The opioid epidemic has a number of components, oxycodone abuse being one of them. According to the 2015 national survey on drug use and health, more than 27.9 million people misused oxycodone and oxycodone products such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan, Roxicet, and Roxicodone. Oxycodone addiction stems from several issues and is often caused by taking a prescription against medical advice, taking more than prescribed, or outright seeking the substances on the street.
Oxycodone is typically used to help alleviate pain and is intended for short-term use in most cases. However, these stipulations do not apply to each individual who uses oxycodone and its variants for several reasons, including the disease of addiction.
Addiction stems from physical and psychological impairments in which you may or may not be able to control your use or avoid developing dependence and tolerance to a substance. Although oxycodone use is beneficial in individuals undergoing serious symptoms relating to chronic pain or medical procedures, the risks associated with long-term abuse tend to be less effective.
Oxycodone is a narcotic pain reliever, and, when used in small doses, it helps to diminish or severely reduce sensitivity to pain. In most cases, the feelings associated with small doses of oxycodone are not as euphoric. However, oxycodone in large doses produces effects such as:
Developing an oxycodone addiction depends on several factors and whether you have a predisposition to addiction. Also, if you have co-occurring disorders, tend to abuse medications, or are self-medicating, your chances of easily developing oxycodone dependence are heightened.
When it comes to addiction, you first become dependent on the substance, which occurs when the brain and body do not function properly without oxycodone. Typically, opioids attach and bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, immediately causing an influx of pleasure. The brain is triggered into thinking the influx of pleasure is normal. The amount of dopamine and serotonin drastically increase due to outside sources and the brain will stop producing it on its own.
Oxycodone will cause the body and brain to become dependent on the constant source of pleasure, but when it is absent from the body or more of the substance is needed, you might begin to recognize a few withdrawal symptoms or irregularities in emotions and overall well-being.
This is where tolerance comes in. Tolerance is the need for more oxycodone to achieve the desired effects. With long-term drug use, you will eventually need more of the substance to feel how you felt at the beginning of your addiction. Opioids are one of the most addictive substances, and tolerance begins rather quickly due to the euphoric effects it causes throughout your physical and psychological being.
Oxycodone addiction develops when both tolerance and dependence take over. The feelings associated with addiction to oxycodone is feeling like you cannot live or function properly without the drug.
This becomes dangerous due to the increase in the number of opioid-related deaths through the United States. As new techniques of selling drugs on the streets arise, the dangers and risks associated with illicit drug use drastically increase. Although most people might believe they are safer using prescription pills, the pills are derived from the same sources and produce the same effects as heroin and other deadly drugs such as fentanyl.
According to a recent CNN article, the rise in counterfeit pills marked as oxycodone or Xanax has increased by a significant amount since 2011—leading to the rising number of overdose death rates in the U.S. alone.
Oxycodone use and the use of other substances that contain oxycodone is equally as dangerous and possess the same negative consequences as other opioids, if not worse due to their easy accessibility.
The symptoms of oxycodone addiction mimic the side effects of addiction to other opioids and other substances, if not worse. Oxycodone addiction is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and contributes to the increasing number of individuals succumbing to the opioid epidemic.
Unfortunately, there are cases where individuals unintentionally become addicted to oxycodone. This can happen if you have been prescribed them or other oxycodone-containing drugs after a medical procedure and realize you carry an addictive gene—ultimately resulting in developing tolerance, dependence, and, eventually, an addiction to oxycodone.
In other cases, individuals know what they are taking and choose to either self-medicate or find a means of escape. There is no sole cause of addiction; it happens to anyone, and it also does not discriminate. Addiction knows no limits, yet some studies suggest a few factors that might contribute to the development of addiction.
Also, the effects of opioids on the brain and body can make it seemingly impossible to stop using once you get a taste of their initial effects. Although the effects and symptoms of oxycodone might seem pleasant, long-term use of the substance leads to a plethora of negative, unsuspected, and unwanted side effects.Oxycodone addiction is easy to spot due to a number of apparent physical and psychological changes an individual undergoes when in active addiction. However, some individuals and family or friends might be in denial of their addiction to oxycodone. They also might believe it isn’t dangerous because a doctor might have prescribed the medication. These false claims and beliefs have caused many to lose their lives, worsen their addictions, and use other dangerous drug cocktails with oxycodone such as alcohol or benzodiazepines.
The beginning and most obvious indicators of oxycodone addiction is a sudden change in behavior. When you are experiencing the symptoms of oxycodone addiction, your inhibitions become lowered, ultimately resulting in the lack in desire to keep up with daily tasks or responsibilities.
