It may have begun with an innocent desire to alleviate pain following surgery or injury, but at some point in the weeks that followed you became addicted to oxycodone. Oxycodone, sold under the brand names OxyContin and Percocet, is a powerful prescription painkiller made of a highly addicting synthetic opioid. The drug is so potentially addicting that the DEA has classified it as a Schedule II Controlled Substance.
The early effects of using oxycodone for managing pain are usually thought of as a lifesaver, quickly squelching pain, inducing deep relaxation, and even providing a sense of euphoria. Over time, however, these initial benefits fade as tolerance builds and addiction sets in. Addiction to oxycodone can have devastating effects on many facets of the individual’s life, impacting physical and mental health, relationships, career, and finances. In addition to the short-term consequences of oxy addiction, the long term side effects of oxycodone addiction are very serious as well.
Of course, not all oxycodone addiction originates with legitimate intent. Oxycodone misuse is rampant, with individuals obtaining the drug through illicit means and using a variety of means to ingest it. Some may crush the pills and snort the opioid, while others may liquefy the drug and inject it intravenously, bypassing the time-release intent of the medication.
Signs of Oxycodone Addiction
Behavioral, psychological, and physical symptoms emerge when someone acquires an addiction to oxycodone. Although these signs and symptoms will vary based on the amount of the drug being consumed and for how long, the following are often present:
- Hiding from others the extent of use
- Lying about use of the drug
- Doctor shopping after the prescribing doctor cuts them off
- Stealing pills from friends or family members
- Purchasing the drug online or on the street
- Neglecting family or work responsibilities
- Relationship problems
- Financial problems
- Nodding off
- Intense drowsiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constricted pupils
- Dry mouth
- Reduced respiratory rate
- Withdrawal symptoms if drug is not available
- Physical tolerance to the drug
- Mood swings
- Symptoms of mental illness
How Oxycodone Use Can Lead to Chemical Dependence
Whether the oxycodone use is legitimate or illicit has no bearing on the potential for the individual to become dependent on the drug. As with all opiates, oxycodone is very prone to inducing addiction as a result of tolerance. The body becomes accustomed to the drug and begins to adjust to it. As that happens, the individual notices that the euphoric effects are more muted or disappear entirely, which leads them to increase dosing. Over time, the brain responds to the flood of synthetic dopamine and ceases producing its own natural dopamine. Without the daily dosing, the individual is unable to experience pleasure at all.
In addition, once the body has become dependent on the drug, when the individual attempts to discontinue usage of the oxycodone it causes the brain to become destabilized, resulting in intense and highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is usually the first sign that chemical dependency has developed.
As a powerful opioid, oxycodone abuse can result in an overdose. This event would constitute a medical emergency that would necessitate immediate intervention. Many times an oxycodone overdose involves other substances, such as alcohol, which can further escalate the emergency.
Symptoms of an oxycodone overdose include:
- Slowed breathing
- Respiratory distress
- Weak muscles
- Clammy skin
- Slowed or stopped heartbeat
- Blue-tinged lips, fingertips, or skin
- Excessive drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
When it is time to get help for the oxycodone addiction the first step is to complete a detoxification program. It is always recommended to seek a medically monitored detox program to help mitigate the very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can quickly derail plans for sobriety. A medical detox will provide the necessary medical interventions and emotional support needed to make it through to the other side.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle, bone, and joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Panic attacks
- Deep fatigue
During detox the individual will be provided with various medications that can greatly minimize these uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Long Term Side Effects of Oxycodone Addiction
There are serious long term side effects of oxycodone addiction that can pose health problems for years to come. These long-term effects include:
- Liver damage and failure
- Kidney damage and failure
- Serious cognitive difficulties
- Problems related to chronic constipation
- Serotonin syndrome, when the body produces excessive serotonin
- Risk of passing the addiction to an unborn baby
- Risk for overdose and death
Comprehensive Treatment for Oxycodone Addiction
After the individual completes a medical detoxification they can begin to participate in a variety of therapies provided in rehab. In most cases, the individual seeking treatment for an oxycodone dependency will need a residential program, versus outpatient services. Residential treatment provides a more intensive approach to the treatment program, with structured days that keep the individual engaged in many different therapeutic activities. The treatment elements will be selected for each individual client to meet his or her own unique needs and might involve:
Psychotherapy. Unwinding an oxycodone addiction involves retraining the way the brain has been wired while in the addiction. A therapist will help the client identify the disordered thoughts that result in reaching for the drug, and then create new healthy thought and behavior patterns using cognitive behavioral therapy.
Group therapy. Peer support is an essential component in recovery, so group therapy sessions with a clinician leading the discussion can be a helpful source of support. The therapist facilitates discussion topics and guides the group participants towards sharing their feelings, fears, and experiences together.
Family therapy. Family group is helpful for those whose addiction has impacted the family members adversely. Family therapy can assist family members to communicate better, set boundaries, and to rebuild trust.
Addiction education classes. It is critical that the client has a good understanding of how addiction develops so they can be mindful of the risks to recovery. Relapse prevention planning is a key piece in these classes.
Recovery group participation. Active participation in a 12-step or non 12-step recovery community is an important source of social support and is recommended following rehab as part of the continuing care piece of recovery.
Adjunctive therapies. Biofeedback, neurofeedback, and eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) are sometimes utilized as complimentary therapies.
Holistic therapies. Holistic activities, such as yoga, massage therapy, meditation, mindfulness training, and art therapy can enhance the effects of traditional therapy.
Medication Assisted Treatment for Oxycodone Addiction Recovery
Increasingly, opioid addiction recovery is leaning on a medication-based step down system called medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, where the individual uses the medication to systematically reduce drug cravings. Cravings are a significant trigger for relapse. The medications, such as naltrexone or buprenorphine, bind to the brain’s opioid receptors and block the effects of these drugs, incrementally reducing the desire to return to oxycodone use.
MAT is introduced after the individual has completed a few days of detox. MAT can assist the detox process by alleviating the withdrawal symptoms to some degree. When used in combination with psychotherapy and recovery support group participation, MAT can help the individual remain abstinent, allowing for a sustained recovery.
Aftercare and Lifestyle Tweaks for Lasting Recovery
Restoring wellness in recovery is a process that requires patience and commitment. A high quality residential program will provide aftercare services for alumni to access after they complete the rehab program. Taking full advantage of these options can make a substantial difference in the recovery outcome.
Aftercare services include such elements as:
- Outpatient therapy, both individual and group sessions
- Life skills classes
- 12-step meetings, or a similar recovery community
- Sober living housing
A holistic approach to recovery must include nutrition and fitness. Drug addiction often leaves the individual with a compromised immune system and various health conditions, including nutritional deficiencies. Restoring brain health relies on a diet rich in lean proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, plant-based foods, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and minimizing processed foods and sugars in the diet.
Getting regular exercise is another aftercare lifestyle priority, as exercise benefits all aspects, mind, body, and spirit, of the whole person. Exercise boosts the feel-good chemicals called endorphins, as well as increases levels of the neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. This leads to a wealth of wellness benefits, including improved mood, more energy, better sleep quality, and sharper cognitive functioning.
Solutions 4 Recovery Leading Treatment Program for Oxycodone Addiction
Solutions 4 Recovery is a premier addiction and dual diagnosis treatment center serving Southern California. Using a multi-modal approach to treating oxycodone addiction, Solutions 4 Recovery tailors each client’s treatment plan according to his or her unique recovery needs. When struggling with an oxycodone addiction, it is important to get treatment as early as possible to avoid the long term side effects of oxycodone addiction. For more information about the program, please contact Solutions 4 Recovery today at (888) 417-1874.