September 5th, 2023
The opioid epidemic has affected countless lives, and many experts trace its origins back to oxycodone suddenly becoming widely available in 1995. In particular, critics believe that the FDA’s failure to check the addictive potential of OxyContin, a novel extended-release form of oxycodone, led to widespread abuse and sparked the crisis which has now engulfed North America and other parts of the world. Oxycodone addiction now affects millions of people worldwide, including in the UK, and once you are caught in its grips, it can be incredibly difficult to fight your way to freedom. Fortunately, effective help can help you overcome oxycodone addiction and take back control of your life.
What is oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a powerful prescription opioid analgesic that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. It works by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, altering the way your brain perceives pain and creating a sense of euphoria. Oxycodone is often prescribed after surgery or for chronic pain conditions, and when taken as prescribed, it can be a highly effective pain management tool. Oxycodone is available in various forms, including liquid solutions, immediate-release and extended-release tablets and under different brand names, such as OxyContin, Percocet and Roxicodone.
Nonetheless, the euphoria-inducing properties and extremely addictive characteristics of oxycodone render it susceptible to misuse. Countless individuals initiate recreational use or self-medicate to cope with emotional or psychological distress. Such misuse of oxycodone, whether obtained without a proper prescription or consumed in non-prescribed methods (like crushing and snorting extended-release pills for immediate effects), significantly heightens the dangers of addiction, overdose, and severe health complications.
What happened with OxyContin?
The OxyContin story is a cautionary tale that demonstrates the dangerous consequences of inadequate drug testing and oversight. When the FDA approved OxyContin in 1995, Purdue Pharma, the drug’s manufacturer, claimed that its extended-release formulation would provide effective pain relief with a lower risk of opioid addiction compared to other opioids. However, the drug was not adequately tested for its addictive potential despite Purdue aggressively marketing it as a safer alternative. This marketing strategy fueled a rapid rise in prescriptions and an alarming increase in oxycodone addiction and overdose deaths.
Years later, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler admitted that the FDA’s approval process for OxyContin was flawed and that the agency had failed to anticipate the drug’s devastating consequences. Many experts agreed with him, with some even believing that the opioid crisis could have been prevented if the FDA had demanded more rigorous testing and a more cautious approach to marketing.
Oxycodone 101: Did you know…?
- In 2021, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-related overdoses, including those involving Oxycodone. The number in the UK in the same year was 2,219.
- Oxycodone addiction has been a significant part of the opioid epidemic in the United States. This epidemic has been driven, in part, by the over-prescription and availability of opioids, leading to an increase in misuse and addiction rates.
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 80% of individuals who use heroin first misused prescription opioids like oxycodone.
- Oxycodone’s half-life is around 3.2 hours, depending on the individual and formulation.
- In 2019, only 18.1% of people in the United States aged 12 or older who needed addiction treatment for prescription pain reliever misuse received it.
What is oxycodone addiction?
Oxycodone addiction is a form of prescription drug addiction, which involves compulsive and uncontrollable use of oxycodone even though it is causing you problems. It is important to recognise that oxycodone addiction signs can be subtle, and a person may not appear to be struggling on the surface.
Some common oxycodone addiction signs include:
- Taking higher doses of oxycodone than prescribed or using the drug more frequently
- The inability to control or reduce oxycodone use despite attempts to do so
- Neglecting personal responsibilities or withdrawing from social activities in order to seek, take or recover from oxycodone
- Doctor shopping to obtain multiple oxycodone prescriptions
- Spending significant time and resources acquiring oxycodone
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop or reduce oxycodone use
If you or someone you know is exhibiting these oxycodone addiction symptoms, you should seek professional assistance.
How do you become addicted to oxycodone?
Oxycodone addiction can develop in various ways. The following are the stories of three fictional characters who become addicted to oxycodone under different circumstances. While these characters are not real, their paths to oxycodone addiction are very common:
Jane – Oxycodone addiction through prescription use
Jane, a dedicated marathon runner, faced the unthinkable when a devastating knee injury left her needing surgery. Her doctor prescribed oxycodone to manage her post-operative pain. Initially, she adhered to the prescription, but as her tolerance grew, she found herself taking increasingly higher doses to relieve her pain. Eventually, Jane became dependent on oxycodone and continued taking it long after her prescription had ended.
