Ask & Answer: Oxycodone Side Effects
Oxycodone, a prescription opioid is used to treat moderate to severe pain due to injury, surgery or in some cases, chronic long-term pain. The prescription drug works by changing the way the brain responds to pain. It also depresses the central nervous system which affects heart rate, breathing, etc. The drug is chemically designed to emulate morphine, an opiate. Oxycodone is one of the most commonly misused drugs on the market.
The drug is classified as a Schedule II drug which means it has highly addictive properties and a high potential for dependence. Oxycodone comes in a variety of forms such as extended-release tablets/capsules, regular tablets/capsules and a liquid form.
Street names include: hillbilly heroin, kickers, blue, killers, oxycottons, oxy 80’s, O.C., oxies
Medical names include: Percocet, Percodan, Oxycontin, Tylox, Roxicet, and Endocent
The drug produces many side effects, both mentally and physically. Some effects are short-term while others are long-term.
What are Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Abuse?
For someone who is abusing Oxycodone, they will feel a euphoric high which can cause a person to look as if they are nodding off. They may appear tired all the time which may also come off as if they are extremely lazy.
Changes in Appearance and Hygiene
For people who abuse Oxycodone, they start to care less and less about how they dress, if they bathe or if they smell bad. Dirty clothes and poor hygiene are very common in those who are addicted to or abusing drugs.
Often times, when any type of drug is being abused many people will start to pull away from their social life. Sometimes this is noticeable when a person has a full social life such as many friends, a large family or they have an extrovert personality. Social changes can be hard to recognize in introvert personalities. Either way, a person who starts abusing drugs will become isolated in many (if not all areas) of life: school, work, finances, personal relationships, hobbies, etc.
This happens because drugs like Oxycodone are supplying a person with everything they need to create a euphoric effect, which leaves a person craving more of it.
When loved one’s care, they show concern and support but what someone who is addicted to drugs will see is criticism and nagging. This can put a strain on any relationship. When a loved one is watching someone they care about change before their eyes, into someone they no longer recognize it can also put a strain on the relationship. Often times, the person using drugs becomes frustrated and angry. It also becomes increasingly hard for loved ones to remain calm and patient. More often than not relationships fail due to drug addiction.
Drug addiction will lead to withdrawal when a person goes through detox. Sometimes withdrawal is miserable and sometimes it’s not. Detox allows the body to be cleansed of the drug but that’s not what the body and mind want though. Not only does the body and mind want to hold onto the drug, they both want more of it. The withdrawal symptoms can be grueling from some people and are very noticeable.
- Mental Withdrawal Symptoms:
- Irritation/Agitation/Anger/Violent Outbursts
- Panic Attacks/Anxiety/Depression/Confusion
- Mood swings
- Drug cravings
- Suicidal thoughts
- Physical Withdrawal Symptoms:
- Itchy skin
- Muscle pain
- Flu-like symptoms
- Hormonal imbalance
- Dilated pupils
- Abdominal cramps
- Rapid heart beat
Withdrawal symptoms are just one reason that many people choose to continue to abuse drugs.
The use of Oxycodone and many other types of drugs can lead to poor performance at work, school and home. For students, skipping class to buy or use drugs is common while employees will end their shift or call in sick for the same reasons. Oxycodone leads to concentration issues which makes it harder for users to stay alert, to pay attention and/or to attain information. This can lead to poor or failing grades for students and is a reason for employees to be let go from their position.
Due to lack of concentration, a person may not perform well at work which can lead to the loss of a job. Loss of a job leads to financial trouble and that leads to even bigger issues, like loss of a residence, etc. Financial issues can also come from the amount of money being spent to acquire the drug. Prescription drugs are not easily affordable and can cost a minimal of $80 a bottle on the streets. Drug abuse/addiction can lead to health problems or an overdose which requires healthcare visits, these can be very costly. In some instances, the use of drugs can lead to the selling of drugs which can also be costly, if caught. Legal fees and jail time can easily lead to financial issues.
What are the Side Effects of Oxycodone Use?
While Oxycodone produces a euphoric high and that is why so many people are abusing the drug, it can also provide some side effects. These effects range from minimal to dangerous.
Short-Term Side Effects
- Sedation/Reduced Anxiety/Extreme Relaxation
- Dry mouth
- Stomach pain
- Flushed complex
- Cough suppression
- Pain relief
- Mood swings
- Loss of strength
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme drowsiness
- Inability to feel pain
- Painful urination
Long-Term and/or Dangerous Side Effects
- Low sex drive
- Low blood pressure
- Erectile dysfunction
- Irregular menstruation
- Trouble swallowing/breathing
- Chest pain
- Heartbeat changes, heart infection and/or heart failure
- Clogged blood vessels, collapsed veins
- Severe liver and/or kidney damage
- Liver and/or kidney failure
- Brain damage
Oxycodone can interact with other drugs which makes it more dangerous to take. These drugs include: sedatives, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, narcotic pain medications, and tranquilizers. Oxycodone should never be mixed or taken with alcohol as it can cause respiratory distress, overdose and/or death. Combining Acetaminophen and Oxycodone together can cause severe liver damage overtime.
