Signs of Oxycodone Addiction and Abuse
The use of opioid medication for managing chronic pain has changed the life of millions of sufferers. However, the unforeseen circumstance of taking this powerful medication for the long term has led to an epidemic of oxycodone abuse. This medication and other opiate-based prescription drugs have made headlines over the past 10 years or so, but how much is known about this drug and the signs of oxycodone addiction and abuse in those who use it?
How Does Oxycodone Abuse and Dependence Happen?
Oxycodone abuse is one of the biggest health problems in the United States today, claiming 130 lives every day due to overdose. Dependence is indicated when the body needs the drug just to function normally, and addiction means that a substance abuser will continue to seek out and use drugs regardless of any adverse effects on their life. These conditions can be present at the same time, but someone isn’t necessarily addicted to a drug they’re dependent on to function.
When drugs pass the brain’s barrier after being released into the bloodstream, the opioids bond to one of three receptors in the brain, the mu, delta or kappa opioid receptors. Although these areas are interrelated, and anyone can be activated by oxycodone use, the main receptor for reacting with opiates is the mu-opioid receptor. This immediately releases a flood of dopamine, increasing a sense of euphoria and well-being.
Soon, the brain relies on this outside stimulation to control the release of endorphins that are responsible for pleasure, reward-seeking, and pain management. It takes detox and abstinence from drugs to restore the brain to normal function without the aid of illicit drugs.
What Are the Signs of Oxycodone Addiction?
The signs of oxycodone addiction are similar to those of other forms of opioids, and the results of addiction to any of them can be just as deadly.
The drug is either taken by mouth as a tablet or capsule, depending on the formulation, or it can be crushed and snorted or mixed with water and injected. Some of the newer abuse-resistant formulations make the latter two methods of use more difficult.
Oxycodone Addiction Symptoms May Include:
- Increased cravings for the drug
- Secretive or illegal behavior to obtain or use the drug
- Irritability, paranoia, or defensiveness when asked about drug use
- Financial or legal problems related to drug use
- Flu-like withdrawal symptoms when unable to obtain the drug
- Missing time from work
- Forgetting appointments or shirking responsibilities
Some of the signs of oxycodone addiction or abuse are interrelated with the effects of oxycodone.
What Are Some Side Effects of Oxycodone?
The effects of oxycodone could be divided into two categories: desirable effects and unwanted or dangerous side effects. The positive effects of using oxycodone are the pleasurable euphoria and absence of pain. It also causes deep relaxation and freedom from stress or worries at first.
However, when one develops a tolerance for the drug, these effects disappear or decrease, leading to increasing dosages in an attempt to feel good again.
The negative oxycodone side effects are those that cause health and behavioral problems or brain dysfunction. These include some of the effects of withdrawal. These can vary from person to person, and they depend on the individual’s experience with the drug, length, and level of use, and metabolism.
Negative Side Effects Include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Slowed reactions and confusion
- Extreme drowsiness
These symptoms can appear even when someone is taking a legal prescription at the proper dosage, and they usually disappear when they stop taking their medication. When use is heavy or prolonged, there are additional effects and possible health problems.
Short-Term Effects of Using Oxycodone
Some medications that contain oxycodone are meant to be taken in the short term for acute but severe pain. These include Percocet and generic pain medications. Others, like OxyContin, are indicated for severe, chronic pain, and they’re meant to be taken for long-term relief. The amount and severity of long- and short-term effects takes these factors into consideration.
The most common are:
- Shallow breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Blurred vision
- Vivid dreams and sleep disturbances
Long-Term Effects of Oxycodone Use
Taking any drug for a long period of time can lead to problems, and oxycodone is no different. These effects can become more severe when oxycodone abuse is a contributing factor, but they can happen even with regulated prescriptions and doctor supervision.
Some long-term effects may be irreversible or even fatal.
Look out for:
- Impaired memory and confusion
- Heart or liver problems
- Chronic constipation
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Poor coordination
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Swollen limbs
- Pressure buildup in the spinal fluid
If continued unchecked or the symptoms worsen, it can lead to seizures, liver failure. coma, or death.
How Long Does Oxycodone Stay in Your System?
The purpose of pain medications is to keep a consistent level in the bloodstream to manage pain and keep from over-medicating. While this is good for pain management as long as the medication is taken under a doctor’s care, there are several times when this can be a problem.
For example, not knowing how long the medication remains in the system could lead to overdose if someone is taking an extended-release formula like OxyContin. It can also be a concern when someone is entering a rehabilitation program and they’re worried about withdrawal symptoms. Another time when it would be nice to have some guidelines is when being drug tested for employment or legal reasons.
Fast release or standard doses begin to work within 5 – 30 minutes, and the initial effects can be felt for up to six hours. Extended-release medications take about the same amount of time to start working, but they last for up to 12 hours. However, they can be detected in the blood for 24 hours, in urine for up to four days, and found in hair follicles for 90 days. Factors like age, the percentage of body fat, kidney and liver health, and dosage can affect these times.
Using prescription narcotic analgesic medications can improve the quality of life for those living with chronic conditions when they’re taken as directed. However, powerful opiates also carry a high risk of abuse. Knowing the signs of oxycodone addiction and seeking treatment early may save the life of someone who’s suffering the effects of drug misuse. Call Stepping Stone Center today at 866.957.4960 to get started on the path to recovery.