Oxycodone Addiction and Abuse: Signs, Risks & Treatment
Last Updated: September 22, 2023
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Oxycodone Addiction: An Overview
Oxycodone is a popular prescription pain medication that treats moderate to severe pain but is also associated with a high risk for misuse, abuse and addiction.
The journey from oxycodone misuse to abuse to addiction can move quickly. When someone takes even legally prescribed oxycodone differently than their doctor prescribes, they are misusing the medication. Soon, this can change to abuse when they take the drug for non-medical reasons. Addiction can rapidly follow, in which the person now relies on oxycodone and cannot quit taking it despite knowing the drug is harming them.
Legitimately prescribed oxycodone may be safe when taken at the lowest effective dose, only when needed and for a short period. However, regular oxycodone use can lead to dependence and addiction, even when taken as prescribed. Because of its addictive nature, oxycodone should never be taken without a legitimate prescription or in any way other than prescribed. However, if you have been misusing oxycodone, addiction treatment can help.
What Is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone, like other opioids, is derived from the poppy plant. Poppy plants naturally produce some opioids, such as heroin and morphine, but oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. The natural poppy product it’s derived from requires structural modification in a laboratory to become oxycodone.
What Is Oxycodone Used For?
Oxycodone is prescribed to help people manage moderate to severe acute or chronic pain caused by cancer, physical injury or surgery. Although the number of oxycodone prescriptions has modestly decreased over the past few years, oxycodone is still one of the top-selling opioids in the U.S.
How Does Oxycodone Affect the Body and Brain?
Oxycodone works on opioid receptors in both the body and the brain. Its many sites of action mean that oxycodone can have different effects on your system. While some effects may be beneficial, others can be harmful.
- In the spine, oxycodone raises the pain threshold, so you don’t feel as much pain.
- In the gut, oxycodone slows your intestinal activity, which can cause constipation.
- In the brain’s limbic system, oxycodone influences your emotions.
- In the brainstem, oxycodone slows your breathing and makes your pupils constrict.
Oxycodone’s impact on the brainstem, specifically slowing breathing, can lead to overdose, which is potentially fatal.
What Does Oxycodone Look Like?
Oxycodone is produced by many manufacturers, with each product looking different. Some examples of what generic oxycodone tablets look like may include:
- 5mg: Round white pills stamped with “M” on one side and “0552” on the other.
- 10mg: Round pink pills stamped with “ETH” on one side and “461” on the other.
- 15mg: Round green pills stamped with “M” on one side and “15” on the other.
- 20mg: Round gray pills stamped with “ETH” on one side and “462” on the other.
- 30mg: Round blue pills stamped with “M” on one side and “30” on the other.
Generic oxycodone capsules are provided in 5mg opaque white and yellow capsules imprinted with “LV 901.” Depending on the generic manufacturer, oxycodone pills may have different shapes, sizes and colors for the same strength of oxycodone.
Generic oxycodone liquid is supplied in formulations that include:
- 5mg/5 ml: Red liquid solution
- 100mg/5 ml: Yellow liquid solution
Brand Names for Oxycodone
Oxycodone is sold as a generic drug, but several oxycodone brand names include:
- Oxaydo, a short-acting oxycodone tablet
- OxyCONTIN, a long-acting abuse-deterrent tablet form of oxycodone
- RoxyBond, a long-acting abuse-deterrent tablet form of oxycodone
- Roxicodone, a short-acting oxycodone tablet
- Xtampza ER, a long-acting abuse-deterrent capsule form of oxycodone
Sometimes, oxycodone is combined with other drugs like acetaminophen. Although available as a generic, the combination can be sold under different brand names like:
All oxycodone-acetaminophen combinations are short-acting and come as tablets except Prolate, which is an oral liquid.
Brand-name tablets or capsules may look different than their generic versions. Be aware of the brand, dose and prescribing directions before you take your first dose of oxycodone, with or without acetaminophen.
