Roxicodone (often called “roxies”, “roxys” or “blues”) is one of the brand names for oxycodone, a powerful opioid prescription painkiller. Roxicodone is prescribed to alleviate pain that cannot be managed by non-opioid pain relievers.
As a potent semi-synthetic opiate derived from morphine 2, Roxicodone produces effects similar to those of heroin (e.g., euphoria and sedation), especially when misused. While it is extremely effective at relieving severe pain, it also has a high potential for abuse and addiction 2.
Roxicodone’s potency and rapid onset of action make it a popular drug of abuse for those seeking a recreational high. Others, however, may begin taking the drug out of necessity and become addicted over time. The risk of developing an addiction is particularly high for those who 3:
- Take Roxicodone more frequently or in higher quantities than prescribed.
- Take Roxicodone in ways other than prescribed, e.g., via snorting or injecting it.
- Take the medication recreationally without a prescription/take someone else’s prescription.
Many think you cannot abuse a medication if it’s been prescribed to you, but this is not the case. Any misuse of a medication that varies from the prescription may constitute substance abuse.
Abuse of oxycodone-containing medications is surprisingly common. One of the reasons is the sheer volume of oxycodone. Prescriptions for oxycodone exploded with the boom of “pill mills,” or clinics at which getting an opioid prescription is exceedingly easy. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), there were nearly 60 million prescriptions for substances containing oxycodone in 2013. In 2014, nearly 150,000 kg were produced to meet the increasing need for the substance 4.
In 2014 alone, almost 2 million people were dependent on or addicted to prescription opioids 5.
Signs and Symptoms Of Roxicodone Abuse
When Roxicodone is taken as prescribed, its effects will be experienced across a number of important physiologic systems or pathways, including: 2:
- The central nervous system. The substance will alter the user’s perception of pain without actually fixing the cause of it. Additionally, it will slow down the breathing rate and reduce a person’s cough reflex.
- The digestive system. Roxicodone will slow the process of food digestion, which can lead to constipation. It may also cause nausea and vomiting for some patients.
- The cardiovascular system. The substance will reduce blood pressure and slow the heart rate.
When the substance is abused, the user may suffer new or worsening side effects like 1,3,4,6:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Stomach pain.
- Dry mouth.
- Reduced sexual desire.
- Trouble swallowing.
- Slowed breathing.
- Dangerously low blood pressure.
Symptoms of Overdose
A very serious risk of Roxicodone abuse is overdose. Overdose strikes when more of the substance is consumed than the body can manage, and it can occur at any time. Roxicodone overdose can lead to fatal respiratory depression. Symptoms of overdose include 1,4:
- Flaccid muscles.
- Clammy skin.
- Trouble breathing.
- Respiratory arrest.
- Drop in blood pressure.
- Slowed or stopped heart rate.
- Extreme sedation.
- Loss of consciousness.
Using Roxicodone with other drugs, especially other drugs that depress the central nervous system like alcohol, benzodiazepines, ups the risk of overdose by a significant degree. Snorting or injecting Roxicodone can also increase the risk for overdose and other severe medical complications 7.
Effects of Roxicodone Abuse
Over time, Roxicodone abuse leads to a number of health-related effects, including 7:
- Tolerance—the need to take more Roxicodone to achieve the same pain reduction and/or high.
- Dependence—the body’s demand for continued levels of Roxicodone in the system in order to function and perform at the typical level. Dependence is a normal reaction to extended substance use that can occur even when someone uses their medication as prescribed. One does not have to abuse the substance to be dependent on it.
- Addiction—the reckless, impulsive use of a substance even when negative consequences are certain. This can exist with dependence or independently.
Addiction will spread its influence over all areas of the user’s life. People that become addicted to Roxicodone may experience problems with:
- Social relationships. People addicted to Roxicodone will often begin to prioritize using and acquiring the substance over their relationships. They may begin to exploit their relationships to obtain more drugs.
- Employment or educational success. During periods of addiction, attendance and performance at work and school may begin to decline.
- Financial stability. Even if the addiction begins with a prescription, use will grow beyond the allotted amount, which requires the user to seek out and pay for additional supplies. This paired with employment struggles can harm income and financial status.
- Legal status. Many people addicted to roxies will use it without a prescription, which is illegal. Also, people struggling with addiction often break the law to obtain money or drugs (e.g., by stealing).
- Physical and mental health. From depression and irritability to lethargy and decreased self-care, addiction takes a major toll on the user. Learn more about Roxicodone side effects.
Someone dependent on Roxicodone will need to continue taking it in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. The avoidance of withdrawal symptoms is a significant contributor to continued use and makes it extremely difficult for addicted individuals to stop using. Withdrawal symptoms include 1,3,6:
- Inability to sleep.
- Irritability and mood changes.
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Cold flashes and fever.
- Profuse sweating, watering eyes, runny nose.
- Musculoskeletal aches and pains.
- Involuntary muscle jerks.
The withdrawal symptoms will feel very uncomfortable (many describe it as the worst flu they’ve ever had), yet it is typically not dangerous to the individual. While it is not life-threatening, the intensity of withdrawal symptoms can trigger relapse. For this reason, many people going through this difficult beginning phase of recovery prefer the help of a professional detox program.
The pervasive damage caused by drugs like Roxicodone is shocking. Consider these statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 8:
- In 2014, more than 14,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses from a prescription opioid like Roxicodone.
- From 1999 to 2014, 165,000 people died from a prescription opioid overdose.
- More than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for prescription opioid-related problems every day.
- About 25% of people prescribed opioids long-term for non-cancer pain will become addicted.
Teen Roxicodone Abuse
Teenagers are not immune to the issues surrounding oxycodone and other prescription opioids. Many teens gain possession of these substances for free from their own home or the home of a friend. OxyContin, another brand name for oxycodone was abused by 3.7% of high school seniors, according to a 2015 report 3. This is especially worrying because opioid dependence and addiction is a major contributing factor to eventual heroin dependence. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that almost 80% of people who become addicted to heroin started out abusing prescription opioids.
Prevention is a growing concern related to all prescription opioid abuse and addiction. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control have suggested several measures to reduce unwanted issues 5.
- Patient education to delineate the risks and benefits of opioid use as well as ways to properly store and count medication.
- Youth prevention education provided in the school setting.
- Family education to train parents to notice the signs of abuse in their children including behavioral indicators.
Resources, Articles, and More Information
For more information, see the following articles: