Oxycodone is one of the most abused prescription pills in the United States right now. Oxycodone abuse plays a key role in the current opioid epidemic, resulting in more deaths per year in recent years than any other drug to have ever entered America’s mainstream, including heroin.
Many seek oxycodone for its notorious high, opting for the “clean” and socially acceptable version of heroin. Because this drug is allowed by the U.S. government and is regularly prescribed, there is inevitably a constant flow of oxycodone into the mainstream population.
While oxycodone is a powerful and effective painkiller that can be used to treat patients after surgery or injury, it often leads to physical dependence or even a gripping addiction. Even if the user wants to break the addiction and return to normal life, the oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can make it seem impossible to do.
Yet, this drug continues to be prescribed to the general public over and over again.
Though it is a controlled substance, prescription opioids are more prevalent than ever.
To better understand the signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction, as well as the difficult withdrawal symptoms, we have written a guide for you here.
What is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a semisynthetic opioid that is the primary ingredient in powerful painkillers used for pain relief. It is used to treat severe pain and is highly addictive. This semisynthetic opioid is similar to heroin, codeine, and morphine and is a Schedule II drug, according to the Controlled Substances Act.
The most common brand name drugs that use an oxycodone base are Percocet, OxyContin, and Roxicodone. Percocet is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen for the treatment of chronic pain.
OxyContin is the most commonly prescribed oxycodone-based drug and provides a longer-sustained high due to its controlled-release tablets.
Roxicodone is an intense drug that provides almost immediate relief, making it the preferred oxycodone-based drug for surgery prep. Depending on the doctor, it could also be used to calm the patient prior to surgery.
Whatever the reason to prescribe the drug, the threat of physical dependence is extremely high.
Because many of the prescription opioids come in the form of extended-release tablets, users who seek to abuse the drug prefer to crush the pills up for snorting or injection. The effects of oxycodone can be felt more immediately. This, however, increases the likelihood of an oxycodone overdose.
Oxycodone vs. Hydrocodone
Oxycodone is in many powerful pain relievers to treat short-term pain. It is also used to treat chronic pain, though this increases the risk of physical dependency.
Hydrocodone is another powerful opioid derivative that is used in many mainstream pain relievers, such as Vicodin or Norco.
Both drugs impact the Central Nervous System (CNS) by preventing pain signals from reaching the brain. These CNS depressants indeed block pain signals, as well as many other signals that are necessary for optimal functioning. This lack of brain signals is what results in the “high” that many users experience.
The side effects of oxycodone are similar to the side effects of hydrocodone:
- Respiratory depression
- Dry mouth
- Intracranial pressure
Oxycodone Side Effects and Symptoms
Initially, oxycodone can provide immense relief from severe pain. Extended-release tablets help patients avoid intense side effects that would otherwise be uncomfortable. Even so, many experience negative side effects of oxycodone, even though it helps with chronic pain management. Many of the side effects and symptoms are:
- Dry mouth
- Abnormal thoughts
- Irritability when not on the drug
As users cross over into an addiction, certain behavioral and physical changes will indicate that there is an addiction-forming. Many of these changes include:
- Dilated pupils
- Lack of hygiene
- Becoming secretive
- Having multiple prescription bottles from different doctors or pharmacies
- Driving under the influence
How Long Does Oxycodone Stay in Your System?
Oxycodone has a half-life of 3.5 to 5.5 hours. This means that it can take that amount of time to move through your system, though it can take up to 20 hours to be completely out of your system.
While the half-life is a good indicator of how long a person can expect to experience the effects of oxycodone, it also greatly depends on the individual. Metabolic rate, liver health, and current drug profile can all impact the rate at which oxycodone moves through the body.
Depending on the dose of oxycodone, it can be detected for varying amounts of time, depending on when and how the user is tested:
- Saliva – can be detected within 15 to 30 minutes and can be detected up to 4 days afterward
- Blood – can be detected within 15 to 30 minutes and can be detected for up to a day afterward
- Urine – can be detected within 2 hours and for up to 4 days afterward
- Hair – can be detected within 5 days and for up to 90 days afterward
Any opioid withdrawal will follow a similar path with moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms. Just like with heroin and morphine, oxycodone abuse results in intense, negative symptoms that can make the withdrawal process incredibly painful.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Thoughts of suicide
- Inability to concentrate
- Body aches
- Runny nose
Though opioid withdrawal symptoms are often attributed to an oxycodone addiction, they can also occur for patients who followed the dose as prescribed by their doctor. As many patients naturally try to wean off of the drug, they may realize that the withdrawal symptoms are too unbearable. Many opt to increase their dose instead in order to combat their withdrawal symptoms. This can lead to an oxycodone overdose, respiratory depression, or death.
For these reasons, this controlled substance is exceptionally dangerous for the general public.
Get Oxycodone Addiction Treatment
If you find yourself or a loved one experiencing any of the above signs and symptoms, then you must receive professional oxycodone addiction treatment. Though it is possible to break the addiction on your own, it is extremely dangerous.