Oxycodone Uses & Abuses

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“Oxycodone may be habit-forming. Take oxycodone exactly as directed. Do not take more of it, take it more often, or take it in a different way than directed by your doctor... Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family drinks or has ever drunk large amounts of alcohol, uses or has ever used street drugs, or has overused prescription medications, or if you have or have ever had depression or another mental illness. There is a greater risk that you will overuse oxycodone if you have or have ever had any of these conditions.” – MedlinePlus.gov

This is part of an extensive, 1,042-word Warning issued by the National Institutes of Health, which precedes MedlinePlus’ information page for the prescription drug oxycodone. Taken in its intended form and exactly as prescribed, oxycodone is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It works by changing the way a person’s brain and nervous system respond to discomfort and pain.

Oxycodone is classified as an opiate or opioid (narcotic) analgesic. It can come in the form of a liquid solution, a tablet, a capsule, or an extended-release tablet or capsule, all of which should be taken by mouth. Oxycodone is the main, active ingredient found in commonly prescribed painkiller brands like Oxycontin and Percocet. It is also one of the main contributors to the nation’s growing opioid crisis.

Primary Uses of Oxycodone

Oxycodone is a strong, generic, narcotic medication similar to morphine or codeine. It is used to relieve pain, particularly when over-the-counter pills like Aspirin or Tylenol simply aren’t effective. Oxycodone helps users manage round-the-clock or chronic pain from injuries, major surgeries, cancer, arthritis, physical trauma, and other agonizing conditions. It can be used short-term or long-term, depending on the ailment. However, long-term oxycodone use can put one at greater risk for drug addiction.

Safe Oxycodone Use

If you or a loved one has been prescribed an oxycodone medication, be sure to read all the information provided by your pharmacist and understand the risks of oxycodone use. Take the medication orally and only as directed by your doctor. Your prescription is specifically calculated based on your medical condition and your response to treatment. This prescription is intended for your use only.

Your doctor will likely start you on a lower dose of oxycodone, due to its potential for abuse. If your pain is not managed, or if you develop a tolerance to the drug, talk to your doctor about your options. Do not increase dosages on your own. Do not take the medication more frequently than directed. Do not take it for a longer time than prescribed. Using oxycodone in any way other than prescribed can lead to serious side effects like opiate overdose and addiction.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies oxycodone as a Schedule II substance. This means that it has a very high potential for abuse and is considered dangerous. Oxycodone use can potentially lead to severe psychological or physical dependence, according to the DEA. Psychological dependence can happen in as little as two days; physical dependence on the drug can develop in four weeks of use.

Side Effects of Oxycodone Use

Oxycodone may cause negative side effects. While these can vary person-to-person and age-to-age, short-term side effects of oxycodone might include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Flushing
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes

Due to the drowsiness that oxycodone can cause, do not drive, use heavy machinery, or perform any dangerous tasks after taking the drug. Side effects of oxycodone use can also become serious. If you experience any of the following side effects, contact your doctor or get emergency help immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing; slowed or shallow breathing; fainting
  • Changes in heartbeat; fast heartbeat
  • Hallucinations, confusion, loss of coordination
  • Shivering, sweating, severe muscle stiffness or twitching
  • Adrenal insufficiency; severe abdominal pain; muscle weakness; dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting; loss of appetite
  • Chest pain
  • Hives, rash, itching, or severe swelling indicating an allergic reaction
  • Seizures or fainting
  • Low blood pressure; lightheadedness when changing positions
  • Severe drowsiness or difficulty waking up
  • Irritability or agitation

Dangers of Oxycodone Abuse

Along with the side effects listed above, there are many dangers associated with oxycodone use and abuse. The first that we’ll discuss here is overdose. Oxycodone overdose can occur when a person takes too much of the drug and can be fatal. Each year, more than 100,000 people in the United States are admitted to hospitals for the misuse of painkillers like oxycodone. Not to mention, the rates of overdose deaths are growing fastest amongst teens and young adults (ages 15 to 34-years-old).

If you think you’ve taken too much oxycodone, call your doctor or a local poison control center. If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the following overdose symptoms after taking too much, call 911 as soon as possible:

  • Slowed breathing or changes in breathing pattern
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble speaking
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Bluish skin color
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slow heart rate
  • Heart failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Coma

Oxycodone also bolsters a high potential for substance addiction. Oftentimes, a person will start by taking the drug as prescribed. But as their body gets used to the drug (i.e. develops a tolerance), they start taking higher doses to feel the same pain-relieving effects. This is the start of dependence, which can quickly spiral into a chronic substance use disorder. You see, opiate drugs like oxycodone alter the chemical make-up of a user’s brain, making a person feel as though they need the drug to function. The drugs also affect a person’s ability to quit on their own. Most often, individuals who are addicted to oxycodone or other narcotic drugs need medically-managed detoxification and long-term, inpatient drug treatment. Those who are struggling with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, are at increased risk for oxycodone abuse and addiction.

A good indication of oxycodone addiction is physical discomfort and pain after stopping use. If you or a loved one has stopped taking oxycodone and now experiencing opiate withdrawal symptoms (e.g. trouble sleeping, fast heart rate, nausea, anxiousness, muscle aches, chills, sweating, and more), it is important to call your doctor or a dedicated drug treatment facility like Turnbridge.

When Oxycodone Use Becomes Oxycodone Abuse & Addiction

The transition from oxycodone use to abuse to addiction can be a quick and dangerous path. If your or your loved one’s oxycodone use is characterized by any of the following stages, consider seeking help:

Recreational Abuse

  • Taking more oxycodone than prescribed by the doctor
  • Using oxycodone with friends, at parties, or for its mind-numbing, mood-altering effects
  • Using oxycodone to relieve stress, anxiety, emotional pain, or other negative feelings
  • Feeling intense euphoria during use, and wanting to continue that trend

Dependence

  • Craving oxycodone to cope with personal and emotional problems
  • Needing a bigger dose of oxycodone to achieve a “high”
  • Hiding oxycodone use or feeling shame for using

Addiction

  • Compulsively craving, seeking, and using the drug
  • Prioritizing oxycodone use above other obligations and relationships
  • Endangering one’s self or others for the sake of the drug, without care
  • Struggling financially because of regular oxycodone use
  • “Doctor shopping” or, seeing different doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions of the drug

Oxycodone Abuse & Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is struggling with oxycodone abuse or addiction, know that help is available. Turnbridge is an adolescent and young adult addiction treatment center, helping young men and women through opioid recovery. We are here for you. Contact 877-581-1793 to learn about our prescription drug treatment programs, or visit us online to learn more about opioid addiction.