Oxycodone Abuse & Addiction
The opioid crisis has very real and catastrophic consequences affecting the United States. The implications of the opioid crisis are enormous, as it has wreaked havoc on people’s personal lives. Additionally, addiction to opioids has a heavy economic burden on health care. Oxycodone is an example of a drug in the opioid class that is commonly prescribed to individuals experiencing chronic pain who cannot be treated with other medications. Other examples of opioids include heroin, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine and methadone. Unfortunately, like other opioids, individuals have the potential to develop oxycodone dependence, particularly when misusing the medication or when using oxycodone long-term.
What is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid originally derived from the opium poppy plant. Once it is metabolized by the body, oxycodone agonizes or activates mu-receptors found primarily in the central nervous system (CNS). Through the binding of opioids to their cognate receptors, various downstream changes occur including the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine. Based on these physiological changes, a person typically experiences drowsiness and euphoria after taking oxycodone. The ingredients in oxycodone create those effects. Typically, oxycodone comes in the form of oxycodone hydrochloride, which is a white powder that dissolves in water. It may be prepared with varying levels of corn starch, cellulose, coloring, stearic acid and sodium starch glycolate depending on the company that manufactures it.
OxyContin vs. Oxycodone
What is the difference between OxyContin and oxycodone? OxyContin and oxycodone are similar and represent two different versions of essentially the same drug. Oxycontin is a brand name that contains oxycodone as its active ingredient, though there are many other brands that produce similar medications. Oxycodone is generally referred to as the generic version, rather than the brand name form of the drug.
Other Drug Comparisons
Some other drugs that may often be compared to oxycodone are:
- Hydrocodone versus oxycodone: What’s the difference between hydrocodone and oxycodone? Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are opioids commonly prescribed to treat pain. Oxycodone is thought to cause constipation more than hydrocodone, though many other side effects are similar.
- Tramadol versus oxycodone: Some individuals with less severe pain may be prescribed tramadol versus oxycodone as tramadol is less potent than oxycodone. Tramadol may cause seizures.
- Oxycodone versus Percocet: How does a physician know whether they should prescribe oxycodone versus Percocet? Percocet is a brand name prescription that contains both oxycodone (5 mg) and acetaminophen (325 mg) as its active ingredients. The combination of the two drugs is extremely powerful for pain relief.
- Dilaudid versus oxycodone: Dilaudid is an opioid just as oxycodone is. Dilaudid versus oxycodone may be prescribed in cases of severe pain since Dilaudid is stronger per equivalent dose of oxycodone.
Oxycodone Street Names
Besides its generic and brand names, oxycodone may go by other names. Oxycodone street names include:
- Oxy or Oxy 80s
- Killers or kickers
- Blue or blue dynamite
- Hillbilly heroin
- Percs or percodoms
What Is Oxycodone Used For?
Oxycodone may be prescribed for a variety of conditions involving severe or chronic pain. For example, individuals who suffer from severe headaches with characteristic pain on one side, known as migraines, can be treated with oxycodone. Further, oxycodone for pain is commonly prescribed after surgical procedures or recurring pain from surgery (e.g., spinal or back procedures). Oxycodone can also be prescribed for the terminally ill, like cancer patients. Oxycodone can also be used recreationally where it is generally misused or obtained by illegal means (e.g., the black market).
What Does Oxycodone Look Like?
What does oxycodone look like? For individuals prescribed oxycodone, they may wonder what generic or brand names of oxycodone look like. Oxycodone comes in a variety of formulations that vary based on the company that produces it or varies by the prescribed strength. For example, people may be familiar with oxycodone as a blue pill. Additionally, if oxycodone is combined with another active ingredient, it may look different than preparations with oxycodone alone. For example, oxycodone and acetaminophen generally come in a white pill versus a blue one.
Oxycodone Dosage and Administration
Oxycodone dosage varies depending on the formulation, strength and the manufacturer of the drug. Generally, oxycodone is prescribed in a form that can be taken orally. OxyContin, one of the brand names of oxycodone, has between 10 mg to 160 mg of oxycodone. Percocet and Tylox (oxycodone and acetaminophen), as well as Percodan (oxycodone and aspirin), have 2.5 mg to 10 mg of oxycodone per dose. Individuals should consult with their medical professional about their dosage and frequency. Oxycodone pills in the form of Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan or Tylox may be dosed as:
- 10 mg: white, round pill
- 15 mg: gray, round pill
- 20 mg: pink, round pill
- 40 mg: yellow, round pill
- 60 mg: red, round pill
- 80 mg: green, round pill
- 160 mg: blue, oval pill
- 2.5 mg: pink, oval pill
- 5 mg: blue, round pill
- 7.5 mg: orange, oval pill
- 10 mg: yellow, oval pill
- 4.85 mg: yellow, round pill
- 5 mg: red capsule
Oxycodone administration usually involves an orally available form of the drug. For example, a patient may be prescribed oxycodone tablets, capsules or pills. Alternatively, oxycodone can also be administered as an oxycodone patch. Different manufacturers offer slow-release options, particularly for individuals with chronic and severe pain.
