If you went to a party with 140 other guests, you’d think a lot of people were there, right? Well, 140 people a day are dying from the ongoing opioid crisis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Over the past several years, an unprecedented rise in overdose deaths has occurred throughout the country, and there are few signs of it slowing down. In fact, President Trump recently signed a bipartisan measure that confronts the opioid crisis. The legislation reportedly adds treatment options, and it will implement better security measures in the U.S. Postal Service.
Oxycodone is the active ingredient in drugs like OxyContin and Percocet, and it’s had its share of blame throughout this crisis. In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical representatives made claims that opioids were safe, which led to the overprescribing of these drugs in record numbers.
OxyContin was released in 1996, and it only added fuel to the fire. While the full impact wasn’t felt until many years later, the increasing number of deaths it caused eventually started making headlines.
By 2010, there was such a problem with OxyContin that it had to be reformulated to deter users from smoking or snorting it. Then Purdue Pharma, the distributor of OxyContin, changed the pills from powder-based to gel, which made it impossible to crush them up.
Oxycodone has been called “hillbilly heroin.” It’s a synthetic opioid with a high potential for abuse. For some, the narcotic can offer real medical value, but you have to be extremely careful when using this kind of drug.
Oxycodone hydrochloride belongs to a group of medicines called opioid analgesics, which are used to treat moderate to severe pain. It belongs in a class of drugs called depressants, which also include alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines (or benzos). Similar to other opioids, oxycodone works by blocking the pain messaging that travels to the user’s brain.
Oxycodone has common side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, itching, and sweating. When overused and abused, it can cause addiction, dependence, withdrawal, and overdose.
Various pills contain oxycodone. These come in different shapes, sizes, and colors depending on the dose or brand. Oxycodone is most commonly used in conjunction with other drugs. These include aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Some of the most common medicines that oxycodone is placed into include:
OxyContin is one of the most commonly abused drugs and is one of the medications believed to have caused the current opioid crisis. It is a controlled-release medication that offers chronic pain relief for up to 12 hours. Due to its long-lasting effects, many seek it out for abuse. Others, however, will bypass the time-release and crush OxyContin to snort or smoke the drug. It allows a user to achieve the full effect of the substance.
Percocet is a potent opioid that is a mixture of oxycodone and acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in the over-the-counter drug Tylenol. Until the new guidelines were put in place for opioid prescribing, it was commonly used by physicians to treat conditions that range from mild to severe. Crushing and snorting Percocet is a conventional method of abuse, but that is strongly discouraged due to the Tylenol and filler that makes up the pill. Taking more than prescribed for longer than it is prescribed is the most common method of abuse.
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Roxicodone is another potent medication, but it is a rapid release version of oxycodone that treats moderate to severe pain. It is commonly administered to patients prior to surgery, and it works as a sedative to calm their nerves. It is also used to around-the-clock pain management. When Roxicodone is abused, it will cause the user to be intoxicated quickly. Those who abuse Roxicidone typically melt the tablets down to be smoked or injected.
Those that are prescribed oxycodone can be suffering from ailments ranging from cancer to arthritis. Oxycodone can also treat other physical disorders, which includes short-term treatment after medical procedures. Oxycodone is created by modifying an organic chemical found in opium. The medication is classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. While it has a definite medical purpose, it also holds a high potential for abuse.
Addiction is usually difficult to pinpoint in the early stages, but there are always signs if you know what to look for. If you’re worried that you or your loved one is abusing oxycodone, understanding these signs can help you start looking for treatment before it gets too out of control.
The first sign of a substance use disorder is tolerance. The longer you use a narcotic like oxycodone, the more your brain will adapt to the foreign substance. The dose you began taking may seem weaker over time, so it won’t provide the same effect as before, which could cause you to increase the dosage.
When you keep using the drug despite a growing tolerance to it, you could develop a chemical dependency. While this dependence is strongly linked to addiction, it’s not exactly the same. It’s caused when the brain starts relying on the drug to maintain normalcy, and you could feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if you either stop or cut back. These symptoms can include flu-like symptoms, excessive yawning, sweating, nausea, and diarrhea.
Addiction is the final stage of a substance use disorder, and it’s defined as the compulsive use of a drug, despite serious consequences. It can include health problems, arrests, trouble at work, or relationship problems.
Addiction treatment is a continuum of care that addresses substance use disorders by treating the root of the addiction. This all-encompassing model takes care of all needs, causes, and complications related to addiction.
Addiction is not a single solution model. It requires a customized approach to ensure each need is adequately met. It must treat more than just substance abuse. In order to be effective, it must also address medical, psychological, social, legal, and financial needs.
Generally, oxycodone withdrawal isn’t dangerous, but it’s extremely uncomfortable. It’s often referred to as the worst flu users have ever experienced, which is why addiction specialists recommend medical detoxification as the first step on the path to sobriety.
Furthermore, detox allows for a more comfortable and dignifying transition into sobriety, and it will significantly help you if you’re suffering from other pressing medical needs, such as disease or injury.
The next step in the continuum of care can vary from user to user. It all depends on the history of the user and the severity of the addiction. It can include residential treatment, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient services. In all stages of treatment, you’ll attend therapy sessions that dig to the root of the addiction. Some therapies can include individual, group, family, and cognitive-behavioral therapies, which help motivate the client, identify triggers, and create a relapse prevention plan.
While oxycodone isn’t as dangerous as drugs like fentanyl, it’s still very powerful. In the 2000s, 75 percent of individuals entering treatment for heroin abuse started out abusing prescription opioids.
Oxycodone has the potential to be extremely dangerous when used in conjunction with benzodiazepines and other drugs. High doses can result in a fatal overdose.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Prescription Opioid Use Is a Risk Factor for Heroin Use. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use
Alcohol and Drug Foundation. (n.d.). Drug Facts: Oxycodone. Retrieved from https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/oxycodone/
Modern Healthcare. (n.d.). Trump Signs Bipartisan Measure to Confront Opioid Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20181024/NEWS/181029960
Press, S. L. (n.d.). Report: Opioid Crisis Costing Massachusetts $2.5B a Year. Retrieved from https://www.miamiherald.com/news/article221641920.html
Van Zee, A. (2009, February). The promotion and marketing of oxycontin: commercial triumph, public health tragedy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2622774/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 6: Definition of tolerance. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-iii-action-heroin-morphine/6-definition-tolerance