Side Effect: Itching
Many people are confused by the itching sensation that comes from taking opioids and other drugs. Generally, the itching sensation comes from neurotransmitter stimulation or an allergic reaction. Either way, it can cause a person to break out in hives or scratch their skin so badly that scars are left behind. It’s a short-term side effect that can produce long-term issues. If someone is allergic to Oxycodone, chances are very high that more side effects will quickly follow such as: severe dizziness, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue and/or throat.
Over-the-counter medications are available to help with allergic reactions when it comes to a rash and swelling. However, it is advised to seek medical attention right away if difficulty in breathing and severe dizziness occurs.
Side Effect: The Brain Fog
In taking opioids, the brain gets a sense of euphoria. This is a huge reason why so many people choose to keep taking them. Opioids like Oxycodone also hurt the brain by causing a fog to form in it. It becomes much harder to concentrate and function in daily life. Eventually, this fog can lead to depression with chronic usage.
Opioids bind to opioid receptors in the brain which triggers a release of dopamine. Essentially, they hijack the brain and change the way it thinks and the way it feels pleasure and pain.
Side Effect: The Airway
Opiates like Oxycodone depress the central nervous system which slows breathing down so much that it can cause unconsciousness and/or death. Over time, chronic opiate use can result in severe damage to organs due to lack of oxygen.
Side Effect: The Cardiac Effect
On average, a person’s heart beats 60 to 100 times a minute. The heart delivers important nutrients to tissue but when the heart isn’t beating properly, tissue begins to starve. It is suggested that Oxycodone can damage heart tissue. For those who abuse Oxycodone, the pills (meant to provide an extended-release) are taken all at once which can lead to adverse effects, including heart issues. Those with long-standing addictions who also have a history of injecting crushed pills could be at risk for tiny contaminating articles damaging their hearts.
Side Effect: Digestion Issues
Oxycodone wreaks havoc on the digestive tract leaving behind in its wake a series of discomforts such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, abdominal distension and constipation. Researchers have found that narcotics can slow down the bowel, which cause these symptoms known as narcotic bowel syndrome (NBS).
Side Effect: The Nerves
Opioids disrupt the natural flow of the way the body works so when it comes to the nerves, opioids block feelings of pain while also inducing drowsiness and changing body temperature. Opioids speed up the nervous system, which increase alertness, wakefulness, focus and attention.
What Does an Oxycodone Overdose Look Like?
According to the Center of Disease and Control, 46 people die every day in the United States due to a prescription opioid overdose. Most commonly used opioids are Methadone, Oxycodone (like Oxycontin) and Hydrocodone (like Vicodin). There are drugs like Narcan that aid in either completely or partially reversing an opioid overdose but one must know what symptoms to look out for.
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Extreme drowsiness
- Slow or irregular heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
- Constricted, small pinpoint pupils
- Decreased awareness
- No muscle tone or movement
- Cold, clammy skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blue skin (lips and fingers)
- Changes in breathing (slow or labored)
- Low blood pressure
- Weak pulse
- Seizure coma
If any of these symptoms start to occur, it is important to call 911 or to get that person to a hospital immediately. First responders are equipped with drugs like Narcan to help combat opioid overdoses. It is important to tell them the person’s name, age, when they took the drug, if any other drugs were taken and what sort of medical conditions or allergies the person has.
How Long Does Oxycodone Stay in the System?
Knowing how long Oxycodone stays in the system is important so that medication or alcohol isn’t mixed with the drug. Other medications and alcohol increase the risk of an overdose. An overdose risk also increases if an extended-release tablet or capsule is crushed, cut or chewed because the dosage will be released all at once instead of working as a timed release.
On average, it can take up to 20 hours for Oxycodone to completely leave a person’s system. However, the drug can stay in urine for 3-4 days, in saliva for 1-4 days and in hair for up to 90 days.
Some Factors to Consider
There are certain factors that can change the length of time Oxycodone stays in the system.
- Enzymes- There are certain types of enzymes in the liver that can eliminate Oxycodone from the system. These enzymes are generally found at higher levels in younger people.
- Age-As the body starts to age, the physiological performance begins to decrease and therefore, the drug cannot be metabolized as easily.
- Genetics- Depending on the specific alleles (one of two or more alternative forms of a gene created through mutation and found at the same spot on a chromosome) that are present in the body they can increase or slow down metabolizers of Oxycodone.
- Weight/Height-These factors are important to consider because higher dosages are taken depending on a person’s weight and height. The more body fat a person has, the faster a person can excrete it from their body.
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)-The BMR is a factor because people who have a higher one will eliminate the drug quicker than people who have a lower BMR. BMR is dependent on diet, supplements, drugs and exercise.
