What does oxycodone do to the body?
Addictive drugs directly activate the brain’s reward pathway, a system involved in behavior reinforcement and memory production.
Activation of the reward system can be so intense that normal activities, like eating and sleeping, may be forgotten and/or neglected. Drugs of abuse characteristically enhance dopamine signaling in an area of the reward pathway called the nucleus accumbens (NA.) The NA is sometimes called the “pleasure center” of the brain. It releases dopamine when the brain senses a rewarding stimulus, such as a narcotic, and this rush of chemicals reinforces the behavior that caused the sensation, for example ingesting a pill. Thus, the cycle of pleasure seeking begins and an addiction is cultivated.
Different drugs affect dopamine by different mechanisms of action. Oxycodone works by binding to opioid receptors, mimicking natural feel-good chemicals and inhibiting brain cells that inhibit dopamine-secreting cells, which ultimately enhances dopamine release as well. It creates long-term changes in the NA, which affect the way the NA responds to another chemical called glutamate. This disturbance contributes to drug cravings by causing the user to remember past drug use vividly.
Physical signs and side effects of Oxycodone addiction
Internal Signs and Symptoms
- Muscle relaxation
- Dry mouth
- Low blood pressure
- Postural hypotension
- Respiratory depression
- Difficulty swallowing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
Mental Signs and Symptoms
- Reduced pain
External Signs and Symptoms
- Hives, itching, or rash
- Constricted pupils
Behavioral signs and side effects of Oxycodone addiction
- Extreme relaxation
- Reduced anxiety
- Mood swings
What are the side effects of oxycodone abuse and addiction?
Using the drug incorrectly can lead to "opioid-induced hyperalgesia," meaning that once non-painful stimuli will suddenly be detected as painful by the altered brain. In fact, the pain intensity often becomes stronger than initially reported.
Additionally, using the drug for long periods of time can lead to tolerance, meaning that you have to take more and more of the drug just to achieve the original result.
Recreational use of oxycodone is extremely dangerous, as improper methods of ingestion often accelerate drug absorption, which can greatly increase the risk of overdose. Oxycodone abuse has also been associated with kidney and liver failure, especially when used in combination with acetaminophen and/or alcohol.
What causes Oxycodone addiction?
Oxycodone is an opiate analgesic. This means that it causes pain relief by binding to certain areas in the nervous system and GI tract called “opioid receptors” and changing the way your body and brain respond to pain. Oxycodone and other opioids induce an intensely pleasurable euphoric feeling, so users are at a high risk of both psychological and physiological addiction.
Can anyone become addicted to oxycodone?
No one is immune to addiction; even patients who take oxycodone (or other prescribed opioids) for legitimate medical reasons can become addicted. Medical necessity does not “protect” against addiction, yet this misconception is causing some physicians to overconfidently write opioid prescriptions without monitoring for addictive behavior. Medical professionals must always be on the lookout for warning signs and be ready to intervene as needed; even patients who take the drugs exactly as prescribed can become addicted.
However, the reality is that legal opioids are highly effective for treating pain, and only a small percentage of patients prescribed opioids become addicted, even among those with highly addictive tendencies. It should be noted, though, that the risk of addiction does slightly increase for individuals who take opioids for a long time (more than three months) or at high doses (over 100 morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs)). The risk also increases for adolescents, and individuals with depression and/or substance use disorder(s). Additionally, genetics account for 35-40% of the risk associated with addiction.
What are the causes of oxycodone withdrawal?
Withdrawal refers to both the physical and emotional consequences of either suddenly ceasing to take or drastically reducing intake of the drug after dependence on the substance is established. The brain and body become accustomed to functioning under certain conditions with oxycodone, so forcing them to quickly adapt to new ones can cause a wide array of issues, especially since opioid receptors are prevalent in high concentrations in multiple places in the body.
Signs of oxycodone withdrawal
Physical and mental signs of oxycodone withdrawal
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Muscle or bone pain
What happens during oxycodone withdrawal?
Oxycodone withdrawal is highly individualized and depends on the dose you’ve been taking, the length of time you’ve been using, the frequency of use, etc. Withdrawal symptoms typically start within six hours of stopping the drug, and usually last around a week. Many users report that withdrawal is incredibly intense and intolerable, so we encourage you to seek professional help and/or detoxification services before attempting to quit.
How does Two Dreams handle oxycodone detox?
We do not personally offer detoxification services, however our professional staff is more than happy to refer patients to nearby clinics for detox before admission into our program. In addition, we offer Suboxone and Probuphine services for appropriate patients looking to stop taking oxycodone with the help of medication.
Oxycodone Overdose: The Risks and Side Effects
Ingesting a high dose of Oxycodone, either intentionally or accidentally, can lead to serious consequences, including overdose, coma, and/or death. This guide is for information purposes only and should not be used in case of an emergency.
If you suspect you or someone else has overdosed, call your local emergency hotline (ex. 911) or a poison control center (1-800-222-1222) immediately.
Signs of oxycodone overdose
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- GI tract spasms
- Low blood pressure, weak pulse
- Lack of responsiveness, even to painful stimuli
- Constricted pupils (non-reactive to light)
- Cyanosis (blue colored fingernails, lips)
- Difficult to wake up; extreme sedation
- Respiratory arrest (slow, shallow breathing or no breathing at all)
What to do if someone is overdosing on Oxycodone
If you suspect you or someone else has overdosed, call your local emergency hotline (ex. 911) or a poison control center (1-800-222-1222) immediately, as overdose can lead to widespread organ injury and/or death if not handled quickly. It is helpful to know the strength of the ingested drug, as well as the time it was taken, the amount taken, and whether or not it was prescribed. The operator will also likely ask for the person’s age, weight, and current condition.