What Are the Side Effects of Taking Oxycodone?
What are the side effects of taking oxycodone? Oxycodone has many potential side effects, some more severe than others. One of the most common side effects of oxycodone is constipation. Other side effects may include:
- Drowsiness or tiredness
- Decreased strength
- Weird dreams
- Abnormal dreams
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Upset stomach
Is Oxycodone Addictive?
Like any opioid, oxycodone has the potential to become addictive. But why exactly is oxycodone addictive? Since opioids are depressants that slow down the CNS, they produce effects like drowsiness. Additionally, oxycodone affects the release of several neurotransmitters that generate the “high” or euphoric feeling associated with opioid use. Once the effect of the drug wears off, a person no longer feels the euphoric feeling and naturally craves the feeling again and, by extension, wants more of the drug.
The more a person uses oxycodone, the more likely they will be to develop a tolerance to the drug. These individuals require an increasing amount of oxycodone to achieve that same initial high achieved from the first time they tried the drug. Tolerance may eventually develop into dependence on oxycodone, where withdrawal will occur without the drug. Though it is unlikely that a person will develop an addiction after trying oxycodone once, it is very likely that with heavy use, that person can become addicted and later dependent on the drug. Depending on a person’s lifestyle, health history, and previous drug use, the length of time someone becomes addicted to oxycodone will vary substantially.
Dangers of Oxycodone Use
Anytime oxycodone is not used as prescribed, there is a possibility of endangering one’s life. Particularly in situations where oxycodone use is not regulated, oxycodone use could become dangerous. In recreational circles, it is not uncommon for people to try snorting oxycodone for a quicker and more robust effect of the drug, or to try smoking oxycodone. Some individuals that are prescribed oxycodone and use it correctly, may not be aware that mixing oxycodone with alcohol can potentially be lethal. Using both alcohol and oxycodone together may amplify the effects of both drugs.
Like alcohol, oxycodone can interact with many different drugs — some interactions produce unwanted and even dangerous side effects. If mixed with other CNS depressants, oxycodone can slow breathing to a dangerous level or completely stop it. Examples of drugs that oxycodone interacts with include:
- Other opioids and oxycodone
- Cough medicines and oxycodone
- Sedatives like Xanax and oxycodone
- Muscle relaxants and oxycodone
- Medicines for treating anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions and oxycodone
- Migraine medications and oxycodone
Further, as marijuana continues to become legal in even more states, individuals that are prescribed oxycodone should be aware that marijuana and oxycodone may synergize. In other words, cannabis may enhance the pain-relieving ability of oxycodone, though more research must be conducted.
Oxycodone Use Statistics
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly 5% of high-school seniors reported prescription drug abuse of OxyContin. Additionally, there are many striking statistics on opioid use and specifically oxycodone use, including:
- Between 2006 and 2012, the largest drug companies in the United States flooded the market with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills
- Close to 100,000 people have passed away from opioid deaths during the same time frame
- The number of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills dispensed by drug companies grew by 51% from 2006 to 2012
Oxycodone Use in Ohio
The Ohio opioid crisis has been one of the worst drug crises in the state’s history. Statistics on Ohio’s opioid crisis include:
- Ohio had the second-highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in 2017
- Over 4,000 individuals lost their lives from an opioid overdose — more than double the incidence seen in the entire United States
- Prescription opioid deaths have continued to increase
Understanding Oxycodone Addiction
Though oxycodone is a strong pain reliever, its continued use has many serious drawbacks. It is important to realize that anyone can become addicted to oxycodone. Often, addiction or dependence to oxycodone develops over time. Individuals should be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with oxycodone addiction and the ways to reach out for help.
Do you or a loved one struggle with an addiction to oxycodone? Contact The Recovery Village Columbus to discuss treatment options for oxycodone addiction and any co-occurring mental health conditions. Call to speak with a representative today to discuss our rehabilitation programs and how to embark on your road to recovery.
- Cooper Z.D.; et al. “Impact of co-administration of oxycodone and smoked cannabis on analgesia and abuse liability.” September 2018. Accessed August 31, 2019.
- Higham, Scott; Horwitz, Sari; Rich, Steven. “76 billion opioid pills: Newly released federal data unmasks the epidemic.” The Washington Post, July 16, 2019. Accessed August 31, 2019.
- The Mayo Clinic. “Oxycodone (Oral Route).” August 1, 2019. Accessed August 31, 2019.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Ohio Opioid Summary.” March 2019. Accessed August 31, 2019.”
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Prescription Drug Abuse: Young People at Risk.” Accessed August 31, 2019.
- PubChem.gov. “Oxycodone.” Accessed August 30, 2019.
- United States Food and Drug Administration. “ROXICODONE.” August 2008. Accessed August 30, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village Columbus aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.