What Is Oxycodone? – Oxycodone (oxycodone hydrochloride) is a prescription semi-synthetic opioid found in many painkilling medications. Oxycodone is intended to be taken orally, but when abused, can be crushed and snorted, or diluted in water and injected. The best-known prescription drugs that contain oxycodone are OxyContin and Percocet.
OxyContin is an extended-relief medication indicated for the relief of moderate-severe pain that requires treatment for more than a few days, such as the pain associated with musculoskeletal conditions. Percocet includes acetaminophen as a secondary ingredient alongside oxycodone and is used to manage mild-moderate pain following minor surgeries or for other temporary injuries or conditions.
How Is Oxycodone Abused?
No one starts out trying to develop an addiction to substances such as oxycodone. The jump from use to dependence to addiction can be surprisingly brief even for someone using a doctor-prescribed dosage. It might begin when a person begins taking more of the medication than recommended as a result of increasing tolerance to the drug.
Tolerance is a normal process that is based on the body’s propensity to diminish the effects of some substances following repeated exposure. When tolerance occurs, the regular dose no longer induces the desired effects.
For recreational users who take oxycodone for the relaxation and euphoric high it can provide, addiction might begin with casual use, such as that encountered in party environments, or as self-medication during periods of distress. In any case, the sense of well-being that oxycodone can produce is highly addictive and sought after.
Increasing tolerance can quickly contribute to the development of dependence, a condition in which users may start to rely on oxycodone just to feel normal. At this point, the user must now take the drug in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms that will torment them if they try to quit. Ultimately, drug use will begin to take over the person’s life, and he or she will start to feel guilty or ashamed and try to conceal their habit from friends and family.
Someone is considered to have full-blown addiction when they continue obtaining and using the drug despite adverse consequences or the physical harm that results. Social, financial, and legal troubles may ensue, and the person may end up performing poorly at work or school and put a strain on interpersonal relationships.
If the abuse continues, health problems and cognitive dysfunction are likely to follow. During active addiction, the risk of death by overdose is significant and rises in proportion to the frequency and severity of use.
About the Opioid Crisis and Oxycodone Abuse
Oxycodone addiction is a noteworthy contributor to the opioid epidemic that has taken form in recent years. Although other more powerful and dangerous drugs such as heroin and fentanyl have recently taken the spotlight, the problem really began with new formulations of oxycodone in the mid-1990s.
In 1995, pharmaceutical companies were looking for a way to treat severe pain with less risk of addiction. After some experimentation, it was believed that an extended-release tablet would decrease the risk of addiction by reducing the rate of drug absorption into the system, thereby keeping patients within a constant range of effectiveness with less frequent dosages.
This idea turned into a marketing strategy in which drug manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma (the makers of OxyContin) would encourage doctors to prescribe extended-release oxycodone instead of milder opioids with a standard-release formula. An increase in prescriptions corresponded with a spike in overdoses and related fatalities, which ultimately got noticed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2003, the FDA sent a letter to Purdue Pharma warning of the risks of abuse and addiction.
When the epidemic became apparent more than 100,000 deaths later, doctors were finally becoming discouraged from prescribing oxycodone without very good reason. This trend made it more difficult for patients to obtain the drug legally, so many people who were addicted resorted to using easily accessible, cheap street narcotics such as heroin and fentanyl.
Getting Help for Oxycodone Addiction
In summary, addiction to oxycodone most often occurs due to misuse, but may also develop even if a person uses the medication as directed by a doctor. Long-term use of oxycodone can result in chemical dependence, and when a user attempts to quit, they will experience highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that will likely compel them to resume use.
Thus, the cycle of addiction begins, as at this point the person is usually engaging in compulsive drug-seeking behavior and has become obsessed with obtaining the drug and planning the next time they can use it. As noted, almost no one consciously wants to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addiction is now widely considered to be a disease due to the long-lasting brain changes it induces and high relapse rate.
Although there is no cure for addiction, it can be effectively treated using a modern comprehensive approach that includes psychotherapy, counseling, medication-assisted treatment, group support, and aftercare planning for the long-term sustainment of sobriety.
If you’re or someone you love is ready to take the first step toward achieving recovery, contact us today. Our addiction specialists can answer any questions about our programs and available treatment options. We are dedicated to helping people free themselves from the grip of addiction and reclaim the healthy and fulfilling lives they deserve!