Oxycontin (Oxycodone/Percocet) Abuse and Addiction

Oxycontin, also known as oxycodone or oxy, is an opioid medication meant for pain relief.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) references opioid abuse with drugs like heroin and prescription medications like Oxycontin as such; "It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, "with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012". Among the opioids, Oxycontin remains one of the most addictive prescription pain medications.

Those who have struggled with Oxycontin or oxy abuse suffer through many stages of addiction and recovery to get clean. Find out why this pill is as powerful as heroin, and how to seek treatment if needed. And the answer to the question, "what is oxycodone?".

Oxycontin Addiction

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone, also known as Percocet, is a semi-synthetic medication deriving from the opium plant. The main use of this drug is to provide pain relief, and Percocet comes in various doses to support moderate levels of pain. Oxycontin can be used for symptoms like arthritis and to relieve the pain symptoms that affect cancer patients. This drug was formulated for use in 1916, and it was developed as a solution for moderate to chronic pain management.

The oxycodone high is known to be addictive and easily abused. Studies researching the abuse can be found as early as the 1960s. Users of this drug would experience numbing effects, along with a variety of negative side effects to the person's body and emotional well-being. Oxycontin's chemical structure is not unlike other medications, such as codeine and morphine. Substance abusers find the effects of Oxycontin often mirror heroin.

The drug has been classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II substance. Based on this classification, the DEA lists drugs under this schedule as "...substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical "dependence."

Intended Use for Oxy

Oxycontin, or Oxy for short, has been used for various ailments. Specifically, the oxy drug is for the governance of pain. This drug was formulated from the organic compound thebaine found in the opium plant. It works with brain inhibitors to alter the patient's ability to feel pain. Taking the drug at the prescribed dose allows the patient to lessen their moderate to chronic pain. This in turn improves their quality of life. Unfortunately, oxycodone and its side effects it can also trigger addiction.

Oxycontin has many pharmaceutical names, and can be seen on pharmaceutical labels such as Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox. These varying medications all contain oxycodone, and varying ingredients not unlike aspirin. This drug can come in a variety of doses ranging in strengths based between oxycodone 5mg to 80mg. Oxy is meant to supply its user with long term pain relief, typically lasting up to 12 hours at a time.

Oxy can be taken in many ways. It is not uncommon to receive the drug orally and in pill form, however it can be administered in alternative forms. The drug can be given to a patient intramuscularly, which involves injecting the Oxy drug directly into the person's muscle, and it can also be given intravenously. Intravenous medications require the practitioner to administer the drug into the bloodstream via a needle. Oxycontin dosage can also be given rectally.

Oxycodone Street Names

Oxycodone as we've seen can come in an alarming number of alternative names. How about Oxycontin vs oxycodone? What's the difference? The Percocet and Oxycontin brand names of oxycodone are best known to the general public, but it is known under different aliases on the street. Some street names for Oxycontin are:

  • Beans
  • Cotton
  • Pills
  • Kickers
  • Killers
  • OCs
  • Orange County
  • Os
  • Ox
  • OxyCotton
  • Oxys
  • Rushbo

Oxycontin dosage and Percocet dosage can also come in numeral nicknames, such as:

  • 20s.
  • 40s.
  • 80s.

The numeral aliases are not used often, but they describe the oxycodone or Percocet dosage (such as oxycodone 5mg, or oxycodone 10mg equating to 5s and 10s) itself when attempting to find it on the street. There are inherent dangers surrounding this specific naming convention, as someone may not understand the oxycodone dosages and may ask for a much bigger dosage than they can handle. An oxycodone 5mg or oxycodone 10mg dose is distinctively smaller than a 40 or 80mg dose, and not understanding that difference can be life threatening.

Oxycodone's street names are numerous. It is important to keep up with the alternative names of drugs such as Oxycontin to keep your loved ones aware of their dangers. When in doubt, do a quick internet search to check up on the ever-changing names of this drug.

Oxy's monetary street value has been known to be higher than most pharmaceuticals because of its pain-relieving properties. "OxyContin can be rather "expensive. A 40mg tablet (prescribed from a doctor) costs approximately $4, but the street value (the cost when illegally obtaining the drug) can range in price from $25 to $40."

How Percocet and Hydrocodone Affect the Brain

Opiates like Percocet (Oxycontin) and Hydrocodone (Vicodin) affect the brain very similarly. Both are opioids, and both drugs share comparable characteristics. These drugs provide a sense of wellbeing, and they stimulate the brain's pleasure sensors. When these drugs are abused (e.g., the user crushes either an Oxycontin or Vicodin tablet and snorts it), they stimulate the body's euphoric sensors with an overwhelming rush. The drug overstimulates the body's various opioid receptors that can be found in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs. This method of use can lead to disastrous consequences. Those who abuse drugs like Oxy and Vicodin can tend to run into respiratory issues when overusing the drugs. It can lead to low and shallow breathing, which can stop breath altogether when taken in high and immediate doses.

