Addiction to prescription opioid painkillers has been a problem from just about the time that opioids were first prescribed. The take-away from this is that all opioids have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Not only are they physically addictive, they are also mentally addictive. The combination of the two can make this addiction very difficult to break and withdrawal excruciating to endure.
Oxycodone and OxyContin
There’s little to no doubt that you know, or have heard of, someone taking oxycodone. It’s the most widely used and abused prescription opioid on the market aside from hydrocodone. Oxycodone is often found as an active ingredient, along with other medications, combined into one formula to form some other well-known pain relievers, such as Percocet for example. Also, there is a sustained release form of oxycodone on the market called OxyContin, and although it has a different name, it’s the very same drug, just in a different form of release.
On a physical level, prescription opioid abuse and illegal opioid abuse are exactly the same. The physiological mechanisms are the same, as are many of the psychological mechanisms. The main difference is found within social impact and circumstantial factors.
Prescription opioids, like oxycodone, are commonly provided for the treatment of acute and/or chronic pain and tend to be more available and widely abused in suburban areas more so than urban areas.
Some consider the abuse of heroin, also an opioid but not typically used by prescription, to be a “lower-class” issue taking place predominantly in our inner cities, although this is far from the truth. OxyContin, Oxycodone and heroin all all subject to abuse and addiction. Heroin use is rising at an alarming rate and is found across all socio-economic levels with Oxycodone abuse or OxyContin abuse being said to be a gateway to heroin abuse. This is because the mechanism of action (MOA), or the biochemical interaction through which a drug substance produces its pharmacological effect, between all types of opioids remains the same. There are so many dimensions to opioid addiction that it’s impossible to isolate one opioid, or their effect, as being completely different from another.
Signs of Oxycodone Abuse
There are certain physical signs of opioid intoxication and abuse. When it comes to the abuse of this prescribed drug, you don’t often have tell-tale signs, like needle/track marks, to look for. Instead, you must rely on instinct to notice a change in the user’s physical being and actions/reactions as well as some social effects. Physical signs include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- “Drifting off”
- Slurred speech
- Pinpoint pupils
- Sweating and itching
- Social problems
- Legal problems
- Mental disorders
- Frequent doctor visits for “pain”
It’s important to note that OxyContin pills have a much higher concentration than a regular oxycodone prescription. This means that the physical effects are going to be more pronounced if the pills are crushed and taken orally or crushed and snorted. You’ll often notice much more extreme sedation, sweating, itching, drowsiness, and apathy when the drug is taken with a method that starts with crushing the pill into a powder-like substance. And when used in this manner, it usually means that use has progressed into an addiction.
Signs of Oxycodone Withdrawal
When someone is addicted to opioids, they may not always act as if they are high. This is because if the drug was not recently taken, they will actually be in a state of withdrawal. The feeling is basically the opposite of what the user feels after taking the opioid. As a result, what the user is experiencing feels almost unbearable and an addict will do just about anything to get relief. This is true both for prescription opioids and heroin alike.
Being able to spot withdrawal symptoms will help identify those who are likely addicted:
- Dilated pupils
- Aching and fever
- Cold sweats
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps and diarrhea
- Irritability, Depression, Anxiety
- Mood swings
Note that all the above symptoms will usually be more severe when an addict has been using high dosages and/or using a standard dose with high frequency.
The Fine Line between Need and Want
There is nothing improper with truly needing a prescribed opioid to treat pain. Many people fall into this category since it’s often their only option to get some relief from a particularly painful condition or ailment.
There are even people who need to take opioids on a regular basis due to chronic severe pain. It is commonly thought by the medical profession that if the opioid is properly prescribed for the effective relief of pain and is taken in the prescribed manner, there’s little chance for the patient to become addicted.
This is where the fine line between want and need comes into play. A drug, such as oxycodone, will provide a reward effect which is why the want sometimes supersedes the need. It’s critical that it only be used for control of severe pain that cannot be relieved by other means and is taken only as prescribed.