On both micro and macro scales, there have been many, many mind-altering substances to become extremely problematic. Of course, we often associate substances like alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine with problematic intoxicants, but many of the most dangerous substances are ones that are synthetic and man-made, created in a lab to be helpful rather than harmful. A prime example exists in the various pharmaceuticals that exist. In fact, we’ve only recently seen a decline in the abuse of and addiction to pharmaceutical drugs after over a decade of high rates of prescription drug addiction. However, even though rates of prescription drug abuse are down, substances like oxycodone remain a nuisance today. But what, exactly, is oxycodone? Where did it come from and what are its effects? And how do you overcome oxycodone addiction?
What is Oxycodone?
If you were to ask a random group of people to name the first painkiller that comes to their minds, most if not all would have the same answer: OxyContin. Until the 1990s, oxycodone was a highly regulated drug that had long since been known to be addictive; even so, the drug’s clinical use extends as far back as 1918. Although there were forms of it available in the interim, it wasn’t often prescribed since its was seen as being too risky. Then in 1995, a form of oxycodone produced by Purdue Pharma was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the drug—OxyContin—is almost universally cited as being the cause and origin of the ensuing painkiller epidemic. The drug itself is a semisynthetic derivative of the opium that’s obtained from the opium poppy. The term “semisynthetic” refers to the production process wherein two naturally-occurring substances were artificially combined to create something new, which in this case is oxycodone.
Until the release of OxyContin, oxycodone was reserved for conditions that involved severe chronic pain. Despite being addictive, patients would have better quality of life while using the drug than the physical debilitation they experienced without it. The drug works very similarly even to substances that are much more similar to opium such as morphine and heroin despite being semisynthetic. Generally, oxycodone is most effective for acute or localized physical pain, which is why it’s often prescribed to individuals suffering from cancer, forms of arthritis, broken bones and other forms of injury, and many more conditions that involve chronic pain. However, prescribing oxycodone to a patient for an extended period of time is strongly discouraged due to how easy it is for patient to develop physical dependence.
Effects of Oxycodone
As a painkiller, oxycodone has many of the same effects of other opiates. When taken at high doses, individuals feel a ‘rush’ that’s comparable to that of heroin; however, unless the oxycodone is taken intravenously, the onset is much less abrupt. More often than not, oxycodone pills are crushed into powder and insufflated (inhaled through the nose) due to the euphoria that uses experience from oxycodone’s abuse. Part of this euphoria is the feeling of warmth and fuzziness or tingling throughout the body. As well, oxycodone intoxication induces drowsiness and gives a person the impression that his or her arms and legs are quite heavy. Of course, there are side effects, too. Some of the most common side effects include itching, intense relaxation, feeling little to no physical pain (making individuals prone to self-injury), constipation, dry mouth, nausea, mood changes, headaches, and a number of other effects.
Why Oxycodone is so Addictive
When left in its natural state, the brain actually produces its own opioid chemicals, but only when they’re needed. However, taking an opioid painkiller like oxycodone causes a flood of opioid chemicals in the brain, which begin bonding with the brain’s receptors in order to produce effects that are greatly exaggerated from what a person would experience normally. This is what allows pain medications to be so effective in alleviating pain: It’s because these substances interact with the brain in such a way as to dampen the pain signals that would correspond to the pain from an injury. So instead of feeling pain, a person who has taken oxycodone will soon begin to experience a dramatic decrease in pain as well as relaxation, lethargy, and perhaps some drowsiness.
People are discouraged from taking oxycodone for a prolonged period of time because the body will adapt to the substance if a person takes it consistently, even becoming dependent on it for natural functions. In particular, the continuous intake of opioid painkillers means that the brain is regularly experiencing a flood of opioids that are bonding with the brain’s receptors; in an effort to accommodate the medication, the brain will stop producing any opioid chemicals on its own and, instead, will begin to rely on the medication to provide any opioids that the body may need. However, this also means that when a person who has been consistently taking oxycodone stops taking the medication, the brain has lost its source of opioid chemicals and is no longer producing its own, which causes a number of physiological symptoms that are referred to as withdrawal symptoms.
Overcoming Oxycodone Addiction at Malvern Institute
Any type of addiction will cause profound hardships and personal destruction; however, opioids like oxycodone, which has gained infamy due to being so highly addictive, can wreak even more havoc than some others. While the disease can’t be cured, it can be treated. This means that nobody has to continue suffering in the throes of active oxycodone addiction.
That’s where we come in. At Malvern Institute, our mission is to connect those in need with the resources that will address their addictions, restoring them to physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual health. With our Malvern Model of Care, patients progress through the continuum of care, which begins with detoxification before progressing through induction, inpatient treatment, and concluding with a form of outpatient care; afterward, we invite graduates to be part of our alumni and aftercare programs, which allow us to be an ongoing resource as individuals reach more advanced stages of recovery. If you or someone you loved would like to discuss how the Malvern Model can help with oxycodone addiction, or if you have questions about other aspects of our programming, call us anytime at 610.MALVERN (610.625.8376).