Oxycodone Addiction

Orange County Treatment

Oxycodone Addiction

Orange County Treatment

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opiate medication that is derived from a chemical found in opium.1 It works by changing the way the brain and the nervous system respond to pain and is used as pain relief medication. In general, doctors try to reserve this medication for moderate and severe pain symptoms. Oxycodone has been combined with other pain relievers like acetaminophen and aspirin to help reduce the number of medications a patient has to take, as well as reducing the amount of oxycodone a patient needs to use.

In the 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug called OxyContin. OxyContin’s active ingredient is oxycodone, but it has been formulated as a product to provide pain relief for a longer period of time. Because of its addictive nature, oxycodone and all products that contain it are a Schedule II controlled substance highly controlled by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Research conducted in 2000 found that more than 8% of teenagers reported having abused pain relievers. Over the last few decades, the number of Americans addicted to an opioid has become alarming. The opioid crisis is now a national problem that is drawing the attention of all healthcare professionals and government officials.

History of Oxycodone

The history of oxycodone dates back to the turn of the 20th century, when scientists were looking for a non-addictive opioid to replace heroin. Heroin was marketed by Bayer in the 1890s and was one of the first drugs released, but it was found to be wildly addictive. Scientists went on to develop oxycodone to avoid the risk of addiction, and the first documented use of oxycodone was in 1917.​​​2 Unfortunately, oxycodone proved to have similar addictive properties, and the history of its danger can be dated back to the 1960s.

The abuse of oxycodone has been an ongoing problem since the early 1960s, when the government classified it as a Schedule II drug. When the long-acting version of oxycodone was introduced to the market in 1996, concerns about illicit abuse began to increase, and now abuse of drugs has spread across the country and trickling down to other opioids.

Why is Oxycodone Used?

Pain is a signal sent by the nervous system to alert you that something is wrong. Pain can take on a number of different characteristics and is not the same for every person.

The most common feelings include:3

  • A prick
  • Tingle
  • Sting
  • Burn
  • Ache

Pain can often be an important symptom to help doctors diagnose a health problem. In most instances, once the cause of the pain is treated, it will also go away.

Typically, oxycodone is prescribed to treat a pain symptom that does not last for a long time. This can include things like after surgery care, injury, and arthritis. There are cases where a patient will need to take medication for an extended period of time, like treating cancer pain or chronic pain. Though patients taking opioids for a long time get the most press for being at risk of becoming addicted, it has been seen that patients can develop addiction in as short as five days of drug use.4

Chronic Pain

In a few instances, people can experience pain that lasts a long time and can cause severe problems. This is referred to as chronic pain. There are a number of different options to treat pain, but the most common treatment is an opioid like oxycodone.

Disability is a term used to describe a number of medical conditions, but those who experience chronic pain are included in this definition. Patients who are disabled by pain are more likely to be exposed to opioid treatments, and can then be at risk for becoming addicted.

Medications with Oxycodone

There are a number of medications that have oxycodone contained within them. These formulations are typically used to provide synergy to treat pain as well as reduce the amount of oxycodone that a patient uses. Because of the addictive nature of oxycodone, all of the medications that contain it will be classified as a Schedule II drug. A Schedule II drug will have the most restrictions with regard to a doctor prescribing it as well as a pharmacy dispending it.

Oxycodone and Aspirin

Oxycodone is also combined with aspirin. The following medications combine the two:

  • Percodan
  •  Endodan
  • Oxycodan

Oxycodone and Ibuprofen

Combunox combines oxycodone with ibuprofen.

Oxycodone and Acetaminophen

Oxycodone is commonly combined with acetaminophen. The following medications combine the two:

  • Oxycet
  • Percocet
  • Roxicet
  • Primlev
  • Endocet
  • Xartemis XR
  • Xolox
  • Tylox
  • Roxilox

In addition to these products providing another medication to help reduce pain symptoms, it is also convenient for the patient to only have to take one tablet instead of two.

