A commonly prescribed painkiller for moderate to severe pain, oxycodone is an opioid analgesic and related to other similar narcotics, including heroin and morphine. Though its pain-relieving qualities are highly effective, users can quickly become addicted to oxycodone and develop a strong dependence on it.
Many times oxycodone formulas combine other pain relievers – like Percocet or OxyContin. There has been an exponential increase in the number of oxycodone prescriptions in the past 25 years – which also coincides with the uptick in prescription drug dependencies and admittance to treatment and recovery centers for oxycodone addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported that 81% of the world’s oxycodone consumption takes place within the United States. And recent reports from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that the most represented age group of oxycodone abusers are ages 18 to 25 (9.9%) versus only 6% for ages 26+.
In 2012, admissions to rehab treatment centers for opiate addiction hovered around 305,000, with 50,481 of those admissions because of oxycodone addiction. NIDA’s Monitoring the Future Survey has found that 1 in every 30 high school students has abused OxyContin (oxycodone extended release tablets). And the use of prescription drugs, such as OxyContin, for non-medical purposes is on the rise – nearly half a million users per month. And when considered over one’s lifetime, the statistics are even more harrowing: nearly 7 million people in the United States (ages 12+) have reported using oxycodone (OxyContin) for non-medical purposes at some point in their lives.
Why is oxycodone abuse such a concern? Beyond the medical and psychological symptoms that coincide with oxycodone addiction, oxycodone is often the gateway drug to more serious illicit street drugs, like heroin.
What Happens When You Abuse Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is an opioid receptor agonist – taking the drug increases dopamine levels in the brain – producing euphoric effects and easing pain. The drug is found in varying forms:
- OxyContin – this is pure oxycodone within extended release tablets – providing pain relief over a steady 12-hour period
- OxyIR/OxyFast – these are fast release oxycodone prescriptions
- Percodan – a combination of oxycodone and aspirin
- Percocet – a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen
The overarching purpose of oxycodone products is to relieve moderate to severe pain. The drug releases muscular tension, produces feelings of euphoria, and provides mental relaxation. Unfortunately, oxycodone can also cause severe dependence and addiction.
Oxycodone affects your dopamine levels – and these dopamine levels are, in part, the reason for such a strong addiction to oxycodone. Dopamine is tied to your brain’s reward center and when the brain is rewarded, it seeks more of the reward. Over time, a tolerance is built up and the person needs more and more oxycodone to produce the desired effects that they are seeking. And if the user does not get their hands on additional oxycodone, the signs of oxycodone abuse and addiction start to shine through.
Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction
What can you expect from someone with an oxycodone addiction? Some of the first cues that someone is suffering from an oxycodone addiction is in their behaviors. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are 11 signs of an oxycodone addiction. Some of the most common include:
- Lying or stealing to get their hands on oxycodone
- Being neglectful to one’s job or family because of preoccupation with oxycodone
- Losing interest in activities that once provided excitement
- Trying to obtain more oxycodone in a deceitful manner (doctor shopping, forging prescriptions, providing false medical histories)
- Abusing the drug even if it is not needed and/or you don’t have the money to afford it
Once oxycodone abusers have undergone full addiction, a number of physical signs and symptoms will also become readily visible:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Low blood pressure
- Lowered respiratory rates
- Dry mouth
- Constricted or dilated pupils
- Slurred speech
- Short attention span
- Blurred vision
Long-term abuse of oxycodone products (including OxyContin and Percocet) can cause a number of severe and debilitating conditions:
- Liver damage
- Heart failure
- Swelling in the limbs
- Increased pressure of the spinal fluid
A Schedule II drug on the Drug Enforcement Agency ( DEA)’s Controlled Substance List, oxycodone is used for medical purposes but it also highly addictive. OxyContin is one of the most often abused oxycodone products. Because of the significant increase in OxyContin abuse, the government sought to put regulations on the drug manufacturer. Specifically:
- The pharmaceutical company was required to cease all production of the strongest 160mg tablets
- The drug manufacturer increased the difficulty to crush or dissolve OxyContin tablets to minimize the ability for drug abusers to experience the full rush of OxyContin at one time.
Oxycodone Treatment Facilities
While there seems to be a slight decrease in oxycodone abuse in recent years, the need for rehabilitation, treatment, and recovery is significant. Once addicted to oxycodone, the addict must continue to get doses of the drug or else withdrawal symptoms will settle in:
- Extreme pain sensitivity
- Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., upset stomach)
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling cold/shivering
The first step in most drug treatment programs is to go through a week long detox program to flush your body from the oxycodone drug. The best detox programs are done under medical supervision – not only to continuously assess your vital signs but also to be able to provide additional medications to ease the signs and symptoms of withdrawal.
After detox, oxycodone addicts can enter either inpatient or outpatient rehab treatment and recovery centers. The main focus of all treatment and recovery centers is on living a life free from oxycodone dependence. In inpatient rehab treatment facilities, oxycodone addicts live onsite – with the programs lasting an average of 30 days. The purpose of staying onsite within an inpatient oxycodone rehab center is to participate in daily counseling and therapy sessions (both individual and group) away from the stressors of everyday life. While the oxycodone addict is learning ways to refocus his or her mindset from the drug, the individual is not having to worry about everyday triggers enticing them to ingest the drug.
Outpatient oxycodone rehab and treatment centers are utilize intensive therapy and counseling to reshape addicts beliefs and learning ways to cope without drug dependence. The difference in these types of rehab and treatment centers is that oxycodone addicts still live at home during the recovery process. Sometimes outpatient oxycodone rehab programs are used in conjunction with inpatient programs – as a continuum of sorts. After patients leave inpatient treatment facilities, they might continue to attend outpatient rehab meetings to gain support and continue a life drug free.
Finding an Oxycodone Treatment Center
One of the things people who are seeking oxycodone rehab and treatment facilities worry about the most is the cost. Inpatient treatment centers are not cheap, but compared to the alternate (oxycodone addiction), they are a bargain.
All treatment centers are different, so cost will differ as well – based on location and type of rehab. Most rehab centers accept insurance or generous payment plans. Less likely, but still available, are government grants to fund a stay at an oxycodone rehab center.
As stated above – rehab from oxycodone occurs in three stages:
- Substance Abuse Therapy
While both detox and substance abuse therapy typically occur in an inpatient facility, aftercare (continued counseling and therapy sessions) typically occur within an outpatient rehab and treatment center or through local support groups (like 12-step programs).
Location, in response to treatment, has no real effects on recovery – though, if you feel more comfortable going far away from home or completing rehab around the corner from your house – you should do what feels right to you.
Rehab does not cure addiction, rather manages it throughout the lifetime. Relapse is okay – it just means that your current path to recovery needs some adjusting to stay on course. Remember, no matter the cost of the rehab, the cost of living a lifetime as an oxycodone addict is far more expensive. Seek help today.