How to Help an Oxycodone Addict
Oxycodone is an opioid pain reliever prescribed to people experiencing moderate or severe pain. Due to the drug’s ability to act on the opioid receptors in the body (and for extended periods, with some formulations) oxycodone is a highly useful medication in the realm of pain management. The substance is available as several name brand medications, including:
- OxyContin, OxyIR, OxyFast – Oxycodone only.
- Percocet – Oxycodone combined with acetaminophen.
- Percodan – Oxycodone combined with aspirin.
Oxycodone is a very desirable drug of abuse due its ability to relieve pain while providing a euphoric high similar to other opioids like heroin. In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration reports that more than 16 million people abused oxycodone in 2012.
Help for Oxycodone Addicts
With the relatively high availability of the substance and the large number of people abusing it, oxycodone addiction has become quite common. Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatment options for someone abusing oxycodone. The options include treatments like:
- Medication interventions including detoxification and maintenance treatment.
- Behavioral therapies with motivational incentives.
- Family therapy and education.
- 12-step support.
How to Approach an Oxycodone-Addicted Loved One
Oxycodone can have powerful effects on the user. A person abusing oxycodone may be feeling dizziness, weakness, and uncomfortable digestion problems. When they are high they are not in a receptive or particularly coherent state, so it is much better to wait until they are sober to discuss treatment.
Those who are caught up in addiction to Oxycodone may be experiencing psychological and physical dependence, so educate yourself on the effects of Oxycodone so that you can talk with them from a place of improved understanding about the drug and its effects. When you finally decide to bring up the topic, make sure to use compassionate language that does not throw blame around. If you approach the person who is suffering from oxycodone addiction with aggression or frustration, the user may retreat even further.
In some cases, professional help can make a big difference. Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is a proven program that teaches friends and family members of addicted individuals how to best approach the topic of treatment. A therapist will teach you and other people that care about the oxycodone abuser about the most effective communication strategies that are more likely to get that person to agree to enter treatment- it works in seven out of ten cases (Meyers, Smith, & Lash, 2005).
All in all, you want to come to an oxycodone user with empathy and sobriety support. Make sure that they understand that you care about them and are bringing this up because you want to help them in their recovery journey. The support of friends and family can help encourage an oxycodone user to stay abstinent and work toward long-term recovery both during and following treatment.
Video: Dying By Prescription
Watch the 3-min clip from the video below for the story of one man who was prescribed Percocet in the hospital and quickly developed an addiction.
Oxycodone Addiction Treatment
The appropriate treatment for you will depend on factors, including:
- The amount of the substance used.
- The duration of use.
- The frequency of use.
Ending use of oxycodone is best done under the care of a substance abuse professional. By completing an assessment, the professional can recommend the safest course of treatment with the best prognosis.
For many people ending oxycodone use, treatment begins with detoxification. This process involves monitoring and reducing the amount of oxycodone in your system under close, medical supervision to ensure your comfort. At this point, some will be transitioned onto another "stabilizing" or "maintenance" medication like buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex) or methadone. These substances can be controlled in a way to help prevent full withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings and reduce the risks of continued substance use.
- Medication management to reduce cravings and address mental health issues underlying addiction.
- Behavioral therapy to identify the triggers of use and the mechanisms in place that maintained these patterns. Many behavioral programs employ 'token economies', or provide rewards for periods of abstinence.
- Family therapy and education to provide loved ones with information to better aid recovery and to address their own needs related to addiction.
- 12-step programs to build a sense of community and fellowship with others in recovery.
Emergency room visits due to adverse reactions to Oxycodone
Emergency room visits due to suicide attempts involving oxycodone
Is Oxycodone Addictive?
All opioids have some level of addiction. Oxycodone is no different. The substance attaches to tiny molecular structures throughout the brain and the body called opioid receptors. Once in place, the drug triggers a cascade of molecular events—including the release of a substance called dopamine. Ultimately, opioid receptor activation culminates in:
- Decreased pain perception.
- Decreased physical tension.
- Increased sense of relaxation.
When someone experiences these effects, the brain's reward system reinforces the behavior. Users will want to replicate the drug taking behavior with increased frequency and intensity. Over time, however, the body will become tolerant to the effects of the drug and require more and more to experience the same feelings.
What Are the Signs of Oxycodone Addiction?
People often begin abusing a substance to experience the pleasurable effects. Others may become addicted despite taking the medication as prescribed. Regardless of the path of the addiction, indicators will be the same. Signs of oxycodone addiction include:
- Slowed or labored breathing.
- Appearing more lethargic and lacking energy or motivation.
- Pinpoint pupils.
- Alternating between being alert and asleep.
- Problems with motor coordination.
In the long-term or at higher doses, these signs will appear more often or with increased severity
Oxycodone Help Quiz question 3
Yearly deaths linked to oxycodone and other opioid use
Deaths involving oxycodone and other opioids (CDC WONDER query, ICD-10 code T40.2, ???Poisoning by, adverse effect of and underdosing of other opioids???)
Am I Addicted to Oxycodone?
While the signs of use can be quite distinct, and easy to recognize, knowing definitively that you are addicted to oxycodone may require further introspection. Addiction is the continued use of a substance even when it has caused negative life events in the past or you know it will lead to problems in the future. Consider the following indications that you might be addicted to oxycodone:
- You have been placing less value on the relationships in your life, or you have been fighting more with those close to you.
- You have not been devoting the needed time or attention to the responsibilities in your life like attending work and paying bills.
- You are not caring for yourself physically or mentally.
- More of your time is spent thinking about the substance and trying to acquire more of it.
- If you are prescribed oxycodone, you find yourself using more than indicated by the prescribing doctor, trying to receive multiple prescriptions from various doctors, or trying to trade or buy medication.
- You have made previous attempts to limit or stop use of the medication with poor success.
- When you attempt to stop, you experience unwanted mental and physical health symptoms including flu-like symptoms, agitation, and depression.
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- Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2015, from https://d14rmgtrwzf5a.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/podat_1.pdf
- Oxycodone. (2014, March 1). Retrieved October 30, 2015, from http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/oxycodone/oxycodone.pdf#search=oxycodone
- Meyers, R. J., Smith, J. E., & Lash, D. N. (2005). A program for engaging treatment-refusing substance abusers into treatment: CRAFT. International Journal of Behavioral and Consultation Therapy, 1(2). 90-100.