Mark – Oxycodone addiction through recreational use
Mark, a thrill-seeking 30-year-old, found himself caught up in the party scene, constantly searching for new experiences. One night, a friend introduced him to oxycodone, and he was instantly captivated by the euphoric high it offered. What started as an occasional indulgence quickly spiralled out of control, with Mark needing to take oxycodone every day to feel “normal” and avoid withdrawal.
Sarah – Oxycodone addiction through self-medication
Sarah had been silently battling anxiety and depression for years and stumbled upon a bottle of Oxycodone in her friend’s medicine cabinet. Desperate for relief from her emotional turmoil, she decided to try it. The drug’s soothing effects provided a temporary escape from her mental anguish, and she soon found herself self-medicating with increasing frequency. As her reliance on Oxycodone intensified, Sarah ultimately succumbed to oxycodone addiction which made the symptoms of her anxiety and depression worse.
What causes oxycodone addiction?
Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing an oxycodone addiction:
- Genetics: People with a family history of addiction are more likely to develop a substance use disorder, including oxycodone addiction.
- Mental health disorders: Those with underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, may be more prone to self-medicating with oxycodone increasing their risk of oxycodone addiction.
- Prior substance abuse: A history of substance abuse, especially with other opioids, can predispose a person to oxycodone addiction.
- Chronic pain: Patients who suffer from chronic pain may be more susceptible to addiction if they are prescribed oxycodone for an extended period.
- Social environment: Exposure to oxycodone use within your social circle or environment can increase the risk of addiction.
- Accessibility: Easy access to oxycodone, whether through a prescription or illicit sources, can contribute to addiction.
- Lack of knowledge: A lack of understanding about the addictive potential of oxycodone can lead to misuse and eventual addiction.
- Early exposure: Using drugs, including oxycodone, at a young age increases the risk of developing an addiction later in life.
How does oxycodone addiction impact health?
Oxycodone addiction can lead to numerous health effects, including:
- Depression or mania
- Respiratory depression
- Nausea and vomiting
- Liver damage (when combined with acetaminophen)
- Increased risk of infections (from sharing needles)
- Hormonal imbalances
- Weakened immune system
- Sleep disturbances
What is oxycodone overdose?
An Oxycodone overdose is a critical medical emergency that occurs when an individual ingests a dose of the drug beyond the body’s capacity to process it safely. This excessive consumption can lead to severe health complications and even death if not promptly addressed. Oxycodone, like other opioids, affects the central nervous system and can depress breathing, leading to respiratory failure when taken in high doses.
Signs of an Oxycodone overdose can include:
- Shallow, slow, or stopped breathing
- Pinpoint pupils
- Loss of consciousness
- Cold, clammy skin
It is crucial to recognise the signs of an Oxycodone overdose and seek emergency medical help immediately, as timely intervention can mean the difference between life and death.
What are the other effects of oxycodone addiction?
In addition to health effects, oxycodone addiction can lead to other negative consequences, such as:
- Strained relationships with family and friends
- Financial difficulties due to the cost of maintaining an oxycodone addiction
- Legal troubles resulting from illegal oxycodone possession, supply or drug-related criminal activities
- Loss of employment or educational opportunities
- Social isolation
- Abuse and addiction to other opioids, including heroin and fentanyl, if oxycodone is unavailable
How can you recover from oxycodone addiction?
Effective oxycodone addiction treatment requires a comprehensive treatment plan that includes detoxification and rehabilitation.
Oxycodone detox involves the safe and medically supervised removal of oxycodone from the body to break physical dependence. This is often assisted with certain medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
Oxycodone rehab provides therapy, counselling and additional support to address the underlying causes of oxycodone addiction and develop healthy coping skills for long-term sobriety.
How to get help for oxycodone addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with oxycodone addiction, it’s crucial to seek help as soon as possible. Oasis Runcorn offers compassionate, evidence-based care for people grappling with oxycodone addiction. Don’t let oxycodone addiction control your life. Reach out to us today and take the first step toward a brighter future.