Oxycodone abuse can consume an individual to the point where the entire day is focused on obtaining the drug or finding the means to get it. Over time, this can become crippling and cause a series of unwanted symptoms and side effects related to substance abuse.
Certain actions that may not have been present in the individual’s life can manifest like constant manipulation, lying, stealing, isolating, and aggression. Also, the individual might present hostile attitudes toward anyone, whether they are high, sick, or in the process of obtaining illicit drugs.
Since the effects of oxycodone addiction primarily target the brain, it is common for individuals who have been using opioids and other substances for long durations of time to develop irregularities in the brain.
The entire chemical structure of the brain is altered when you have developed a tolerance, dependence, and addiction to oxycodone. The most common effects of disturbances in the way the brain operates corresponds to how you handle emotions, decision making, motor skills, and communication.
Also, extended oxycodone use will deprive the brain of its abilities to produce natural feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. This can result in worsening mental illness or the development of symptoms related to anxiety or depression, which can be short or long-term depending on your individual structure and how severely the drugs have affected your brain’s functions.
Personality changes in individuals who suffer from addiction to oxycodone or other addictive substances are common and also easily recognizable. These changes coincide with changes in behavior and how you act, speak, and think in general.
Many of the personality changes you might experience in active addiction are the result of how the drugs affect your psychological and physical state. Most of the time, these personality changes are temporary, and the addicted individual will end up returning to their old self once they have achieved sobriety.
However, the actions and thought processes can become severe and highly dangerous to themselves and those surrounding them, which could potentially lead to many negative, long-lasting, and life-changing consequences.
Overdose caused by oxycodone addiction relates to brain damage in a way. An overdose will occur if you have taken a large amount of the substances, combined fatal drug cocktails, used after lowering your tolerance, or if your body just could not handle the influx of foreign substances.
There are drugs like Narcan (naloxone) that can potentially reverse the effects of an overdose; however, these attempts are not always successful. Severe brain damage caused by opioid-related overdose is the deprivation of oxygen to the brain, which is called hypoxic brain damage.
When you overdose, you experience respiratory failure, and your heart can essentially stop beating, causing no oxygen to enter the body. Hypoxic brain damage is a result of the deprivation of oxygen in the brain. The extent and severity of this damage depend on how long you have been without oxygen and how severe your addiction is.
Addiction is commonly considered a family disease—meaning it not only affects the individual abusing drugs but it also affects family and loved ones. The changes an individual encounters in active addiction can be especially detrimental to maintaining healthy relationships.
Active addiction causes you to primarily focus on the means to achieve more of the substance. Neglecting family and friends and substituting oxycodone or other addictive substances is one of the most common issues families run into when dealing with someone in active addiction.
Unfortunately, there comes the point where either families or loved ones become fed up or enable the individual who’s using to “help” them in their journey in the hopes that they will seek treatment. But most of the time, it just prolongs and worsens the addiction.
There are, however, family support groups that can help you learn to effectively communicate with an individual in active addiction and help yourself understand addiction and the other obstacles that occur when dealing with a loved one.
The gradual appearance of dependence and tolerance leads to oxycodone addiction, which, in turn, leads to oxycodone withdrawal and the symptoms associated with long-term substance abuse.
Withdrawal symptoms are bound to occur in anyone who has become dependent on a substance as powerful as oxycodone. The withdrawal symptoms will most likely be made up of psychological and physical impairments.
Although the symptoms of withdrawal are not fatal, they are extremely uncomfortable and do have the potential to be fatal if you are a polydrug user. Different substances that can cause major complications during active addiction and the withdrawal process include drugs such as benzodiazepines and alcohol.
Mixing benzodiazepines or alcohol with opioids such as oxycodone can lead to respiratory failure, seizures, and other potentially irreversible side effects. The same issues can arise from a withdrawal of this combination of drugs.
The timeline for oxycodone addiction withdrawal symptoms will range based on individual experience. Factors that play a role in the severity and length of withdrawal symptoms include how long you have been using, how much you are using, and if you were using other drugs in conjunction with oxycodone.
However, the symptoms will typically be felt within the timeframes listed below in majority of individuals dealing with the repercussions of addiction.
Within Days 1 and 2 of the beginning stages of withdrawal, you might feel acute-to-mild symptoms that include sweating, muscle pain, irritability, and nausea. This is the beginning of the most vulnerable times of withdrawal, where relapse is most common.
However, if you make it through the first couple of days, withdrawal symptoms do increase. Days 3 through 5 will most likely have the worst withdrawal symptoms. Most opioid withdrawal symptoms peak around the 72-hour mark, depending on your individual chemical structure. Majority or all of the symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal will be present at this time, but they should subside after seven days.
