An oxycodone overdose can be a life-threatening emergency and has become a growing problem in the US over the last 20 years. Lives are taken every day by the opioid epidemic that has taken over the entire country.
If you or someone you love is struggling with oxycodone dependency, it is important to get informed about the causes and symptoms of an oxycodone overdose.
By reading this article, you will learn how to identify oxycodone addiction and prevent oxycodone overdose and what the process of opioid withdrawal looks like.
What is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. It is one of the more frequently abused narcotics, which is made in labs and synthesized from thebaine, an ingredient that can be found in the opium poppy plant. It is a painkiller frequently prescribed by healthcare professionals to treat moderate to severe pain that has not responded well to other over-the-counter pain medications.
Although this drug is an opioid and is associated with various risks, it is important to consider the benefits and whether they will outweigh the risks and side effects. While you know your body best, it is crucial to discuss potential use with your healthcare professional. They will be your best resource when deciding whether or not this is the best pain relief treatment option for you.
Oxycodone Usage in the US
Oxycodone overdose statistics published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) state that approximately 81% of the world’s oxycodone supply is consumed in the US. This is especially surprising when you consider that the US only makes up 5% of the world’s population.
One study conducted by the CDC shows that, on average, 44 people per day died from an opioid-related overdose during the year 2020, resulting in a total of over 16,000 deaths that year. This was a 16% increase from the previous year.
The opioid epidemic hit the US in the late 1990s; another study even shows that over 900,000 people have died in the U.S. from fatal overdoses from the year 1999 to the year 2020.
Oxycodone Overdose Signs and Symptoms
If you’re receiving your oxycodone from anywhere other than a pharmacy, you must be aware that you are at an increased risk of overdose. There is a high possibility that the medication is being cut with other, potentially stronger opioids like fentanyl, which makes it more dangerous.
Being able to identify the signs of an oxycodone overdose early and getting immediate medical attention is important in helping you avoid more severe consequences. Oxycodone overdose symptoms can include:
- Nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Pinpoint pupils
- Decreased Blood Pressure
- Loss of consciousness, unresponsiveness, and coma
- Weak pulse
- No breathing/difficulty breathing
- Blue fingertips/lips
Most of the time, the pinpoint pupils will be the first sign of an oxycodone overdose, followed quickly by the other symptoms. These will begin to worsen the longer they remain untreated, which is why it is important to contact emergency services immediately.
How is Oxycodone Administered?
When prescribed by a healthcare professional, oxycodone can be taken in a variety of dosages. The amount varies from person to person depending on their medical history as well as their tolerance to opioids. Someone who does not usually take opioids or has not built up a tolerance is usually started on a lower dose, such as 10 mg every 12 hours.
Typically, oxycodone is taken orally or intravenously. Oxycodone tablets can be abused in several different ways; for example, by being:
- Crushed and snorted
- Dissolved in water and injected intravenously
- Heated and placed on a piece of foil to inhale the vapors
In addition to oral and intravenous administration, oxycodone is suitable for intramuscular, rectal, and subcutaneous administration due to its high bioavailability. When a drug has a high bioavailability, it simply means it is easier for the body to absorb and utilize the substance.
How Does Oxycodone Affect Your Body?
When a person ingests an opioid like oxycodone, it acts on the central nervous system and attaches to the opioid receptors in various areas of the body, including the brain. When the drug attaches to a receptor, it reduces the number of pain signals that successfully reach a person’s brain, thus reducing the amount of pain they feel.
This immediate relief and gratification is the same thing that leads to tolerance, dependence, and addiction, along with the sense of euphoria that often accompanies it.
Adverse Effects of Oxycodone
The side effects that you may experience while taking oxycodone can depend on various factors, such as the amount of the drug you took, your age, metabolism, and any other substances that are present in your system.
You will also find the most common adverse effects associated with oxycodone use below:
- Nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Severe itching of the skin
If you or someone you love is taking oxycodone and any of these side effects become severe or persistent, you should seek advice from a medical professional.
Also, if you have a history of or are currently suffering from any of the following conditions, you should completely avoid taking oxycodone. This is because the drug may put you at a higher risk of experiencing conditions such as:
- Significant respiratory depression
- Hypersensitivity to oxycodone
- Suspected or known gastrointestinal obstruction, including paralytic ileus
- Acute or severe bronchial asthma in an unmonitored setting or in the absence of resuscitative equipment.
How Long Do Oxycodone Effects Last?
You can expect to begin experiencing the effects of oxycodone about 20 to 30 minutes after you take it, and they will likely reach their peak within 1 to 2 hours after ingestion. Whether you have taken the extended-release or immediate-release form of oxycodone will alter how quickly you begin to experience the effects. When you take the extended-release form of this substance, it can take up to 4 hours to reach its peak concentration in your bloodstream.