The majority of oxycodone is removed from the body within 4-6 hours, so it is typically dosed around the same time as needed to control pain.5 This need for multiple doses throughout the day led to the development of an extended release product called OxyContin.

OxyContin was specially developed to have two different release characteristics. Part of the dose will release quickly like a normal oxycodone tablet, and then the second part will release slowly and over a long period of time. When this medication is taken as prescribed, it reduces the potential for gaps in treatment and for patients to experience spikes in pain.6 These tablets have historically been manipulated to release the drug all at once, which has made opiate use disorder a public health issue.

Oxycodone Side Effects

There are a number of possible side effects that people can experience when they take opioid medications.

The side effects that are more commonly seen when taking oxycodone include:

  • Constipation
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry Mouth
  • Pin-Point Pupils

The less common effects that are seen include:

  • Anorexia
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Rash
  • Anxiety
  • Abnormal Dreams

Side Effects that Worsen with More Use

Some side effects can get worse or more prominent with larger doses. Constipation and drowsiness are the most commonly seen to get worse with higher and more frequent doses. Since constipation is seen often and can become a serious problem, patients should be started on a regimen to ensure this does not occur. It is important that people keep in mind that every time they increase their dose, they may see an increase in issues with bowel health.

Drowsiness itself can be problematic for people who are taking oxycodone chronically, but typically patients will adjust to this side effect as they continue to take their medication. If a person increases their dose or they take too much, they can experience profound drowsiness. If an overdose does occur, a patient can also experience a drop in breathing, which is why oxycodone and other opioids can be so dangerous.

Physical dependence and addiction are also common side effects of using opioid medications, and thus should be treated as such by both patients and providers. It is important that when determining an appropriate treatment, the risk of these side effects must be outweighed by the benefit of pain management.

Oxycodone Addiction

Opioid addiction is a chronic disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems. Addiction is a powerful, compulsive urge to use opioids, even when they are not medically needed. Opioids have a high potential for causing addiction in some people, and this can occur even when they are taken and prescribed appropriately.​​​7

How Does Addiction Occur?

The cause of addiction is complex and is a result of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Researchers have found that some patients have different brain chemistry and thus will react to opioids in different ways. Though this concept has not been completely proven, it is still just a theory in how genetics play a role in patients developing addiction.

Because addiction is a complex issue, not everyone with specific genetic make-up will necessarily develop addiction. This is where environment and lifestyle come into play. Some things that have been found to increase a patient’s chance for developing addiction include a history of depression or other psychiatric disorders, childhood abuse or neglect, and a history of substance abuse. In addition, certain personality traits can make a person more likely to become addicted to opioids, like impulsivity and sensation seeking. It is current belief that these factors interact to determine a patient’s individual risk.

Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

The symptoms of opioid addiction can be physical, behavioral, and psychological in nature. The clearest sign of addiction is that a patient is not able to stop using an opioid, and that it is not being used for a medical reason. Many people are able to use opioids safely without becoming addicted. In most cases, to ensure that you avoid becoming addicted, it is best to restrict use to less than a week.

The physical signs of opioid abuse include:

  • Poor coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow breathing
  • Constipation
  • Slurred speech

The behavioral characteristics of opioid abuse include:

  • Physical agitation
  • Poor decision making
  • Abandoning responsibilities
  • Lowered motivation

The psychological signs of opioid abuse include:

  • Sleeping more or less than normal
  • Mood swings
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety attacks

A doctor or medical professional can help determine if an addiction to opioids is present. Diagnostic testing will involve a medical assessment as well as testing for mental health disorders.

Oxycodone Overdose

Overdosing on an opioid is an emergent medical condition, and it will require immediate attention. If you suspect that someone is suffering an overdose, call 911 immediately.

