Oxycodone addiction is a problem facing millions. It’s easy to get addicted, but it’s much harder to find help and the strength to help yourself. The first step on the path to recovery is understanding the issue, so to help you or your loved one overcome oxycodone addiction, here is everything you need to know to get started.
What is oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a popular painkiller that shares a lot in common with other addictive opioids like morphine and heroin. They all come from the opium poppy and create an intense high, which can be a severe problem for legitimate users. It’s easy to get oxycodone medicinally prescribed for real pain, then to develop a dependence on the high that accompanies the pain relief. It doesn’t take long at all for prescribed use to turn into a potent addiction.
Fortunately, oxycodone addiction can be overcome with the help of information, willpower, and a strong support network.
Why is oxycodone addictive?
In short, oxycodone triggers a blast of dopamine to the brain, making the user feel extremely good for a short period. The deep desire to get back to that high is what makes oxycodone so addictive and recognized as a severe problem by both the United States and the United Nations. It’s placed in the same category as other drugs that have minimal value as medicine and pose a severe threat of addiction. Though oxycodone is a painkiller, other drugs do the same job with much less risk of addiction. In many ways, oxycodone is is an artifact of the past, having been around for decades, since which other medicines have come out with better performance.
What are the symptoms of an oxycodone overdose?
At the end of the spectrum, an oxycodone overdose can quickly lead to death. If you believe that someone might be overdosing on oxycodone, check their skin and see if it’s cold and clammy to the touch. If you have the tools, check their blood pressure to see if it’s lower than usual. Heart rate will also slow down, as will breathing. Left untreated, an overdose can stop a person’s breath, put them in a coma, and kill them.
What are the effects of oxycodone addiction?
There are a wide variety of physical ailments that accompany oxycodone addiction and withdrawal.
In the first phase, which generally covers the first week or two without oxycodone, an individual may suffer from sudden mood swings. Anxiety is standard, as is a general sense of restlessness. Symptoms can also manifest in an inability to sleep, muscle pain and soreness, as well as excessive sweating, fever, and chills.
After the first phase, the severity of symptoms intensifies. It’s common to feel sick and throw up experience severe diarrhea, and suffer from stomach pain. During withdrawal, a person may have an enormously diminished appetite, leading to malnutrition and further exacerbating their health concerns. Vision can deteriorate and grow blurry, pupils can dilate, and clammy skin can become worse, turning into full shaking throughout the day. Furthermore, heart rate and blood pressure can both rise to dangerous levels.
What doses does oxycodone come in?
As a drug that is primarily consumed orally, oxycodone tends to come in standardized pill sizes. These pills are color-coded, with a different color given to each dosage size. At the low end of the spectrum, you have white pills that contain 10 milligrams of oxycodone, whereas, at the high end, you have blue pills that contain 160 milligrams.
However, you don’t need to learn the colors to know how much oxycodone is in each pill. Authentic oxycodone pills have the dosage stamped right onto the pill, so if you see a pill that says 20 on it, you know it contains 20 milligrams of oxycodone.
You should also know that oxycodone can be found in other substances as well. Percocet and Tylox contain varying combinations of oxycodone and acetaminophen, while Percodan includes a combination of oxycodone and aspirin.
How do addicts acquire oxycodone?
When legitimate prescriptions run out or aren’t potent enough, addicts turn to a variety of other sources for their needs.
Firstly, this can involve physically buying more oxycodone from a local dealer. In such cases, there are a number of slang names that are used to refer to oxycodone, including hillbilly heroin. When using such methods, it’s common for addicts to get swindled by dealers or caught by the police.
Secondly, an increasing number of addicts have turned to buy oxycodone online. On the dark web, it’s possible to anonymously purchase significant amounts of drugs and acquire various illegal services. Though this does avoid the obvious problems associated with meeting a dealer face to face, it does still leave open the possibility of being scammed.
Thirdly, addicts may try to steal from other people that have valid prescriptions. If you know both someone that has a potential oxycodone addiction and someone that has a valid prescription, then you should check to make sure there’s no theft going on.
How much oxycodone do doctors give patients?
Given that such a widespread of oxycodone pills are manufactured, all the way from 10 milligrams to 160-milligram pills, it makes sense that prescriptions can vary quite a bit. Extremely debilitating afflictions may require more than ten times as much oxycodone as recovery from simple procedures.
Although oxycodone does explicitly require a doctor’s prescription, doctors also give out nearly sixty million oxycodone tablets every single year. Plenty of people stop needing painkillers before the prescription runs out, plus there are people that either forgets about their oxycodone or end up having it stolen. When you also consider that many people see the opportunity to sell their oxycodone, it’s easy to see why there is so much excess oxycodone available to addicts.
