Oxycodone and Addiction
Oxycodone is a prescription opioid medication used to treat pain. Doctors rely on it because it is highly effective for treating both severe short-term and chronic pain. When used according to instructions, it’s a valuable part of recovery from injury or surgery. However, opioids are so effective because they significantly affect our brains.
Individuals who are treated with opioids are susceptible to misusing them because they are highly addictive. You may find yourself on a slippery slope between managing your pain and developing dependence on the medication.
Cases of opioid addiction transcend geography, age, and socioeconomic background. Oxycodone is a potent analgesic that heavily affects the nervous system. According to the CDC, more than 11.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids in 2016.
Oxycodone addiction often develops insidiously because of its medical use. What begins as a treatment for pain may subtly transfer into an addiction that dramatically alters your life. Vigilance and honesty are vital to spotting the signs of opioid addiction in yourself or a loved one.
Regardless of how your oxycodone use began, remember that opioid addiction is a rampant issue that society is working to confront. The national conversation has evolved, now recognizing the serious risk posed by prescription opioids. While the extent of opioid addiction is vast, it’s allowed the development of effective treatment protocols and recovery plans for individuals dealing with addiction to pain medication.
How Does Oxycodone Affect the Body?
Oxycodone is the generic name for a class of opioid analgesics. These medications are derived from poppy and synthesized into capsules or liquid designed to manage acute or chronic pain. The most common brand names are Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet. Other pain medications may contain opioids, so it’s important to understand what your doctor prescribes. Our nerves, which carry messages between the brain and every part of our body, are responsible for pain signals. When an individual has severe or chronic pain, prescription opioids are often ordered to improve quality of life and allow them to perform daily activities.
Nerves communicate with each other with chemical bonds on certain parts of their structure called receptors. Neurotransmitters are chemicals the body produces that augment these messages. Endorphins are the neurotransmitter responsible for pain messaging. Opioids relieve pain by attaching to these receptors, disrupting signals, and altering the body’s response to the pain messages.
As a byproduct of their attachment, opioids increase dopamine levels in certain parts of the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for boosting your mood. Activating the dopamine response tells the body it wants more oxycodone to keep the response going. For some people, opioids create a euphoric feeling that their brains begin to crave. This makes an individual more susceptible to addiction. The chance of oxycodone addiction multiplies the longer you use opioids. Over time, the brain may even stop producing dopamine because oxycodone provides a steady supply. Addiction occurs rapidly because dopamine is vital to our ongoing function. Addiction occurs when an individual begins seeking opioids and using them outside of their intended medical function. Oftentimes, patients may request refills for their oxycodone once their pain has resolved because they crave the euphoria caused by the dopamine surge.
What Happens When You’re Addicted to Opioids?
Any substance taken for an extended period will lead to tolerance and then dependence. It does not matter if it’s coffee or prescription narcotics. Over time, an individual will require greater amounts of the substance to achieve the same effect. Your body will adapt to the oxycodone. As your tolerance rises, the body becomes dependent on opioids. Unlike coffee, opioids activate the part of the brain that controls positive reinforcement.
Once you’re dependent, all of your normal body processes will continue, but you’ll require the presence of oxycodone to maintain your homeostasis, or natural balance. Dependence becomes an addiction once neither your mind nor body can function without oxycodone. This can happen rapidly because of opioids’ direct interaction with the central nervous system and the fact oxycodone was initially ordered to treat a medical condition.
Signs You May Have an Addiction
Addiction will present differently in each individual, but some universal benchmarks indicate an oxycodone user is addicted. Generally speaking, if you question your use of opioids, you are likely dealing with addiction.
All the signs do not need to be present for an individual to have an addiction. Self-examination and evaluating your use of oxycodone are most important. Addiction causes physical, psychological, and behavioral changes.
One of the telltale signs of addiction is elevated tolerance to oxycodone. The body’s need for higher doses of the opioid can have detrimental impacts on your health. The greater dosage intensifies the side effects.
As with any substance, oxycodone carries the risk of side effects. Individuals who develop an addiction may experience the side effects more frequently, or they may progressively worsen. Coping with these side effects to continue using further indicates addiction. Possible side-effects include:
- Drowsiness, fatigue, and insomnia
- Increased sweating
- Decreased appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Abnormal thoughts and dreams
- Confusion, agitation, and hallucinations
- Slowed breathing
Addicted individuals will experience withdrawal symptoms when they reduce or discontinue their use of oxycodone. You may suffer muscle aches and cramps, sweating, dilated pupils, chills, insomnia, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting during withdrawal. This indicates the body has become dependent on oxycodone to maintain its normal function. The symptoms occur because your body is recalibrating to the absence of opioids from your system.
Withdrawal is traumatic on the body and can be dangerous. If you’ve already experienced withdrawal symptoms when trying to reduce your oxycodone use, it is important to seek assistance. Detoxifying is necessary for recovery, but it must be done in a safe and monitored environment.
Opioids often become an all-consuming focus and dominate a person’s thoughts once they become dependant. If you cannot stop and feel compelled to take oxycodone even though you believe it creates adversity in your life or affects your overall health, you’re likely experiencing addiction.
Misusing oxycodone is a hallmark sign of addiction. Doctors often prescribe oxycodone for short-term use to treat post-operative pain or manage pain from an injury. If you take oxycodone more frequently or in a larger dose than your physician prescribes, you may have or be developing an addiction. The National Institutes of Health estimates that about 1 in 4 individuals prescribed the medication for chronic pain misuse it.
Once addicted, individuals sometimes undergo dramatic personality changes. Oxycodone can cause depression, anhedonia, and malaise. Others experience paranoia and anxiety. You may feel detached from your life and unmotivated. This can lead to issues with employment and familial responsibilities. Feeling stress or anxiety about either your oxycodone use or your ability to obtain oxycodone may indicate that your use has led to addiction. Oxycodone is a controlled substance that must be prescribed by a doctor. Individuals grappling through addiction may deceive or mislead medical personnel to continue receiving prescriptions.
Those dealing with addiction continue using oxycodone despite knowing they’re putting themselves or others at risk. Addicted individuals may continue their use even if they’ve experienced negative life circumstances because of their use. Legal trouble, unfulfilled professional and school commitments, or withdrawing from family because of oxycodone use are all possible for addicted individuals.
Addiction is highlighted by centering your life around oxycodone. Devoting a majority of your time to planning and sustaining your acquisition and use of oxycodone indicates a problem with your use. Preoccupation with and craving oxycodone to the point it disrupts your personal life, work or school, or hobbies that you previously enjoyed is typical of addiction. Individuals with addiction often neglect themselves and their relationships to prioritize oxycodone. Orienting your life around use and hiding your consumption from family and friends is common. Lying to or avoiding people in your life to conceal your oxycodone use is a frequent occurrence for those living with addiction. You may be concerned they will oppose your use or ask you to stop.
Oftentimes, shifts in someone’s appearance and grooming signal addiction. Oxycodone becomes such a preoccupation that people appear disheveled and neglect their personal hygiene.
The Risks of Oxycodone Addiction
Addiction is a treatable condition. Addressing opioid use disorder is important to prevent physical and psychological harm. Opioids depress your central nervous system. As a person’s body adjusts to oxycodone, their risk of inadvertently harming themselves or others increases. Improper consumption can cause shallow breathing and shortness of breath. Altered respiration affects every other bodily system as they are deprived of oxygen. Respiratory arrest is possible for individuals who overdose on oxycodone.
Oxycodone addiction can also lead to abusing other opioids. While oxycodone is an FDA-regulated substance, individuals may turn to illicit narcotics in pursuit of the same effects. Heroin and fentanyl belong to the opioid family and have the same dopamine-boosting effect as oxycodone. They can be easier to obtain than prescription medication.
Treatment and Recovery
Anyone with a prescription for oxycodone is at risk for addiction. The prevalence of oxycodone use disorder is a testament to the substance’s inadvertent intoxicating effects and difficulty to wean oneself off the medication. Assessing your behavior and relationship with oxycodone is the first step to recovery.
Combatting oxycodone addiction appears daunting because of the strong physical effects and mental hold of opioids. However, clinicians have developed and refined treatment modalities to meet the unique challenge of conquering addiction. Granite Recovery Centers embraces a holistic approach that tailors treatment plans with counseling, psychotherapy, 12-step programs, group therapy, and aftercare planning to address clients’ needs during and following rehabilitation treatment.