oral tablets that range from 10 to 80 mg. Oxycodone can also come in a quick or immediate release tablet of 5 mg which works to alleviate pain within minutes.
This medication has been marketed under various brand names including Percodan and Roxicet or Roxicodone.
Unfortunately, despite the pain relieving benefits of Oxycodone, this medication has been widely abused by drug users and is known to cause strong physical dependence in those who take it for recreational purposes or, in some cases, as prescribed for legitimate pain.
According to the National Library of Medicine, common side effects associated with oxycodone use include:
- Chills and Cold Sweats
- Confusion and Memory Loss
- Labored breathing
- Dizziness or Lightheadedness
- Tightness of the Chest
- Tremors or Twitching
In rare cases, users may experience the following side effects while taking Oxycodone:
- Stomach Pain or Abdominal Cramping
- Swelling of the extremities or the face
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Increased Thirst, Dehydration or Dry Mouth
- Increased Volume of Urine
- Chest Pain
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Tingling of the hands or feet
- Weakness and Unusual Fatigue
According to CESAR, people who abuse Oxycodone typically do so in one of the following three ways:
- Crushing the pills into a fine powder form that can be snorted nasally through a straw.
- Chewing the pills so that the time release benefits are forgone and the drug provides an almost immediate rush.
- Crushing the tablets to create a powder form that is then dissolved into water and injected using an intravenous needle.
Each of these methods of abuse are used to reduce or overcome the time release mechanism that is found in drugs such as Oxycodone. The active ingredient is then released into the body almost immediately rather than at a slow, more controlled dose.
Some of the Earliest Symptoms or Signs of Oxycodone Abuse Include:
- Finding paraphernalia in the user's belongings, this includes straws, needles, spoons, empty pill bottles or similar items associated with the drug use.
- A prescribed user will often run out of his or her medication earlier than he should.
- A prescribed user will often seek more than one doctor to provide the medication so as to obtain more than one month's supply of the drug.
- A user will take the drug more frequently than prescribed, take a dose higher than prescribed or take a drug that isn't prescribed.
- There may be needle marks on the arms, legs or other areas of the body. Infection is also likely when intravenous drug use is taking place.
- The individual may begin to show signs of a lack of desire to take part in hobbies, family time or recreational activity that was otherwise considered fun.
- The individual may lack personal appearance, fail to consider important hygiene measures or otherwise begin to show signs that he is not caring for himself.
Do you think that someone you love may be suffering from an addiction to oxycodone? Some of the earliest symptoms of Oxycodone addiction are easily spotted. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, "since oxycodone products should only be used based on a doctor's prescription, signs of addiction can be monitored and controlled more effectively than if the user is not under a physician's care." If you are not under a physician's care or if you are using recreationally, you should be on the lookout for the following signs of an addiction:
- Using Oxycodone for reasons other than it has been prescribed.
- Taking Oxycodone when you are not prescribed the medication.
- Using Oxycodone as a way of relaxing or to cope with emotions.
- Using Oxycodone intravenously, chewing the tablets or snorting the drug.
- Taking Oxycodone more often than you intended or using more than intended.
- Taking Oxycodone when it has caused legitimate problems in your life including health problems, relationship struggles, financial burdens or legal troubles.
- Using Oxycodone in situations in which such drug use is unacceptable such as while driving, while at work or when at school.
- Avoiding responsibilities while under the influence of Oxycodone.
- Neglecting responsibilities as a result of your drug use; this includes not caring for children, missing work, or failing to uphold your end of household chores or agreements.
- Feeling as if you cannot survive or don't want to survive without Oxycodone.
- Feeling as if life isn't fun without Oxycodone.
- Feeling sick without Oxycodone; suffering from symptoms of withdrawal.
If you suspect an addiction to oxycodone, seek professional help to ensure you can safely and effective overcome the addiction and take back control of your life.
The National Library of Medicine describes the following symptoms associated with oxycodone overdose:
- Drowsiness that is very extreme
- Changes in consciousness or a loss of consciousness
- Chest pain, labored breathing or respiratory distress
- Pinpoint pupils that are not responsive to light changes
- Lack of muscular tone or movement
- Irregular heartbeat
- Slowed heartbeat or faint heartbeat
- Lack of awareness or lack of responsiveness
Any signs of Oxycodone overdose should warrant an immediate call to a healthcare professional. If you suspect that you, or someone you know, may have taken an overdose amount of Oxycodone, call 911 for immediate healthcare intervention. Dangerous consequences such as coma, organ failure or death may occur if Oxycodone overdose is left untreated.
Abrupt cessation of Oxycodone after prolonged or repeat use will lead to serious side effects. Many of the side effects that are felt during withdrawal from oxycodone are painful and uncomfortable. This can make the process of withdrawal very difficult to cope with and is often the leading factor or cause of relapse.
Symptoms of Oxycodone Withdrawal Include:
- Shakiness or Trembling
- Bone Pain or Stiffness of the Joints
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Chills and Goose Flesh
- Strong Cravings
While the symptoms of withdrawal are generally not life-threatening, they can be very painful. Various methods of treatment including Methadone, Suboxone, Subutex, Naltrexone, and Buprenorphine provide patients with access to relief from the cravings and symptoms of withdrawal associated with abrupt discontinuation of use.
According to Harvard Health, "no single approach to detoxification is guaranteed to be best for all addicts." As such, various methods of detox have been developed to help those who become addicted to Oxycodone or other types of opiates such as heroin or prescription opioids. The most common methods of detox include:
- Medication maintenance programs which utilize methadone, suboxone or another medication to help control cravings and prevent or reduce symptoms of withdrawal.
- Tapering methods which involve gradually reducing the dose that the user takes until a zero dosing point is reached.
- Cold-turkey methods which involve abruptly eliminating the use of opiates and allowing withdrawal symptoms to run their course.
DANGER: Abruptly eliminating opiates such as Oxycodone can result in very painful withdrawal symptoms that are likely to lead to relapse. Talk with your treatment professional or healthcare provider about safe alternatives to the "cold-turkey" detoxification method.
Before attempting detox, you should speak with a professional about the safe and more comfortable measures that are available to you. Although the process of withdrawal and stabilization following an addiction to oxycodone can be challenging to cope with, there are medications and therapies available to assist you in feel more comfortable and at ease with your recovery.
Following detox, you will likely require behavioral therapy, counseling and support to continue working toward the complete recovery from opiate addiction. Recovery is a long, challenging journey but it's well worth the effort. Consider the following treatment options when you have safely stabilized through detox:
- Inpatient Treatment which will provide you with continued, around-the-clock care that can assist you in re-learning how to effectively cope without the use of drugs.
- Outpatient Treatment which will provide you with counseling and therapy as well as drug monitoring on a weekly basis to help you remain abstinent and to achieve your recovery goals.
- Support Groups such as NA which will help to provide you with peer support that can aid in continued abstinence even when you're feeling down.