It is important to keep in mind that overdose is not just a problem for people addicted to street opioids like heroin. An overdose can occur anytime a patient uses an opioid. In most states when an opioid medication is dispensed, the pharmacy will also dispense an opioid antidote called naloxone to ensure immediate treatment if an overdose does occur.

THE SYMPTOMS OF AN OVERDOSE INCLUDE:

  • Unresponsiveness
  • Slow, erratic breathing or no breathing
  • Slow, erratic, or no pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Passing out
  • Small pupils

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

When a patient becomes physically dependent on an opioid,  body changes occur after taking the drug for an extended period of time. When these changes occur, withdrawal symptoms occur when the medication is no longer taken. These symptoms can be mild or severe and are typically patient-dependent. Research has shown that opioid dependence can occur after a month of taking the medication.

Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Shaking
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue

While addiction and overdose are commonly mentioned with oxycodone use, it can still be used safely in patients to treat pain symptoms. It is just important that the patient using the opioid (and all healthcare providers involved) continuously monitor the use and need for the medication.

Oxycodone Addiction Treatment

There is no universal standard treatment for addiction. What works for one person in addiction treatment may or may not work for another. The main goal of treatment is to help stop opioid abuse. In addition, treatment can help to prevent using opioids in the future.

Because of the risk of withdrawal symptoms that occur when opioid use stops, it can be a deterrent. In treatment, medicine can help relieve these symptoms as well as help to curb cravings. The most common medications used to treat opioid addiction include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

Methadone and buprenorphine are used to help with withdrawal symptoms as well as cravings. These agents mimic the way opioids work in the brain to help curb the effects of changes of chemicals in the brain. However, these two medications are different from opioids because they do not produce the same feeling as opioid abuse.

Naltrexone is a medication that is used to help prevent  relapse by counteracting opioids. Naltrexone will prevent any effects from taking an opioid. This is very different from other medications because it will not help with withdrawal symptoms or cravings.

These medications will help with a physical dependence on an opioid, but psychology and behavior also play a role in addiction and will need to be addressed when treating addiction. In most cases,  cognitive behavioral therapy is recommended to alter the psychological and behavioral dependence on opioids.

Finding Help

Oxycodone is an opioid narcotic that is commonly used to treat different types of moderate to severe pain. It works by altering chemicals in the brain to modulate the perception of pain. These drugs can be very powerful, and can help to relieve debilitating pain that some people experience. Even though this medication is effective at treating pain symptoms and providing relief, it does come with a number of side effects that make its use problematic.

Oxycodone has been making news over the last decade because of the increase in addiction, as well as the number of deaths with its use. This medication is a Schedule II drug, which a distinction given by the Food and Drug Administration to indicate that a drug has a high potential for dependence. With the increase in issues due to the addictive nature of narcotic opioids, doctors have become more cautious when prescribing these medications. In addition, people are starting to advocate for different treatment options to treat their pain.

Because of the fallout of opioid medications that has occurred with the opioid crisis, the practice of pain management will continue to change throughout the next few decades. If you or someone you love is struggling with oxycodone use, treatment is available to provide the freedom you are seeking.

Resources

  1. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Oxycodone. University of Maryland. Accessed at: http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/oxycodone.asp#history.
  2. Sneader, W. (2005). Drug discovery: a history. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-471-89980-8.
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019). Pain. Medline Plus. Accessed at: https://medlineplus.gov/pain.html.
  4. Reinberg, S. (2017). Opioid Dependence Can Start in Just a Few Days. HealthDay News. Accessed at: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20170316/opioid-dependence-can-start-in-just-a-few-days#1.
  5. Oxycodone [package insert]. (1950). Genus Lifescience Inc. Accessed at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2018/200535s014s015lbl.pdf.
  6. OxyContin {pachage insert]. (2009). Purdue Pharma. Accessed at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/020553s060lbl.pdf.
  7. National Institute of Health. (2018). Opioid Addiction. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed at: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/opioid-addiction.