How is oxycodone used?
Traditionally, oxycodone is consumed orally, via tablets and the like. However, addicts often want to get high faster or more intensely, so they make use of alternative methods to achieve a faster or more potent high.
For example, addicts have been known to crush up oxycodone pills and snort the powder. This introduces the oxycodone to the blood in the nose, which has the unique property of being extremely near the brain in terms of blood flow. It’s not that introducing the drug into the blood anywhere on your head would be useful, but that the blood-brain barrier is uniquely thin at the nose.
Other addicts mix the crushed powder with water and inject the resulting mixture into their veins. This is exceptionally dangerous because if the mixture or injection is done incorrectly, it can introduce an air embolism or foreign substance into the blood. If you suspect that your loved one is injecting oxycodone, then you must get help for them as soon as possible.
Does oxycodone use involve drug paraphernalia?
Many oxycodone users do use paraphernalia as well, giving you something else to look for if you believe that your loved one is abusing. The type of paraphernalia will depend on how they choose to take oxycodone, but the presence of suspicious pill bottles is a common factor. For users that snort, straws, razor, and mirrors or other reflective surfaces are standard. For users that inject, look for the elements as mentioned earlier as well as syringes, spoons, and tourniquets.
How long does it take to become addicted to oxycodone?
The unfortunate truth is that oxycodone can form an addiction effectively instantaneously. The first time you use it, you can get a high of dopamine so strong that when it’s gone, you desperately want to regain that feeling. Even after only a few uses, a user can form an unhealthy relationship with the drug. It doesn’t take long for a strong tolerance to turn into complete dependence, which is when withdrawal symptoms will start to manifest in case usage stops. For individuals that get to the end of their prescription and have no more pain, this can lead to an addictive desire to get more.
The reality of the situation is that it takes everyone a different amount of time to form an addiction. Some people get hooked after one use; some people might never form an addiction at all even though they continuously use painkillers to deal with chronic illnesses. Just because someone else can use oxycodone without being addicted doesn’t mean that you can consume the same amount and stay unaffected. Furthermore, you have to consider that other people often lie about whether they are addicted not, both to themselves and others.
How long has oxycodone addiction been an issue?
Oxycodone has been fairly prevalent for decades, dating back to the 1960s. However, the severity of the threat has risen dramatically in recent years. Before the 1990s, the number of oxycodone-related deaths could be counted in the double digits. Since then, the death toll rose to hundreds per year first, then thousands, then tens of thousands by 2015. Some of the older data may indeed be slightly insufficient due to inaccurate death reporting in the past, but the truth remains that the threat has grown by several orders of magnitude.
One of the main dangers posed by oxycodone is just how much it affects children. Teens often try oxycodone because it seems less dangerous than smoking or injecting, but the effects can be just as devastating as those of “scarier” drugs. Out of every one hundred kids in high school, the statistics are high enough that you can find three or four oxycodone abusers among them.
Finally, oxycodone has historically been a gateway drug to harder opioids. The sad truth is that most heroin users started with oxycodone. Not every oxycodone user goes on to use harder and harder drugs, but the path is there, and many have taken it already.
How much oxycodone should one take?
If you’re concerned about how much oxycodone a loved one is taking, then there are some convenient rules of thumb to keep in mind.
- If they’re taking OxyContin, it should be about one tablet per twelve hours.
- If they’re taking Tylox, it should be about one tablet per six hours.
- If they’re taking Percodan, it should be about one tablet every six hours. However, up to twelve tablets can be taken per day for sufficiently excessive pain.
- If they’re taking Percocet, it should be one or two tablets per six hours. However, up to six to twelve tablets can be taken per day for sufficiently excessive pain.
As you can see, there can be valid reasons for your loved one to be taking more than ten tablets per day. There could be an addiction at work as well, but there is a valid medical justification for such quantities. If you see a loved one taking a lot of tablets, talk to them first before jumping to conclusions. That being said, excessive amounts can also make withdrawal much more severe, so make sure that your loved one understands that as well.
What should you do about oxycodone addiction?
If you or a loved one is suffering from an oxycodone addiction, then your next steps will be critical. What’s essential is not solving the immediate problem of oxycodone usage, but finding a long-term solution to the addiction. That does involve stopping usage, but stopping too quickly can be difficult, both in terms of harsher withdrawal symptoms and the increased possibility of a relapse.
The truth is that you should find a program that works and consult experts to determine the best course of action going forward. For some, a rehabilitation facility is the best choice, where you can get a disciplined routine, an experienced support network, and peers that understand your problems. For others, working through the problem in the comfort of your own home can be useful if you don’t fall prey to the natural path of relapse. No matter who you are, it helps to have supportive friends and family around, both to keep you honest and for moral support.