Oxycodone is a synthetic opioid drug that is produced from thebaine which is found in the Persian poppy plant. The drug is used as a pain relieving medication and is found to be up to 1.5 times more potent than morphine.
Oxycodone is indicated for providing pain relief in patients with moderate to severe pain and is used in situations such as:
- Post-surgical pain relief.
- Severe spinal pathologies.
- Pain caused by certain cancers.
Effects of oxycodone other than pain relief include:
- Feelings of euphoria.
- Reduced anxiety.
The reason why this happens is that the drug works on the opioid receptors in the brain that are involved with the reward system of the organ. Unfortunately, prolonged use of medications such as oxycodone can lead to other problematic behaviors such as:
- Tolerance – where the user starts to use more of the medication because it doesn’t seem to provide the desired effect, be it pain relief or the mentioned euphoria associated with its use.
- Recreational use – the pain may no longer be present but the individual may still be using the medication because of the mentioned effects it has on the body.
- Dependence – this occurs when one stops using the drug and begins to experience withdrawal symptoms thereby causing the individual to continue using oxycodone to prevent these issues from occurring.
- Addiction – is oxycodone addictive? Yes, it is because continued use of the medication may result in health-related problems, issues with school or work performance, and even getting into trouble with the law. Continued behaviors such as these without taking into consideration the negative consequences associated with it are regarded as addictive behaviors.
In one literature review, multiple studies demonstrated that oxycodone had an elevated abuse liability compared to other similar drugs such as morphine and hydrocodone-based on its high likability scores and relatively reduced amount of subjective effects.1
Oxycodone use in high dosages can lead to problems such as:
- Suppressed and shallow respiration.
- Slowed heart rate.
- Low blood pressure.
- Circulatory collapse.
- Respiratory arrest.
- Spinal cord infarction, strokes, and heart attacks due to reduced blood flow and oxygen transport to the involved organs.
- Liver and/or kidney damage if oxycodone combined with medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are consumed.
Legal status in the United States
Oxycodone is a Schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act that was enacted in 1971. This includes formulations of the medication where other drugs are included with the oxycodone, such as those mentioned already.
Despite this legislation, oxycodone is still one of the most commonly abused pharmaceutical drugs in the United States and has given rise to the current opioid epidemic which has resulted in the death of over 180,000 people from 2009 to 2015 with nearly 35,000 of those fatalities coming from the latter mentioned the year.
The primary focus of prevention is at the level of the physicians who prescribe these medications. Caution needs to be exercised when patients are prescribed oxycodone. Their needs and unique circumstances should be factors that must be considered when deciding who is prescribed these kinds of medications.
Where addictive behaviors are suspected in individuals using these medications, the services of local substance abuse rehabilitation facilities should be made use of.