During Days 6 and 7, you will most likely begin to experience a decline in the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Although the psychical symptoms should fully subside by Day 10, there is still the chance of developing post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, and long-lasting psychological effects.
The psychological effects of oxycodone withdrawal can potentially keep you at risk of a relapse if you are not properly medicated or in a safe environment during withdrawals and the continuum of oxycodone addiction treatment.
The treatment timeline for oxycodone addiction resembles the recommended treatment model that is proven effective for opioid addiction as well as other addiction, including non-drug related obstacles.
The beginning stages for receiving help for an addiction to oxycodone or other substances is admitting you need help with the desire and willingness to change.
Ready to get Help?
Talk to a treatment expert
After distinguishing the difference between use and abuse, you will then need to arrange some sort of facility in which to detox and continue your care. Where to go should be dependent on facilities that are licensed, effective, and knowledgeable when it comes to treating addiction and co-occurring disorders, if your individual needs require this.
The length of detox depends on your individual process; no individual’s recovery process is the same, so there is no set length of time. In reality, the extensiveness of your detox program will rely on your individual needs, the drugs you are on, how dangerous they are, how long you have been using, and how much you have been using.
The treatment process regarding a detoxification program is designed to help you overcome the symptoms of withdrawal as safely and comfortably as possible.
Oxycodone withdrawal is highly unpleasant, and it actually causes an increase in relapse rates. But attending a detox facility can ensure your continuation with treatment due to medications and support provided by addiction professionals.
Detox is only the beginning of your road to recovery. After attending a detox program, you will be highly suggested to transition to a residential facility. The necessity for this level of care also depends on your individual needs. In some cases, individuals might not require the need for extended care immediately after detox. They might only need to attend a partial hospitalization program or an intensive outpatient program.
However, your success rates are higher if you follow through with the entire continuum of care, as it is a proven and effective method of oxycodone addiction treatment.Residential treatment and partial hospitalization programs resemble each other in several ways. By this time, the major physical withdrawal symptoms will subside—leaving the psychological impairments of addiction.
This programs will range in length based on individual needs. The typical length of stay is anywhere between 30-90 days. During this process, it is imperative that you remain focused on your goal of maintaining long-term sobriety.
After working on yourself and having time away from dangerous environments, you will be admitted into the last stage of the treatment process, which consists of intensive outpatient and outpatient program. These programs help transition you from a secluded setting into the real world with the exception of having to attend about three groups a week for a few hours.
The idea behind this is not being able to live in treatment forever but still having access to the benefits and support provided in higher levels of care. The entire treatment process from oxycodone will work for any substance, and completing the duration of the programs will only ensure you a solid foundation at the beginning of your recovery, which is where you are the most vulnerable and in need of support.
It’s difficult to envision recovery success from oxycodone addiction due to the alarmingly large number of individuals prescribed them, as well as the number of individuals who have lost their lives to prescription or nonprescription opioids.
However, recovering from oxycodone is possible, but it requires hard work, diligence, and dedication. There are still several factors contributing to the rising number of opioid abuse, beyond an individual’s control and capabilities.
For instance, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of opioid prescriptions rose from 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013.
The effects of opioids on the brain and body are captivating, and they present major issues among those who use them according to medical instructions as well as those who use oxycodone or other opioids illicitly. The reality is that these substances, whether they are used for long or short durations, are capable of easily attracting individuals to their effects.
Sometimes it takes an individual a long time to reach their bottom and ask for help, but when that time comes, addiction treatment and every action that comes along with it is going to increase the success rates of those attempting recovery.
There are a number of medications that people can use such as Suboxone or Methadone that help reduce cravings and block the effects of opioids if they were used. However, this should only be used for a short period as these drugs can cause dependency and addiction.
Also, attending 12-step programs, individual therapy, and other proven effective methods of maintaining recovery can help you build a solid program and heighten your success rates.
Hughes, A, (September, 2016). Prescription Drug Use and Misuse in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. SAMHSA. Retrieved September, 2018 from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR2-2015/NSDUH-FFR2-2015.htm
Ganim, S, (March, 2017). Pill presses for counterfeit drugs seized in record numbers. CNN. Retrieved September, 2018 from https://www.cnn.com/2017/03/17/health/pill-presses-counterfeit-fentanyl/index.html
(January, 2004). Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy. NCBI. Retrieved September , 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64269/
Jones, J, (September, 2012). Polydrug abuse: A review of opioid and benzodiazepine combination use. US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved September, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3454351/
Volkow, N, (May, 2014). America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved September, 2018 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2014/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse