Oxycodone is a semisynthetic opioid synthesized from thebaine, which is an opioid alkaloid found in the Persian poppy. It is a moderately potent opioid analgesic that acts on the central nervous system and is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It blocks pain receptors that produce euphoric feelings by altering the levels of dopamine in the brain.
Oxycodone was known as dihydroxycodeinone or eukodal, and was first developed in Germany in 1917 in the attempt to improve several other semi-synthetic opioids. This is usually administered in a round-the-clock treatment rather than on an as-needed basis.
Oxycodone is available in single-ingredient medication in both immediate and controlled release. It is available in the following dosage form:
- Tablet, extended release
It is also available in combination with other non-narcotic analgesics such as aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen. Naloxone is used to reverse respiratory opioid depression in oxycodone overdose. When oxycodone is combined with other drugs, they are known with the following brand names: OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan and Roxicodone.
In Canada, oxycodone is known using the following brand names:
- APO-Oxycodone CR
- CO oxyCODONE CR
Important Information on Oxycodone
Oxycodone is not recommended for individuals who may be suffering from asthma and other breathing problems or blockage in the stomach or intestines. One of the effects of taking oxycodone is the slowing down of breathing or cessation of breathing upon initial intake as well as when there is a change in the dose.
It is also not recommended to be taken in large amounts or for a longer period of time. It is highly advised that oxycodone should be swallowed in full rather taken as crushed to avoid any potential fatal dose.
Oxycodone intake may be habit-forming, and that is why it is not recommended to share the prescribed drug by the health professional to any other person because of its high risk of being misused or abused that may lead to addiction, overdose or even death.
Oxycodone should never be taken with alcohol because the combination’s side effects can be very fatal. The medication itself can impair your way of thinking and judgment. It is highly advised not to drive or operate machinery because severe drowsiness can cause accidents.
It is important to note that patients who are previously taking other opioid drugs should be stopped. Oxycodone should only be taken with food.
Always make use of the dosing syringe provided when using oxycodone to ensure that the right dosage is taken every time.
It is possible to have similar withdrawal symptoms when using oxycodone for a long time when it is suddenly stopped. It is better to ask the doctor to know what to expect during this phase to be aware on how to handle the unpleasant feeling carried about these withdrawal symptoms.
Keeping track of the amount of medicine used from each bottle is important. Any unused pill should be discarded. Ask your pharmacist where to find a drug take-back program. If there isn’t any, flush any unused pill or liquid down the toilet. This ensures that no one can get hold of this drug to reduce the danger of accidental overdose that may lead to death.
Precautionary Measures Prior to taking Oxycodone
Oxycodone should not be used on patients with:
- An allergy to any narcotic pain medicine or any narcotic cough medicine that contains codeine or hydrocodone.
- Severe asthma or breathing problems
- Blockage in the stomach or intestines
The Effects of Oxycodone Use
Oxycodone is classified under Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which means that it has a currently acceptable medical use with high potential for abuse that may lead to psychological or physical dependence.
Patients who may need to be treated with oxycodone should however not fear of being dependent on the drug despite of it being habit-forming because if oxycodone is taken as prescribed by the health professionals, then there should be no cause for worry.
However, side effects are expected to occur most especially to those who may have an allergy to oxycodone and experience difficulty in breathing and swelling on different parts of the body.
Immediately call a doctor if these symptoms have become evident:
- Light-headed feeling (feel like passing out)
- Infertility, missed periods
- Shallow breathing, slow heartbeat, cold, clammy skin
- Impotence, decreased sexual urges
- Low cortisol levels
- Chest pain
- Extreme drowsiness
- Postural hypotension
Other minor side effects of oxycodone include:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Mood changes
You should immediately seek medical attention if you have symptoms of serotonin syndrome, such as:
- Rapid heart rate
- Muscle stiffness
- Loss of coordination
When oxycodone is taken as prescribed, the following desirable sensations are evident:
- Extreme relaxation
- Reduced anxiety
- Pain relief
Because of the “unusual high” that one may get when taking oxycodone, some have chosen to take it regularly hoping to maintain such feeling of endless happy emotions. You should take note of the following symptoms to know if someone in your family may have succumbed to oxycodone overdose:
- Difficulty breathing
- Slowed or stopped breathing
- Excessive sleepiness
- Cold, clammy skin
- Limp or weak muscle
- Cyanosis (blue color of the skin, fingernails, lips or mouth area)
- Narrowing or widening of pupils
- Loss of consciousness or coma
Long-Term Effects of Oxycodone
As previously stated, oxycodone has both good and bad effects. It is proven to be very effective in managing chronic pain. However, it can cause detrimental psychological and physical dependency.
