Oxycodone Addiction and Recovery 

What are Oxycodone and OxyContin?

Oxycodone, sometimes known as OxyContin is an opioid pain medication. Oxycodone is a semisynthetic opioid synthesised from an opioid alkaloid found in the Persian poppy. It is used to treat moderate to severe pain.

Oxycodone is considered by the pharmaceutical world to be the generic form of the drug. However, Oxycodone is often combined with ibuprofen and paracetamol. OxyContin on the other hand is generally stronger because the only active ingredient is oxycodone. A number of other prescription pain relievers including Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox also contain oxycodone.

Oxycodone comes in several different forms including tablets, extended release tablets and an oral solution. This drug can also be crushed, mixed with water and injected or crushed and snorted.

Street Names for Oxycodone

As with all drugs that gain popularity on the street, oxycodone has been ascribed many different nicknames including numerical ones which refer to the strength of the dose.

  • Hillbilly heroin
  • Blues
  • Kickers
  • OC
  • Oxy
  • Oxycotton
  • 20’s
  • 40’s
  • 80’s

History of Oxycodone

Freund and Speyer of the University of Frankfurt in Germany first created oxycodone from thebaine in 1916. This was part of an attempt to improve existing opioid pain killers.

A few years earlier the Bayer pharmaceutical company had stopped producing heroin due to concerns over its harmful and addictive nature. Initially, it was hoped that this new drug would retain the analgesic effects of morphine/heroin but without the user developing dependence. This did not prove correct.

Over the years the drug has been used under many different brand names. Dr Theodor Morell, Hitler’s personal doctor notes that he received regular injections of Eukodal which was oxycodone.

In recent years, some forms have even been mixed with the abuse-deterrent naloxone. If injected, the naloxone brings on opiate withdrawal symptoms meaning that the effect of the medication is blocked. Naloxone works as an opiate antagonist. It fills up the opiate receptors in the brain and it won’t let other drugs activate these receptors.

Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin in 1996 which is a controlled release formulation of oxycodone. This product has been a huge commercial success and since its introduction the company has earned in excess of $31 billion.

What are the Effects of Oxycodone Addiction?

It does not matter if this drug is prescribed by the doctor or brought on a street corner, it has potentially devastating effects for the addict. Dependence on this oxycodone, like any other drug means that the sufferer cannot function in daily life without taking it.

Taking excessive amounts of oxycodone mixed with paracetamol also carries with it other physical consequences. Paracetamol when taken in high doses can cause liver damage.

Every addict’s path into addiction varies. This is a complex disease with many underlying layers which coupled together with trauma, abuse, depression and anxiety make it difficult to diagnose and treat without effective residential addiction treatment.

Physical

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Insomnia
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Slows heart rate and minimises the oxygen supplied to the brain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Reduced sexual capacity for men and women and long-term impotence in men
  • Menstrual disturbance in women
  • Heart problems, including infection of heart lining and valves if injected
  • Infectious diseases spread by shared needles (HIV and hepatitis B and C)
  • Blood clots or tissue death resulting from collapsed veins
  • Liver disease
  • Arthritis and other rheumatologic problem
  • Changes in the brain chemistry – short term
  • Changes in the structure and function of the brain – long term
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Unhealthy eating habits/malnutrition
  • Cravings
  • Tolerance

Psychological

  • Memory loss and reduced intellectual capacity
  • Triggers
  • Compulsion
  • Obsession
  • Lying to yourself/denial

Emotional

  • Apathy /Exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Memory loss
  • Mood Swings
  • Paranoia
  • Fear
  • Loneliness

Social

  • Potential increase in risky behaviour
  • Financial problems
  • Sexual problems
  • Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Lack of interest in work/school
  • Lack of interest and ability in maintain relationships/friendships
  • Damaged relationships with family members
  • Isolation
  • Lying to others

Spiritual

  • Damaged self-esteem and self-worth
  • Damaged relationship with self
  • Lack of interest in life

 

The signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction get progressively worse over time and there will be no resolution until effective addiction treatment and aftercare are sought.

Withdrawal from Oxycodone

Withdrawal from oxycodone resembles withdrawal from opiates in general. OxyContin because it is a slow release drug means that it may take longer for withdrawal to take effect.

Withdrawal symptoms from oxycodone and OxyContin can include:

  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Tearing up
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Stomach cramps
  • Pain in joints and/or muscles
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Insomnia

The Two Stages of Withdrawal – Acute and Post-Acute

There are often two stages of withdrawal process for oxycodone addiction. The first stage has immediate acute symptoms and these are usually both physical and physiological. During stage two, former users experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS.

These refer to a number of psychological symptoms which can last for weeks or months after the user has stopped taking the drug. This is one of many reasons why residential treatment is the most effective way to treat oxycodone addiction.

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Cravings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Anger or emotional outbursts