The length of time that oxycodone remains in your system is different for everyone and can depend on the following factors:
- Body mass/body fat content
- Amount of water in your body
- Metabolism rate
- Liver & kidney health
- Frequency of use and dosage taken
Even though you may only feel the effects of oxycodone for hours, the drug can be detected in your body for days or even months after your last use. It’s detectable in:
- Blood for up to 24 hours after last use
- Saliva for up to 2 days after last use
- Urine for up to 4 days after last use
- Hair for up to 90 days after last use
The most significant reason for opioids being addictive is the pleasurable feeling their use is associated with. Oftentimes, after someone ingests an opioid like oxycodone, they will experience not only the expected pain relief but also intense feelings of well-being and happiness, also known as euphoria.
This feeling of euphoria can activate the brain’s reward center and encourage continued use. When someone uses opioids for extended periods of time, their body will develop a tolerance to the drug and its effects. This means that they will need to either increase the dosage or the frequency to achieve the same effects.
An opioid addiction or dependence can often be characterized by the urge or need to continue using the drug despite any negative consequences. Other signs of oxycodone addiction can include the following behavioral and physical issues:
- Using or stealing someone else’s oxycodone prescription
- Attempting to acquire oxycodone prescriptions from several doctors at one time
- Attempting to quit, but being incapable of doing so
- Borrowing or stealing money in order to buy more oxycodone
- Slurred speech
- Disrupted sleep & drowsiness
- Constricted pupils
- Lack of coordination
- Changes in appetite
- Inability to focus
- Impaired memory
Although this is a list of the most common signs of oxycodone addiction, it is not all-inclusive, and each individual’s dependency may be unique. If you think that you or someone you love is dependent on opioids, assistance from a medical professional might be required.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Oxycodone withdrawal typically occurs in individuals who have been using the substance for long periods of time or have been taking higher doses. Once a person’s body becomes dependent on the drug, their brain chemistry begins to change to regulate itself in the presence of the drug.
If you suddenly stop taking the drug after you have become dependent upon it, your brain chemistry becomes unbalanced and may cause uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.
Oftentimes, the withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to get through and cause people to return to their opioid use. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can be characterized as comparable to a bad case of the flu, bringing the following issues:
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Muscle aches
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive sweating
- Heart palpitations
- Fluctuations in blood pressure
Not every person’s withdrawal experience will be the same. The timeline and symptoms can depend on how severe your addiction is or whether you taper your dose down or you quit suddenly.
Can Oxycodone Overdose be Prevented?
An opioid overdose can occur even with prescription pain relievers. This is why it is vital to always take your medications exactly as prescribed. If there is anything about your medication that you have questions about, you should ask your medical provider or your pharmacist for clarification to avoid an accidental overdose.
In addition to taking your medication exactly as you have been instructed to, there are several additional tips to help you avoid an oxycodone overdose:
- Do not take a higher dose than specified on the bottle.
- Do not take the drug more frequently than prescribed on the bottle.
- Never mix your pain medications with any other substances, such as alcohol, sleeping aids, or illicit drugs.
- Never take a medication that has been prescribed to someone other than yourself.
Once you are no longer taking your prescribed painkillers, you should dispose of them properly to prevent anyone else from getting their hands on them and potentially overdosing on a medication that has not been prescribed to them.
ANR Opioid Dependence Treatment
If you or someone you love is struggling with the vicious cycle of opioid dependency, withdrawal, and relapse, the ANR Clinic is the treatment center for you.
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation is not just your average rehab or detox. Since the 1990s, Dr. Andre Waismann has been studying and developing a treatment for opioid dependence that addresses the biological root cause of addiction with modern medicine.
In most cases, this treatment requires a 36-hour stay at the hospital. While you are there, you will be put under sedation for 4 to 6 hours and monitored by an anesthesiologist, a team of critical care nurses, and support staff.
The physician will modulate and regulate the opioid receptors and endorphin levels in your central nervous system. This will help you detox from the opioid you’re addicted to without any cravings or symptoms of withdrawal. Throughout the rest of your stay, your levels will be monitored and re-adjusted if necessary.
ANR has helped over 24,000 patients from all over the world to conquer their opioid use disorder and return to a life of normalcy and stability. After several attempts to overcome their opioid dependency, our patients find themselves relieved and full of hope for what their future holds after seeking treatment with us.
While the use of oxycodone can help you live a pain-free life if you suffer from severe discomfort on a daily basis, this drug should not be used for extended periods of time. When it is used for longer than intended, it comes with several risks, including dependence, withdrawal, and oxycodone overdose.
The best thing to do is avoid opioid use altogether and discuss opioid alternatives with your medical provider. However, when it is completely necessary, your best bet at avoiding any serious side effects associated with opioid use is to take the medication exactly as instructed.
If you or someone you love do find yourselves dependent on opioids, contact us here at the ANR Clinic. We will ensure that your recovery is a lasting one and help you return to your stable life of normalcy!