Dangers of Long Term Oxycodone Abuse

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a prescription opiate analgesic or “painkiller” that works by changing the way that the brain responds to pain. It is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, and commonly supplied under the brand names OxyContin and Percocet. Oxycodone has a high potential for abuse. When prescribed the medication users begin to get used to the euphoric feeling that they receive.

Even taking this medication as prescribed can be a big risk for addiction. The more it is used a tolerance is built up and they will eventually need more to get the effect that is needed to help with pain. Once they medication is no longer supplied and the user stops taking it they may experience withdrawal symptoms. At this point the user turns into an abuser and tries to get the medication anyway possible. Oxycodone can produce intensely positive feelings and rewarding sensations in the user. As such, it has a high potential for abuse. When used recreationally, there is a high risk for overdose, as recreational methods of ingesting it often accelerate the absorption of large, dangerous amounts of the drug.

Oxycodone can come in liquid or pill form (with immediate and controlled-release variations), and is often prescribed as a combination product with other drugs such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen, with each combination having a different brand name. Brand names include OxyContin, Roxicodone, Percocet, and Percodan. Street names for oxycodone include “oxy,” “kickers,” “blue,” and “hillbilly heroin,” among others.

Short-Term Effects of Oxycodone

When taken as prescribed, oxycodone can bring about the following desirable feelings:

  • Euphoria
  • Extreme relaxation
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Pain relief
  • Sedation

Side Effects

Oxycodone is a powerful opioid painkiller. Its positive, pain-reducing effects can also come with several unwanted side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Mood changes

These side effects can make the user uncomfortable, and tend to get worse as the dose increases. Other side effects can be much more serious and may require immediate medical help:

  • Irregular heart rate and/or rhythm
  • Chest pain
  • Hives, itching, or rash
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Seizures
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Postural hypotension
  • Lightheadedness

Some of the most dangerous side effects of oxycodone use are associated with the breathing problems that it may create. A markedly slowed respiratory rate can quickly turn life-threatening, especially in overdose situations.

Long Term Effects of Oxycodone

When using Oxycodone for a long period of time it can affect everyone differently. For some Oxycodone, can be very affective for help with severe chronic pain. Even using it as needed it is not safe to depend on it and use it more often than directed by the Dr. Oxycodone is classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning that it has been determined to have highly addictive properties and a high potential for dependence.

Oxycodone dependence can be both psychological and physical:

  • Psychological dependence often stems from the feeling of euphoria that users experience at first. Users want to continue feeling as euphoric and relaxed as their early use, sometimes even seeking higher doses in hopes of amplifying the effects.
  • Physical dependence on oxycodone involves adaptation to a persistently heightened presence of drug in one’s system. After some duration, certain physiologic processes are impeded when the drug isn’t available. Additionally, tolerance can quickly develop a phenomenon that means you will eventually need more and more of the drug in order to achieve the same effects.

Oxycodone use has been found to be associated with kidney and liver failure, as well as a reduction in the brain’s ability to adapt to new input, which may account for the shift from controlled to compulsive use. Combination products present even further risk. Chronic or extended use of any medication combining oxycodone and acetaminophen may result in severe liver damage. This risk is profoundly increased when an oxycodone/acetaminophen combination drug is abused simultaneously with alcohol.

It is very common when prescribed Oxycodone or any opiate that is a narcotic to become dependent on it. An addiction can be developed with no thoughts about it ever happening. If you or someone you love has developed an addiction and are unsure what to do, do not hesitate to call for help today, there are people ready to help with any questions and get you pointed in the right direction.

The Rising Oxycodone Abuse Problem

Painkillers have long been used as a recreational drug. They are often referred to as designer drugs because of their purity and pharmaceutical origins. Oxycodone is especially addictive because it is an opiate that makes the brain produce extra dopamine and serotonin. Oxycodone is also known as OxyContin. Not all people who are addicted to oxycodone become addicted intentionally, and that is part of why the rise of abuse is such a problem. Nearly 1.8 million Americans were addicted to painkillers in 2011 alone. This is a much higher number than those addicted to cocaine or heroin.