Street Names for Oxycodone
Oxycodone has several street names. Among the most common are:
- Hillbilly heroin
Oxycodone may be provided as a tablet, capsule or liquid, all taken by mouth. Oxycodone capsules and tablets should never be broken, crushed, chewed or dissolved in liquid.
Oxycodone doses will vary depending on why it is prescribed. Initial dosing for short-acting oxycodone is recommended to start at a max of 5 mg every four to six hours as needed for acute pain. People with chronic pain are sometimes put on long-acting oxycodone products like OxyContin and may be continued on short-acting oxycodone for breakthrough pain.
The onset of action for immediate-release oxycodone is 10–15 minutes, and the duration of action ranges from three to six hours. The onset of long-acting oxycodone is about one hour, and it lasts for approximately 12 hours.
Maximum Dosage of Oxycodone
The maximum dose of oxycodone in 24 hours differs between patients, and no studies have determined a single maximum amount that applies to everyone. People who have never taken opioids will have a far lower maximum dose than people who take them regularly. Your medical history and other medications will also influence the max daily dose of oxycodone your doctor prescribes.
Is There a Lethal Dose of Oxycodone?
A lethal dose of oxycodone is difficult to determine, but oxycodone can be fatal. Anyone who takes it should follow prescribing guidelines exactly. Recent data from the CDC shows that deaths involving prescription opioids, including oxycodone, increased from 16,416 in 2020 to 16,706 in 2021. This statistic alone underscores the serious consequences of misusing prescribed oxycodone.
What Makes Oxycodone Addictive?
Oxycodone is addictive because it triggers the brain’s reward center in the midbrain. This leads to a surge of pleasurable feelings and makes you want to repeat the experience to keep feeling pleasure. Over time, it can be harder to get pleasure from other things besides oxycodone. Meanwhile, your brain and body become dependent on oxycodone, so stopping the drug can cause withdrawal symptoms. Thus begins the cycle of addiction, where your body wants you to keep using the drug and punishes you with withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop.
Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction
When people become addicted to oxycodone, they often show signs and symptoms of addiction. These symptoms may vary from person to person, but loved ones may notice changes in multiple categories, including behavioral, emotional and physical signs.
Many behavioral symptoms of oxycodone addiction become apparent to friends and loved ones. These can include:
- Taking more oxycodone or for a longer period than intended.
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, taking or recovering from oxycodone.
- Inability to keep up with obligations at work, school or home due to oxycodone.
- Social or interpersonal problems linked to oxycodone use.
- Giving up other activities due to oxycodone use.
- Taking oxycodone even when it is dangerous to do so.
- Taking oxycodone even though you know doing so is harmful.
Emotional and Psychological Signs
A person may show emotional or psychological signs of oxycodone addiction. These can include:
- A persistent desire to stop or cut back on oxycodone
- Cravings for oxycodone.
Some physical symptoms of oxycodone addiction exist. These may include:
- Needing increasing doses of oxycodone to achieve the same effects as before
- Withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit or cut back on oxycodone
Risks and Consequences of Oxycodone Addiction
Oxycodone addiction can carry both short and long-term risks and consequences. No matter where you are in the addiction process, the possibility of damage to your health exists. For this reason, it is vital to address addiction as soon as possible to try to mitigate the problems that arise.
In the short term, the risks of oxycodone addiction are multifactorial:
- Overdose, caused by taking too much oxycodone or mixing it with other products
- Worsening addiction from the untreated dependence
- Legal problems from illicit oxycodone use
- Accidents stemming from safety issues from being high
Over the long term, the risks of oxycodone addiction intensify. The short-term risks remain present, compounded with long-term risks to your health like:
- Gastrointestinal problems like chronic constipation
- Breathing problems like sleep-disordered breathing
- Cardiovascular problems like heart attack and heart failure
- Falls and fractures
- Hormone abnormalities
- Sexual dysfunction and infertility
Oxycodone Addiction Risks for the Elderly
People can become addicted to oxycodone no matter their age. However, oxycodone can pose some additional risks to older adults. Side effects in older adults include all the physical and psychological side effects normally linked to oxycodone use, but there are also additional side effects in this age group.