Earlier studies found out that prolonged use of oxycodone may lead to kidney or liver failure, as well as a decrease in the ability of the brain to adapt to new information. There is a prominent difference with the way of thinking on how an individual taking the drug for a long time.
It poses great danger when oxycodone with acetaminophen is taken with alcohol as it may cause severe liver damage.
Drugs that may affect Oxycodone
Inform your doctor about any other medications you are taking prior to starting with Oxycodone treatment because some medications may pose more dangerous side effects when combined with oxycodone. It is important to mention to your doctor of any over the counter medications you are taking, vitamins and herbal products which may interact with oxycodone.
Statistics on Oxycodone Abuse
It has been estimated by the National Institute on Drug abuse that about 20 percent of the American adult population (12 years and older) have abused a prescription drug.
The most commonly abused drugs are prescription opiates, 75 percent of which are oxycodone. Meanwhile, about 45 percent of drug users prefers oxycodone, based on a report by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
Detox and Withdrawal
Undesirable effects are likely to happen when individuals who have become dependent on a certain drug suddenly stop taking the drug. This is when withdrawal symptoms may occur. Detoxification, on the other hand, is the actual removal of the drug itself from the individual’s system.
It takes about 8-12 hours before the withdrawal symptoms from oxycodone become evident, mostly peaking in the first 72 hours. The symptoms subside in a week although some of the psychological effects as well as drug cravings may persist for longer.
Withdrawal symptoms vary, depending on the formulation of oxycodone that was taken and the method it was taken.
An instantaneous effect is likely to occur when oxycodone is injected, snorted or smoked because it immediately goes through the bloodstream compared to taking oxycodone in the form of a pill which will take some time before its effect can be felt.
Detoxification is done before withdrawal symptoms start. The drug can be safely removed this way. Individuals are monitored 24/7 where vital signs are continually checked and appropriate medications are used to control more difficult withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification may last until 10 days on individuals who have taken oxycodone in large amounts and for a prolonged period of time. Detoxification is done to ensure that individual is in stable condition prior to taking a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program.
Dangers of Relapse
The possibility of a relapse after detoxification poses a high risk of life-threatening overdose since the brain and the body may no longer be used to the same amount that was used before. A report by the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 15,000 Americans who die each year because of prescription pain reliever overdose. Meanwhile, another report by The Drug Abuse Warning Network on emergency department treatment revealed about 175,000 cases of oxycodone abuse in 2009.
Individuals who are not given much attention on how to minimize withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings have the possibility of going back to oxycodone dependence. Decreasing these undesirable effects may prevent an individual from having a relapse.
There are currently three approved medications for the treatment of opioid abuse and dependency as well as for the prevention of relapse. And these are:
We want the individual to recover from such dependency but abruptly stopping oxycodone may not be the best move. It is advised that the drug amount should be taken out little by little (through a process known as tapering method) until the drug is completely out of the individual’s system. This method prevents undesirable withdrawal symptoms which can actually be controlled in a way by carefully limiting the amount of oxycodone that is being taken by the individual.
Another method that can help reduce both withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings is by using opioid replacement therapy. In this case, buprenorphine may be the better choice over methadone as buprenorphine does not produce the same euphoric effects but remains active in the bloodstream for a longer time. Buprenorphine may be safer to use because after a certain amount is taken, its effect diminishes.
After Detox and Opioid Replacement Therapy
Oxycodone may have been completely taken out from an individual’s system after a successful detoxification and opioid replacement therapy. But the treatment for the individual does not stop there. More than getting rid of the bad effects which oxycodone had in the body is to also start a reconstructing program wherein psychological therapy may be needed.
Life after oxycodone may not be easy. Such therapy does not only involve having to meet up with a psychiatrist or psychologist, but also the rehabilitation of the individual in reconnecting with the outside world.
The cause of oxycodone abuse in individuals may vary. This may be brought about by some family issues or peer pressure. But whatever may be their reason, it has possibly strained relationships among the people they love. Despite the difficulties, the family members and friends of recovering addicts should continuously show their support and love and let the individuals feel that they are very much welcomed and that they are being accepted in whatever circumstances they may have undergone.
Not all people who have undergone detoxification may have been successful in recovering completely. But for those who were able to get over with the drug and are still undergoing therapy, the horrors of their past may continue to haunt them as long as they live without the support of their families and friends.