Oxycodone Abuse Effects & Warning Signs

Oxycodone is a synthetic opioid that is found within a number of prescription painkillers including Percodan, OxyContin, Tylox, and Percocet. These medications are most commonly prescribed to those who have been experiencing moderate to severe pain caused by an injury, cancer, surgery, or other condition. When an individual consumes a prescription medication containing oxycodone, he or she will likely experience a decrease in his or her 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 recommended by his or her prescribing physician, he or she can safely benefit from the positive effects of the drug.

Sadly, oxycodone’s potency and prevalence have made it a highly abused substance, both by those who look to self-medicate, and those who want to achieve a recreational high. Regardless of why an individual starts to abuse oxycodone, the results can be equally devastating. Oxycodone interacts with parts of the brain that control automatic functions such as heart rate and respiration. Therefore, those who exceed or ignore recommended dosage amounts risk damaging their cardiovascular systems, which can be life-ending.

Oxycodone abuse also exposes an individual to a number of short-term and long-term dangers including the development of addiction. Known clinically as opioid use disorder, oxycodone addiction can take away one’s ability to control the amount and frequency that he or she uses the substance. It will also cause an individual to prioritize the acquisition and use of oxycodone over academic, personal, and professional obligations, as well as other responsibilities.

When an individual tries to overcome his or her oxycodone addiction by ending his or her abuse of the substance, he or she might rapidly start to suffer a series of painful symptoms of withdrawal. If the individual does not have effective professional treatment for oxycodone abuse, these symptoms can be extremely overwhelming and can cause the user to fall deeper into the trenches of oxycodone addiction.

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Statistics

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), nearly 1.9 million Americans have a substance use disorder that includes using a prescription painkillers like oxycodone. ASAM also states that women are more likely than men to struggle with chronic pain and to be prescribed painkillers, and that 48,000 women lost their lives as a result of prescription painkiller addictions between 1998 and 2010. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that 81% of all prescriptions for oxycodone in the world are written in America. NIDA also states that between 2001 and 2014, the yearly death rate from prescription painkiller overdose in the country increased by 340%.

Causes and Risk Factors for Oxycodone Abuse

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

Genetic: Possessing a family background of substance abuse can increase one’s risk for developing an opioid use disorder. The family risk is greatest in those who have a parent or a sibling who has battled addiction or another mental health disorder. Heritable traits, including novelty seeking and impulsivity, can also increase one’s vulnerability for developing a substance abuse problem involving oxycodone or another opioid.

Environmental: Early exposure to substance abuse through friends and/or relatives who abuse oxycodone or other opioids can be an environmental risk factor for someone developing an opioid use disorder. Trauma, poverty, and pain due to injury, disease, or surgery can also increase one’s risk for oxycodone abuse.

Risk Factors:

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

Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Abuse

Those who have been abusing or have grown addicted to oxycodone might demonstrate a number of different symptoms, including, however not limited to, 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
  • Habitual absences from school or work
  • Declining performance in school or at work
  • Attempting but failing to end one’s use of oxycodone
  • Trying to borrow or steal oxycodone that has been prescribed to someone else
  • Trying to fraudulently obtain a prescription for oxycodone or attempting to acquire this drug via another illicit means
  • Lying, secrecy, and deception
  • Trying to borrow or steal money or goods to exchange for drugs
  • Abusing oxycodone even after experiencing negative outcomes from prior use

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

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

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Uncharacteristic anger
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Loss of interest in significant activities
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 abuse of oxycodone can cause a number of destructive effects and outcomes, including the following:

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

Co-Occurring Disorders

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

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

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

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

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

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

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