Older adults have a higher risk of kidney or liver problems, which may make oxycodone more dangerous. This is because the liver and kidneys are important in clearing oxycodone from the body. Oxycodone can accumulate in the body when the kidneys or liver aren’t working properly, leading to an overdose risk at a lower dose than a younger person may experience.
Oxycodone Addiction Risks for Pregnancy
Oxycodone addiction during pregnancy has been linked to serious side effects:
- Embryo/fetal toxicity: Oxycodone may harm developing fetuses and cause delayed growth, congenital abnormalities, preterm delivery and even death.
- Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome: Women who regularly take oxycodone put their infant at risk for withdrawal symptoms after birth.
For these reasons, experts recommend treating opioid-addicted mothers with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using buprenorphine or methadone products.
Treatment Options for Oxycodone
Quitting oxycodone after becoming dependent on it can be difficult. The experts at Orlando Recovery Center understand the unique challenges of quitting oxycodone. We will work with you to medically detox from oxycodone and create a long-term recovery plan tailored to your needs. Contact us today to learn how we can help you regain your life.
Withdrawal and Detoxification Management
Discontinuing oxycodone can lead to multiple withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can vary from person to person and depend on many factors. For example, an individual struggling with oxycodone may also use other substances like alcohol, making the withdrawal process more severe. Dosage, frequency and length of use also impact withdrawal symptoms.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms are similar to withdrawal symptoms from other opioid pain medications. Withdrawal symptoms can begin within 12 hours after the last use for short-acting oxycodone products and within 30 hours for long-acting oxycodone products. These symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hot and cold flashes
- Muscle cramps
- Watery discharge from eyes and nose
Oxycodone detox should always be done under the direct supervision of a medical professional. Medical detox aims to help the person struggling with addiction safely and effectively clear the body of its physical dependence and ease the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Orlando Recovery Center specializes in medical detox. Their team of experts is ready to assist in all forms of care, including medication administration and wellness therapy. Treatment for oxycodone detox should be tailored to each individual’s circumstances. Upon admission to Orlando Recovery Center, your situation will be assessed, and a plan will be developed to begin the recovery process. Regardless of where you are in the detox process, Orlando Recovery Center has programs that can benefit you now and keep you on the road to recovery in a comfortable and relaxed setting.
Oxycodone Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Oxycodone addiction treatment requires a comprehensive approach to meet a person’s needs. Orlando Recovery Center can meet these needs by offering several different levels of care. Medical professionals monitor the withdrawal process during the medical detox to ease any discomfort from withdrawal symptoms, with or without medications.
Orlando Recovery Center also provides inpatient treatment. This gives the patient constant support during this delicate time in the recovery process. Patients live onsite and receive 24-hour medical care and a structured schedule of individual, group, family and recreational therapies.
A unique partial hospitalization program is offered to those ready to progress to the next phase in their recovery. This stage further allows the patient to develop coping skills and participate in more unstructured time.
Once an individual is ready, Orlando Recovery Center offers intensive outpatient services that continue to provide group and individual therapy. To foster long-term recovery, outpatient care and aftercare are essential once a person returns home. Regular check-ups will ensure progress is maintained.
Orlando Recovery Center offers a wide array of indoor and outdoor amenities, including:
- Lakefront views provide a peaceful environment, contributing to well-being
- Fully equipped gym
- Swimming pool
- Art activities
Orlando Recovery Center is an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility offering the highest standards of care, led by an impressive team with combined decades of experience assisting people through their recovery process. This facility is located just outside the heart of downtown Orlando, Florida. There are numerous hotels and restaurants in the surrounding area, and Orlando International Airport is a 15-minute drive from the facility.
If you’re concerned about your oxycodone use, give us a call today to speak with one of our skilled and compassionate staff members.
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