Oxycodone Addiction Information

Oxycodone users have increased within the last few decades. This semi-synthetic pill has become the painkiller of choice, and it is prescribed for everyone from pre-teens to adults alike. The prescription drug set out to be used for moderate to severe pain, however its euphoric effects and addictive properties have allowed it to become dangerous threat.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says, "It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin."

Oxycodone, also known as OxyContin and Percocet, is as addictive as heroin. Since it's obtained primarily from doctors, it is perceived as safe. Unfortunately, the truth is more frightening than anyone had anticipated. Learn more about the prescription drug, signs of abuse, and when it's time to get help.

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What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone has been a powerful, popularly prescribed opiate painkiller since the mid-1960s. It is known by many different names; however it is best known by its trade names: OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet, Roxicodone and/or Roxicets. Oxycodone was developed for reducing pain, and is typically given to those who have had extensive surgeries or have gone through physical traumas. The drug is highly addictive, and over time can paradoxically sensitize a person's pain centers. This effect is known as hyperalgesia, a disorder caused by prolonged opiate abuse.

To avoid the abuse of oxycodone, the pill has been reformulated over the years to try to reduce the addictive effects.

"The most popular and well-known formulation by far has been OxyContin, manufactured by Purdue Pharma. Purdue's formulation was time-release, meaning that it would last longer than some other formulations." Unfortunately, there have been ways around the formulation, and an addict can bypass the time-release method of this pill by crushing tablets.

Oxycodone is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II substance (under the Controlled Substances Act). The medication has high abuse potential, specifically in the United States. The amount of oxycodone being prescribed by physicians has also skyrocketed. According to NIDA, "The number of prescriptions for opioids (like hydrocodone and oxycodone products) have escalated from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013, with the United States their biggest consumer globally, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and 81 percent for oxycodone (e.g., Percocet)."

Now, doctors and organizations like NIDA are working hard to educate doctors on the risk of prescribing and overprescribing. The risk to the user is too great when other painkilling options are available. It's the hope that technology will assist in developing new medications that don't have the risk of abuse.

Oxycodone's Intended Use

Oxycodone is created using thebaine, an opiate alkaloid found in opium. It is chemically similar to morphine and codeine. Like many other opioids, oxycodone was first made in Germany in the early 1900s. It is a potent pain reliever. It can greatly improve quality of life for those in pain, and it is often used for cancer patients.

The drug is dosed differently depending on the size of the adult (or child) and the type of pain. OxyContin and Percocet are often taken with food and should be taken with plenty of fluids. Taken for a brief period of time for their prescribed purposes, opioids can be safe. Although improvements are being made to decrease the amount of prescriptions are being given for pain relief, opioid abuse is still taking place.

What Does Oxycodone Look Like?

Oxycodone is usually taken in tablet form. It is prescribed in 10mg, 20mg, 40mg, 80mg and 160mg dosages. For those who cannot swallow, it may come in capsule or liquid form. All pills come with code on them. If you have found pills and need to identify them, you can search online for the code or ask a healthcare professional to identify them for you. These pills go by the trade names: OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet, Roxicodone, and Roxicets.

Popular Nicknames for Oxycodone

Oxycodone is known by many names on the street. These include:

  • Beans
  • Cotton
  • Hillbilly Heroin
  • Kicker
  • O.C.
  • Ox
  • Oxycet
  • Oxycotton
  • Oxy
  • Percs
  • Roxy
  • Rushbo

Learning the names that oxycodone is known by can help raise awareness with your family, especially teenagers. The drug already has a strong name for itself and has built a foundation under many aliases.

Why is Oxycodone So Addictive?

Opioids are some of the most addictive narcotics on the market today. For some, the high of taking tablets is not enough. To get a greater "high," some crush pills to snort or to inject. It's also common to combine the oxycodone with alcohol or other drugs.

Opioids like oxycodone act by attaching to the brain's opioid receptors. By doing this, they reduce the perception of pain. Side effects include drowsiness, confusion, and nausea. Use over time builds a tolerance to the drug, and painful withdrawal symptoms tempt users to continue to use the drug. NIDA says, "Tolerance occurs when the person no longer responds to the drug as strongly as he or she did at first, thus necessitating a higher dose to achieve the same effect. The establishment of tolerance hinges on the ability of abused opioids (e.g., OxyContin, morphine) to desensitize the brain's own natural opioid system, making it less responsive over time."

This is the cycle of addiction. At this point, the addicted brain has trouble telling itself to stop using.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as, "Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one's behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death."

Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction

There are a variety of symptoms tied to oxycodone addiction. Those chasing the high seek it out for its euphoric effects, however oxycodone has a many of negative symptoms, including:

  • Drowsiness, sometimes to the point of nodding off
  • Sedation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Itching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Respiratory suppression
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating

The long-term effects of using oxycodone and other opioids are life threatening. Long term signs of abuse include:

  • Brain damage - causes issues in behavior, decision making, and coping with stress.
  • Increased risk of infections - including HIV and hepatitis.
  • Risk of overdose - with time, tolerance grows. Too much of the drug will lead to death.

Signs of overdose:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Pinpointed pupils
  • Slowed heartbeat

How Oxycodone Abuse Leads to Heroin

The amount of people abusing prescription drugs like OxyContin is slowly being curbed due to more careful management of prescriptions. For the addict, that means prescription painkillers are difficult to obtain. Eventually, the user may turn to heroin. Cheap and easy to obtain, heroin is the drug of choice for thousands. According to NIDA, "The number of past-year heroin users in the United States nearly doubled between 2005 and 2012, from 380,000 to 670,000."

An estimated 80 percent of heroin users report abusing prescription opioids (Percocet, OxyContin) before using heroin. However, this number of people is still small in comparison to prescription drug misuse. According to a national survey by NIDA, "less than 4 percent of people who had misused prescription pain medicines started using heroin within 5 years."

Therapies for Oxycodone Addicts

Breaking the cycle of addiction is crucial to rehabilitation. Oxycodone addiction is very treatable, but relapse is common. Adetox program is essential, followed by one or a combination of the following:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

This helps addicts overcome their oxycodone abuse by teaching them to avoid triggers that lead to a pattern of addiction. The negative thoughts and behaviors that lead to drug abuse are identified and managed. Opioid cravings are avoided by keeping away from those triggers. Stress coping skills and thoughtfulness help patients avoid destructive behaviors.

Contingency management

This is done by drug addiction centers for opioid addicts, especially those that are state funded. Contingency management provides monetary or prize incentives to encourage addicts to stay away from drugs. In return for regular, clean drug tests, patients receive their tangible incentives. While this may seem like an overly simplistic solution, well-structured programs are very successful.

Therapeutic communities

These are sober communities that limit the amount of triggers an addiction patient may face. It's a long-term solution for those with substance abuse disorders, but it is also useful for people who suffer fromco-occurring mental health disorders. Patients and therapists often live in the same community for around-the-clock support.

Drug therapies

Methadone is a long-acting opioid that is often prescribed for opioid addiction. Methadone eliminates the pain of withdrawal, and it should reduce cravings. It also does not have the same euphoric effects of oxycodone or heroin. Suboxone is another popular drug for reducing drug cravings, and it can prevent opiate relapse. In the event of an overdone, the drug naloxone is used by first responders to save the addict's life. Also known as Narcan, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids. It can be given as a nasal inhaler or injected. It reverses the depression on the nervous system and respiratory system caused by an opioid overdose. The patient should begin breathing again. If one does is not sufficient, a first responder can give multiple doses.

Next Steps: Getting Treatment for Oxycodone Dependence

Although stimulants are often prescribed to children and adolescents, they are not excluded from the possibility of prescription drug addiction.

AspenRidge's North facility is ready to help you get started on finding the right treatment for your oxycodone addiction. Ourprograms offer you a variety of flexible options to get you back on track. Through a combination ofoutpatient and inpatient care, your life doesn't have to come to a sudden halt. We provide a safe, controlled space for you to detox and regain your sobriety. If you are the loved one of someone struggling with drug dependence, we have the resources you need to get them help.

Oxycodone addiction can lead to deadly consequences. Our experienced, licensed team will get you the therapies you need to treat your addiction and co-occurring disorders such as depression and PTSD. Don't wait,contact us today.

  • Volkow, Nora D., M.D. "America's Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse." NIDA. National Institute of Drug Abuse, 14 May 2014. Web. 31 May 2017.
  • "American Society of Addiction Medicine." ASAM Definition of Addiction. American Society of Addiction Medicine, 19 Apr. 2011. Web. 31 May 2017.
  • "Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Abuse." Narconon International. Narconon International, n.d. Web. 31 May 2017.
  • "Effects of Oxycodone Abuse." Narconon International. Narconon International, n.d. Web. 31 May 2017.
  • Abuse, National Institute on Drug. "DrugFacts: Heroin." NIDA. National Institute of Drug Abuse, Jan. 2017. Web. 31 May 2017.