Innocent Use of Oxycodone

Oxycodone is difficult to obtain without a legitimate reason. Emergency rooms at hospitals are only allowed to prescribe a restricted amount of narcotics. Oxycodone is typically given in 12-pill prescriptions with 5mg pills. A physician can prescribe any amount of oxycodone, but the patient has to have reasonable proof of moderate to severe pain that cannot be managed through other methods.

There are millions of people who are prescribed oxycodone for a legitimate reason, but tolerance builds quickly with opioids and opiates. This requires patients to get a higher dose in order to achieve pain relief. This is typically the point where patients become addicted. They need more to get the same effects, and doctors will unknowingly prescribe more. Innocent individuals get tangled in the grasp of oxycodone abuse.

It’s easy for these individuals to mask their addiction or not even realize that there is a problem. They think they are experiencing normal side effects of using oxycodone. This is a rising problem that continues to plague Americans, Australians and Europeans. Oxycodone is primarily available for sale in these three areas, and that is where the bigger abuse problems are noted.

When opiate painkillers no longer work for a patient, it is important for doctors to find other methods for managing pain in addition to using painkillers. Exercise, massage, meditation or even surgical procedures may be recommended in addition to this kind of treatment.

Intentional Recreational Use of Oxycodone

Opiate abuse doesn’t always start off with an innocent patient needing pain relief. They sometimes start as a party favor. Young adults try a pill at a party alongside alcohol and like the effect. The euphoric high and loose feeling is appealing.

The addiction starts because oxy provides an intense high that is unlike other drugs, but it is comparable to heroin. Young abusers of the drug see it as a safer alternative because it is a pharmaceutical drug. It doesn’t require the use of a needle. It’s seemingly harmless to naive users in a party setting. Most young adults don’t know that oxycodone suppresses the respiratory system. This can be fatal all on its own. Including alcohol or other drugs in the mix can create a life-threatening problem that results in passing out, coma or death.

Why are Abuse Statistics Increasing?

Oxycodone and related painkillers are expensive street drugs. They are relatively cheap if you have a prescription and insurance, but most addicts don’t go this route. They have to obtain them illegally so they can fly under the radar of the DEA and their physicians. The street cost of oxycodone is about $1 per milligram. New users can get high with just a 5mg dose, but that doesn’t last long. The average user requires at least 40mg to feel the euphoric and high effects of oxycodone. That is $40 per dose. Some people take enough of this narcotic each day that would kill the average person.

The simple answer is that it feels good. People from all walks of life can fall victim to addiction involving opiate use. It’s difficult to obtain prescriptions, but it is easy to get them on the streets. Oxycodone is a relatively pure drug too. It doesn’t irritate organs the way an over-the-counter drug might, and it has relatively few side effects at first.

Side Effects and Fighting Abuse

Oxycodone abuse may be a rising problem, but so is the war on painkillers by the DEA. Painkillers are a blessing in disguise, but they need to be used by educated individuals and given by skilled clinicians. The side effects for taking oxycodone include:

  • Sweating
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Increased tolerance
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sedation
  • Euphoria
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache

Individuals that have a legitimate need for oxycodone should be aware of the risks. If it is used to treat pain, the brain understands the difference and addiction can be avoided. Taking oxycodone as prescribed can prevent problems in the future, but it’s easy to keep taking more when a tolerance has developed.

Individuals who are worried about abuse should:

  • Take the pills only as directed and as needed.
  • Take a week or two break from using oxycodone.
  • Talk to your doctor about appropriate use of oxycodone.
  • Understand that tolerance is not the same as addiction.
  • Use alternative methods in conjunction with painkillers for pain relief.

Education and Responsible Use

Some legislators are fighting regulations on narcotic painkillers. Prohibition isn’t the answer to the rising oxycodone abuse problem. The answer is education and responsible use of these powerful drugs. They are a scientific marvel, and they help millions of people per year. Abuse is a real problem, and the only way to stop abuse is through education.

If you have developed an addiction to oxycodone, please know that there is help for any opiate addiction. Seek help immediately.