Addiction to Oxycontin and other opiate-related drugs like Percocet and Hydrocodone can lead to overdose or death. Many users who move on to abuse these opioids develop a tolerance to the drug, which requires the user to take higher, more intense doses. The Oxycontin withdrawal is what keeps addicts coming back for more. According to NIDA, "The establishment of tolerance hinges on the ability of abused opioids (e.g., OxyContin, morphine) to desensitize the brain's own "natural opioid system, making it less responsive over time. This tolerance contributes to the high risk of overdose during a relapse to opioid use after a period in recovery; users who do not realize they may have lost their tolerance during a period of abstinence may initially take the high dosage that they previously had used before quitting, a dosage that produces an overdose in the person who no longer has tolerance."

Co-Occurring Disorders and Oxycontin Abuse

Oxycontin abuse can exist due to many co-occurring disorders within its user. Some co-occurring disorders that can facilitate Oxycontin abuse are:

  • Anxiety: Anxiety symptoms can appear to be lessened when the oxycodone high is rampant in the body.
  • Alcoholism: Those struggling with alcoholism can feel inclined to abuse Oxy as an additive to their existing addiction. Since they are both forms of body depressants, using them at the same time can be very dangerous.
  • Bipolar disorder: When someone is bipolar, they can experience very high to low moods. Oxycodone's side effects can slow the senses and dull them, which can seem appealing to someone with bipolar disorder.
  • Depression: When a person is abusing Oxy, it could be because they have pre-existing depression. Depression in users of Oxycontin is common, as oxycodone's structure is meant to dull pain and increase euphoric feelings. The user can be leaning on the oxycodone high as a relief from their depression.

Knowing how Oxycontin abuse will affect other co-occurring disorders is paramount. Introducing the oxycodone high with other substances can be fatal, and can exacerbate other side effects aligned with other disorders or addictions.

Signs and Symptoms of Oxy Addiction

Oxy addiction has become a rampant problem over the last few decades. When abused, the oxycodone side effects can lead to some serious and negative symptoms, including:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness, sometimes to the point of nodding off
  • Dry mouth
  • Euphoria
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Lightheadedness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Respiratory suppression
  • Sweating

Oxycontin abuse signals are very like other addictions. According to Narconon, "An addicted person may start neglecting health, family, work and other "responsibilities. There may be money or items in the home missing, or items belonging to other people may be missing. The person may start offering excuses for every problem that comes up - but none of the many problems are their fault." Keeping your eyes peeled for strange or abnormal behavior is the best indicator if someone you love is addicted to Oxycontin and other drugs.

Side Effects of Percocet Abuse

Percocet abuse is accompanied by unpleasant, painful side effects such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Heart failure
  • Increased pressure of cerebral and/or spinal fluid
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Seizures

The most catastrophic oxycodone side effects can lead to fatal overdose. Overdose symptoms can be:

  • Pinpointed pupils
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed or irregular heartbeat
  • Unconsciousness

If you feel you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the above side effects, it is important that they know how to get the help they need. Learning more about the abuse and its consequences to your body and mind can assist in the journey to recovery.

Why is Oxycontin So Addictive?

The abuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem. As Oxycontin dosages become readily available illegally, the abuse and addiction of these drugs will continue to increase. The number of prescribed users are staggering. NIDA states, "The number of prescriptions for opioids (like hydrocodone and oxycodone products) have "escalated from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013, with the United States their biggest consumer globally, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and 81 percent for oxycodone (e.g., Percocet)."

In conjunction with the hard statistics of increased users who are abusing prescription drugs like Percocet and Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma has attempted to solve this crisis with a reformulated version of this drug. Targiniq ER (ER - extended release) is an oxycodone based alternative to prescriptions like Oxycontin that combines the same pain relief in Oxy, with a preventative measure added in. Narconon states, "What makes this pill different is that is contains another ingredient, naloxone. "Naloxone blocks the effects of the opiate, making it non-euphoric if it is abused. This is the same substance that has started being distributed to first responders, like police, so they can bring back a heroin or painkiller user from an overdose. The naloxone only kicks in if the pill is crushed to be snorted or injected. If a person takes the drug by mouth, it won't have any effect."

The Food and Drug Administration have praised the creation of this pill, as the numbers of prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed within the last decade. They're hoping that this addiction-proof pill can be a good solution to the growing abuse problem. It may be the beginning of new drug therapies that incorporate opioid blockers to lower the risk of addiction.

What to Do if You Know Someone Abusing Oxycodone

Oxycontin addiction can lead to severe and ultimately fatal consequences. Oxycontin vs oxycodone addictions don't have discernable differences. Both drugs are similar and, therefore, treated similarly. Ashwood Recovery's facility and programs have been carefully developed with you in mind. If you or someone you know is struggling with Oxycontin addiction, our programs and therapeutic approaches can help. We understand that addiction is not superficial, and our approach is centered at finding the struggles at the core of your addiction. Through our various services, we can help on your journey to leading a healthy life.

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  • "Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Abuse." Narconon International. Narconon International, n.d. Web. 08 June 2017. <http://www.narconon.org/drug-abuse/signs-symptoms-oxycodone.html>.
  • Abuse, National Institute on Drug. "America's Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse." NIDA. National Institute of Drug Abuse, 14 May 2014. Web. 08 June 2017. <https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse>.
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