Oxycodone Addiction Treatment

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What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone (brand name OxyContin) is a painkiller prescribed for acute, chronic or long-lasting pain. It is found in other prescription medications such as Roxicet, Tylox, Percodan and Percocet. Oxycodone is an opioid, meaning it is a synthetic compound that mimics the effects of opiates, or pain medicines which are derived from the opium poppy flower. Misuse of Oxycodone and other prescription opioids can result in physical dependency, abuse and addiction.

Oxycodone is a controversial medication for its role in the recent and ongoing opioid epidemic. Oxycodone is typically prescribed to patients dealing with difficult chronic pain problems, although it should only be prescribed for acute pain in non-cancer pain patients. Finding the right dosage and length of treatment can be tricky. If the pain-relieving effects of oxycodone wear off and leave the patient in pain, it is all too easy to misuse the drug by taking excessive amounts of it. In fact, the manufacturer of OxyContin recommends never exceeding two pills per day under any circumstances. Oxycodone is labeled by the DEA as a Schedule II controlled substance for its highly addictive properties, making “just one more pill” an extremely dangerous choice for some patients. Oxycodone’s propensity for addiction has led to it being sold on the street, under names such as OC, Oxy, Oxycotton, killer, kicker and hillbilly heroin.

Oxycodone side effects and dangers

Like any prescription medication, oxycodone may cause side effects even when taking it correctly. The following oxycodone side effects are common:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Headache

Oxycodone use crosses the line into abuse and addiction when it is misused. One of the most important aspects about this prescription is its purpose for treating chronic pain around-the-clock for a defined period. It is never meant to be taken “as needed.” If your current oxycodone dosage is not providing effective relief, it is important to talk to your doctor about what to do, instead of self-medicating with additional doses.

There are serious risks to oxycodone misuse. Sharing, giving away or selling oxycodone is against the law because of its dangerous medical consequences. Prescriptions are filled for specific doses tailored to specific people, and the effects can have adverse reactions in others. Taking an excessive oxycodone dose can result in a life-threatening overdose.

Oxycodone overdose symptoms include:

  • Slowed or shallow breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness leading to coma
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Death

These symptoms can be deadly if not treated immediately.

The path to serious abuse of oxycodone can begin when the desired effect is the high produced by the drug instead of pain relief. Cutting, crushing, chewing or dissolving oxycodone tablets destroys its time-release formula, putting the entire 12-hour dose into the body at one time. People seeking an oxycodone high may snort or inject the tablet’s contents for more immediate effects. Any of these methods can result in oxycodone overdose, especially when the prescription was filled for a different person with different medical needs.
Some oxycodone prescriptions have different medical formulations than OxyContin. For example, Percocet uses both oxycodone and acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol. This adds additional dangers to oxycodone abuse, because acetaminophen has its own set of overdose dangers. Excessive acetaminophen can seriously harm the liver, especially when crushed, snorted or injected. Acetaminophen overdose symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating

Acetaminophen overdose can permanently damage the liver or result in death.

If a person with an oxycodone addiction is unable to access the drug, they may buy them illegally from drug dealers. Because this illegal oxycodone is not controlled by a pharmacy, it frequently contains unknown and harmful ingredients. Even worse, when a person’s craving for oxycodone is dire enough, they may find relief in a cheaper, plentiful alternative:  heroin. This is a very common scenario in today’s opioid epidemic.

Oxycodone addiction signs

Any use of oxycodone outside of a doctor’s instructions is considered drug abuse. This includes tampering with oxycodone pills by chewing, crushing, cutting or dissolving them in order to ingest, snort or inject a higher dose than prescribed. Even if the oxycodone pills are not tampered with, taking more pills than prescribed is also considered abuse of the drug.
oxycodone addiction signs include:

  • Taking more than the prescribed dosage
  • “Doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
  • Tampering with oxycodone before taking it
  • Taking oxycodone in any way other than orally

Opioid withdrawal symptoms and treatment

It is possible to develop a physical dependency on oxycodone, which should be discussed with your doctor. A physical opioid dependency occurs when the body adjusts to the presence of the medication and depends on it to function normally. An oxycodone prescription can include dosing instructions from your doctor to taper off the medication to reduce and eliminate this physical dependency. This type of medication management is important—those who are physically dependent will experience opiate withdrawal symptoms if they stop their prescription too suddenly. If the opiate withdrawal symptoms are extreme, they could drive the patient to continue using the substance despite significant harm—the definition of addiction.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Tearing eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Muscle and back aches
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability, anxiety
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heartbeat or breathing

These problems vary in severity and duration depending on the specific oxycodone dose taken and duration of use.

Opioid withdrawal stabilization, also known as detoxification or detox, is usually done in a similar way as other opiate withdrawal treatment. In general, the opiate withdrawal stabilization procedures resemble those used for withdrawal from sedatives: longer-acting opiates are substituted for shorter-acting ones and the patient is stabilized on the longer-acting opiate medication, such as Suboxone. The patient will be most uncomfortable during the first one to three days of the opiate withdrawal phase, so a combination of clonidine (an alpha-adrenergic agonist), a sedative such as phenobarbital, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as Motrin (generic name ibuprofen) is frequently combined with the longer-acting opiate to help make the patient more comfortable for the first two to three days of the conversion to Suboxone. Usually after day three of the correct dose of Suboxone, a patient’s withdrawal symptoms and opiate cravings have almost completely subsided.

Opioid addiction treatment options

Most opioid addicts need help to stop using and require residential drug treatment. Few people can safely stop using without a supervised drug and alcohol detox and evidence-based addiction treatment program.

Withdrawal and recovery from oxycodone addiction is most effectively accomplished under the supervision of board-certified medical professionals, who are able to assist with the intense cravings for the drug, along with dangerous opiate withdrawal symptoms, such as disturbed sleep patterns, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle aches and flu-like symptoms.

Typically, opioid addicts go through a detoxification program – or withdrawal stabilization – before beginning a long-term treatment program. Patients can be prescribed anti-addiction medications to lessen the withdrawal symptoms.

The drug and alcohol detox alone is not a cure for opioid addiction. A comprehensive, personalized addiction treatment program, like the program at Enterhealth, is crucial for a successful recovery. A combination of therapeutic and pharmacological addiction treatment can help those with opioid addiction regain a stable and productive life and address the underlying issues creating the desire to use. Research shows that integrating both types of treatment is the most effective approach to restoring a degree of normal function to the brain – and provide a more positive, life-long outcome.

Effective behavioral treatments for opioid addiction can be administered in a residential or outpatient setting after withdrawal stabilization. A treatment plan may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy sessions
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
  • Wellness, nutritional and stress management treatment services

Anti-addiction medications approved for oxycodone addiction treatment work through the same opioid receptors in the brain that oxycodone and other prescription pain medications affect. Medications such as Suboxone (buprenorphine) and Vivitrol (naltrexone), block the effects of oxycodone, reduce cravings and allow healing to continue. These medicines treat opiate addiction through the same receptors as the addictive drug, but are safer and less likely to result in addiction.

Opioid addiction treatment with Enterhealth

People suffering from opioid addiction may feel hopeless, but they are not alone. Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence can help you or a loved one begin recovery at our 43-acre residential opioid addiction treatment center just north of Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas, and our outpatient opioid addiction treatment center located in the Preston Center area of Dallas, Texas.

At Enterhealth, our goal is to treat the whole person for a lifetime. We offer a better chance to recover through our advanced, evidence-based treatment approach, designed and administered by board-certified addiction psychiatrists, physicians and other experts, that is proven to be more effective than traditional twelve-step approaches.