- Alkaline- When it comes to drugs in the system, the more alkaline pH that is in the urine, the longer the drug stays in the body. By comparison, acidic urine can eliminate Oxycodone faster. However, too much acid in the system is a breeding ground for chronic fatigue and disease.
- Drug Intake- The dosage of Oxycodone and how long it’s been taken is also a factor, as well as any other drugs that are taken with it.
- Food Intake-Drug absorption is dependent on food intake. A heavy intake of carbohydrates slows down the process of absorbing the drug which can take longer to excrete from the body.
Helping Friends/Family with Oxycodone Addiction
If you or someone you know has an addiction to Oxycodone or any other drug, it’s important to seek help. The side effects, signs and symptoms are nearly universal in all drugs so it’s easy at times to see that someone is abusing. However, some drugs do not make is so obvious. A tell-tale for cocaine usually appears as redness under the nose that doesn’t appear to ever go away or a consistent runny nose. A tell-tale for heroin is generally track marks in the arm or other areas of the body. Opioids, in the form of pills or tablets are harder to narrow down and that is why following the signs, symptoms and side effects stated above are important. The first step to helping a friend or family member is to get them to understand that there is a problem. Many people who are dependent on painkillers do not even realize they have a problem. Opioids like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone are seen as better drugs and many people will say, “I am not using drugs. I’m taking pain meds.” However, the harsh truth remains, prescription drugs are not “better” drugs and they are killing more people nationwide than other drugs like cocaine and meth. Once a person has seen that they do have a problem, treatment becomes the best course of action.
Treatment typically comes in the form of drug rehabilitation which brings its own set of withdrawal symptoms (which are all stated above) as well.
Here are a few more:
- Watery eyes
- Muscle weakness
- Increased heart rate
- Increased breath rate
Detoxing the body is an important part of rehabilitation but these withdrawal symptoms can make it a hard experience to endure. However, when the drug is gone so are the side effects. A caveat to that is the length of time the drug has been used. There are some long-term side effects that will continue to exist because Oxycodone has already done its damage to the body. With the body being cleansed of drugs, no further damage can happen.
Other Ways for Friends and Family Members to Help
Fifty-five percent of opiate users obtain their drugs from a friend or relative in some form or fashion. If you find that your friend or loved one is showing some of the side effects and signs from above, there a few ways to help. Treatment is the best course of action but sometimes it’s an unaffordable option.
Tip 1: No Enabling: It becomes easy to help friends and family members out of certain binds but drugs shouldn’t be one of them. Negative enabling is allowing an addict to continue their addiction by giving that person whatever they need in order to get more drugs. In most cases, it’s money. However, another way to negatively enable is to give that person a place to live. It can be hard to put friends and loved ones out on the streets but it’s also necessary when they are addicted to drugs and refuse to get help.
Tip 2: A Chance to Change-People who are addicted to opioids may not even realize that they are abusing them. Sometimes, drug abusers are not aware of their own addiction. It works the same as a person who is eating chips out of a bag. You just eat chip after chip and never realize how much you are eating until the bag is empty. Taking drugs works the same way. Some people do not realize there is a problem until it’s pointed out to them. In which case, most people will become defensive. If it gets to this point, chances are slim that a person will choose to change. Alternatively, if a person is open for change then it should be encouraged.
Tip 3: Talk About It- Addiction shouldn’t be a dark secret kept in the corner somewhere, it should be talked about. Those who are addicted to drugs should not feel alone so it’s important to let other friends and family know about one’s drug use. This can seem like an invasion of privacy but when a person is addicted to drugs, they are unable to think rationally. Through treatment, a person addicted to drugs will learn to forgive while healing.
Tip 4: Spread Awareness- There are four basic stages of addiction:
- Experimenting- First time use.
- Abuse-Using outside the perimeters of first-time use like refilling a prescription that isn’t necessary.
- Tolerance-Having to up the drug dosage to get the same effect as before.
- Dependence (Addiction) – Showing signs of withdrawal symptoms when one is unable to take the drug.
Providing awareness about how easy it is to get addicted to drugs is a helpful way for friends and family members to help. By spreading awareness to young children and teens, it can help provide the structure needed to decrease the overdose death rate in America. Awareness allows people to fully understand why opioids are so dangerous.
Many states have already started a lawsuit against big pharmaceutical companies who announced back in the 90’s that pain medication like Oxycodone was not addictive. While this is a start in the right direction, there is really only one way to help cure what drugs have done to society and that’s to get people into treatment. These four tips can provide a helpful ice-breaker when it comes to helping a friend or family member who is addicted to opioids, but treatment is vital.
If you or a friend abuses drugs or has an addiction to Oxycodone, please seek treatment. Death rates are sky-rocketing due to opioid overdose. Prescription drugs are just as bad as any other drug that is killing thousands of people. Get help today.