Oxycodone Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Oxycodone is a synthetic opioid that can be found in several prescription painkillers including Percocet, Tylox, OxyContin, and Percodan. These medications are typically prescribed to those who have been suffering from moderate to severe pain that resulted from surgery, an injury, cancer or other diseases, or other issues. When an individual consumes a prescription medication containing oxycodone, he or she will likely experience a decrease in pain along with an elevated mood and a sense of relaxation. When the individual limits his or her oxycodone use to the dosage and duration directed by his or her physician, he or she can securely benefit from the drug’s positive effects.

Sadly, oxycodone’s potency and prevalence have made it a commonly abused substance, both by those who want to self-medicate, and those who want to obtain a recreational high. Regardless of why an individual starts to abuse oxycodone, the results can be catastrophic. Oxycodone interacts with parts of the brain that are responsible for controlling automatic functions such as respiration and heart rate. Therefore, individuals who surpass or ignore recommended dosing amounts risk damage to the cardiovascular system, which can be deadly.

In addition to the risk of death, oxycodone abuse puts an individual at risk for a variety of short and long-term dangers, including the development of addiction. Clinically referred to as opioid use disorder, oxycodone addiction can make it difficult or impossible for an individual to control the amount and frequency with which he or she abuses this substance. Oxycodone addiction can also cause an individual to prioritize the acquisition and use of oxycodone over personal, academic, and professional obligations, as well as other responsibilities. Receiving treatment for oxycodone addiction gives an individual the chance to adjust their priorities and focus on the responsibilities that truly matter.

When an individual attempts to defeat his or her oxycodone addiction by ending his or her abuse of this deadly drug, he or she might quickly begin to experience a number of painful withdrawal symptoms. If the individual does not have effective professional support, these symptoms can be overwhelming and can cause the individual to fall even deeper down the rabbit hole of oxycodone addiction.

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The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reports that almost 2 million Americans have a substance use disorder including prescription painkillers, a group that includes oxycodone addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that 81% of all prescriptions for oxycodone worldwide are written within the borders of the United States. ASAM also reports that women are more likely than men to suffer from chronic pain and to be prescribed painkillers. Accordingly, 48,000 women died from prescription painkiller overdoses between 1998 and 2010. NIDA also states that between 2001 and 2014, the annual death rate caused by prescription painkiller overdose in the country has risen 340%.

Causes and Risk Factors for Oxycodone Addiction

An individual’s risk for abusing and becoming addicted to oxycodone might be impacted by a number of genetic and environmental factors, including the following:

Genetic: Having a family background of substance abuse can dramatically increase one’s risk for developing an opioid use disorder. The family risk is most prevalent in those who have a parent or a sibling who has struggled with addiction or a mental health condition. Heritable traits including impulsivity and novelty-seeking can increase one’s odds for a substance abuse problem involving oxycodone or another opioid.

Environmental: Early exposure to substance abuse through friends, family, or loved ones who abuse oxycodone or other opioids can serve as an environmental risk factor for one’s development of opioid use disorder. Trauma, poverty, and pain caused by disease, injury, or surgery can also increase one’s risk of oxycodone abuse.

Risk Factors:

  • Receiving a prescription for oxycodone
  • Trauma
  • Prior substance abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Gender (women are more likely than men to be prescribed oxycodone)
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Early exposure to substance abuse
  • Poverty

Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Abuse

Those who have been abusing or who have become addicted to oxycodone might show a number of symptoms, including the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Abusing oxycodone when it is obviously risky or reckless to do so, such as when also abusing another substance or when driving a car
  • Abusing oxycodone even after experiencing negative outcomes from prior use
  • Declining performance in school or at work
  • Attempting but failing to end one’s use of oxycodone
  • Trying to fraudulently obtain a prescription for oxycodone or attempting to acquire this drug via another illicit means
  • Habitual absences from school or work
  • Lying, secrecy, and deception
  • Trying to borrow or steal money or goods to exchange for drugs
  • Trying to borrow or steal oxycodone that has been prescribed to someone else

Physical symptoms:

  • Problems with balance, coordination, and reflexes
  • Numbness to pain
  • Faint pulse
  • Shallow, slow, and/or labored breathing
  • Excessive yawning
  • Itchiness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weight loss
  • Drowsiness

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Difficulty with concentration or focus
  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired judgment
  • Poor spatial relations

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Uncharacteristic anger
  • Loss of interest in significant activities
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Oxycodone Abuse

The continued, untreated abuse of oxycodone can lead to many negative effects and outcomes including the following:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicidal actions
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Social withdrawal or ostracization
  • Unemployment
  • Financial ruin
  • Academic failure
  • Job loss
  • Loss of child custody
  • Damaged or ruined interpersonal relationships
  • Physical injury due to impaired judgment and coordination
  • Family discord
  • Marital strife, including separation and divorce
  • Damage to vision
  • Damage to heart and lungs
  • Sexual dysfunction

Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who become addicted to oxycodone might also be at risk for the following co-occurring mental health issues:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of oxycodone withdrawal: An individual who has become addicted to oxycodone might experience the following withdrawal symptoms when he or she attempts to end his or her abuse of this drug:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Insomnia
  • Intense cravings for oxycodone
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Tics, tremors, and shakiness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Painful abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Effects of oxycodone overdose: An individual who suffers the following symptoms after consuming oxycodone might have overdosed and requires medical attention:

  • Bluish tint to skin near lips and/or fingertips
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slow or shallow heartbeat
  • Slow, shallow, or labored breathing
  • Pupillary constriction or dilation
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