If you are trained in the administration of fast-acting opioid antagonist drugs such as naloxone, you should take the appropriate steps as soon as symptoms appear.
What are my next steps?
Please call us here at Two Dreams if you find yourself struggling with oxycodone use; our lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Two Dreams offers a safe, judgment-free place to start the healing process. There are many different ways to start managing addiction, and we understand that what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. We provide inpatient, intensive outpatient, and outpatient services based on the unique needs of each individual and the level of care needed. Our trained counselors, under the supervision of a physician, are happy to talk through these options with you and help decide which placement will best fit your needs.
We ensure that the transitions into and out of treatment are as stress-free as possible by guiding you through each process step-by-step. Additionally, we provide step-down transition programs to help you shift out of the treatment center setting.
Our expert staff has been helping people with addiction for decades, so you can be sure that you and your loved ones will be in good hands. Dr. Andrea Barthwell, founder and CEO of Two Dreams, is widely regarded as one of the “Best Doctors in America” in the field of addiction medicine. She served as president of the American Addiction Society of Medicine (ASAM), as well as Deputy Director for Demand Reduction in the White House under President George W. Bush. Her renowned status and experience in the field have allowed her to shape Two Dreams into the outstanding recovery center that it is today—one that is able to provide state-of-the-art care and services to those in need.
We are here to help you in any way that we can; we are on your side.
Education Resources/Sources Cited
What makes our oxycodone addiction treatment plans effective?
For many people, oxycodone addiction starts out with a legitimate prescription for pain, be it caused by an injury, surgery, chronic illness, or some other ailment.
We understand that, and are fully prepared to help our clients manage their pain along with their addiction. Through a holistic approach that incorporates physical therapy, relaxation techniques, anti-inflammatory nutritional advice, and more, we are often able to help our clients control their pain without the use of addictive substances.
That being said, we offer individualized treatment here at Two Dreams so pain management is not a part of everyone’s plan. Our unique 3-7-3 model allows for each patient to explore their own recovery while simultaneously healing alongside their peers.
Our Unique Treatment Model
The first “3” refers to our three phases of treatment: coming in, looking in, and looking out. In brief, the Coming In phase is about making the decision to come into the treatment center and learning to trust and tell your story. The Looking In phase is devoted to introspection, acknowledging the addiction, committing to recovery, and reducing or eliminating inducements to use. The Looking Out phase revolves around planning for life outside the treatment center, in terms of managing cravings, relationships, living arrangements, etc.
The “7” refers to the seven dimensions of treatment we feel comprise a holistic treatment experience. In focusing on these aspects of life, we believe we can help our patients to become fully well rounded, self-sufficient individuals.
- Peer Support
- Professional Guidance
- Medication Review
- Ritual (12-Step Component)
The last “3” refers to the three outcomes we aspire to achieve in treatment: mental peace, physical well-being, and personal productivity. In achieving mental peace, patients can cast off the negative emotions fostered by addiction and replace them with feelings of self-worth, positivity, and hope for the future. In achieving physical well-being, patients embrace the mind-body connection and live the healthy lifestyle necessary for fostering a healthy mindset. In achieving personal productivity, patients play to their strengths and contribute to society in their own way while continuing their recovery journey.
Learn more about our unique program, or watch a short introduction video from our founder, Dr. Andrea Barthwell.
What will you experience during treatment for oxycodone addiction at Two Dreams?
All patients undergo a pain assessment upon admission to evaluate the need for pain management of any kind. This assessment is largely based on self-reported answers with physician evaluation available upon request. Our expert medical team will work with you to determine whether or not medication is necessary and, if it is, how to avoid triggering a relapse or risking addiction going forward. Patients experiencing pain will be guided through their own personalized management program, overseen by Founder and CEO Andrea Barthwell, MD, DFASAM. Feel free to explore her blog recounting her own personal journey with chronic pain here: https://drbarthwell.wordpress.com/
The rest of the treatment experience at Two Dreams involves daily process group therapy sessions, individual counseling sessions, physical activities, nutritional guidance, journaling and mindfulness exercises, recreational experiences, and more. We believe that addiction is best addressed holistically and we take pride in our ability to instill in you the tools needed to achieve mental peace, physical wellbeing, and personal productivity.
Daily Ritual at Two Dreams
Ritual is a key component of beating addiction; by ritualizing your daily schedule, you can largely remove the irrational, emotional risk-taking behaviors that oftentimes lead to relapse. We help patients to develop their own rituals by turning them on to some of our own evidence-based habits for success. For example, every morning patients wake up and take a walk on the beach, bathing their eyes in sunlight to encourage the switch from GABA to glutamate, AKA sleep to wake. They then enjoy a 4 oz. fruit and vegetable smoothie after that to start their metabolism and further encourage wakefulness.
The Two Dreams Advantage
We have a maximum of 10 patients at any given time, so we are able to continually update and evaluate each patient’s progress in an effort to maximize their outcomes. We aim for overall wellness, as opposed to just detoxification and abstinence, so when patients leave our beautiful beachside location they are ready to take on the challenges of everyday life.