Oxycodone (OxyContin) is a prescription opioid approved to treat moderate-severe pain. It also acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Like all opioids, oxycodone has a very high potential for both abuse and addiction.
Oxycodone is addictive because it acts on the brain’s reward center by using certain neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, are chemical messengers in the CNS that contribute to intense feelings of well-being or euphoria.
How Is Oxycodone Used?
Oxycodone is usually prescribed in tablet form, and oral delivery is by far the most common means of abuse. It can also be crushed into a powder, however, and the resulting product can be inhaled into the nasal passage, or put into a pipe or vaporizer and smoked. Both of these other methods of administration result in faster transit of the substance to the brain and will result in the drug acting rapidly on the body, which can ultimately lead to severe side effects.
When oxycodone is smoked, rapid absorption of the drug induces a massive release of dopamine, which then initiates the euphoric “high” and enforces the drug’s potential for addiction. Some studies suggest that oxycodone users may be more likely to use other substances, such as stimulants, which can increase the likelihood of overdose when used simultaneously.
Tolerance and Dependence
Over time, dependence and tolerance can develop from routine oxycodone use. When a user becomes dependent on oxycodone, very unpleasant withdrawal effects will onset if he or she tries to cut back or quit “cold turkey.”
The manifestation of withdrawal symptoms is a telltale sign that the person’s body has become unable to function normally without the drug’s presence. These symptoms are both emotional and physical and can persist for many days after the last dose has been ingested.
Along with dependence, over time, tolerance is likely to occur. As the person’s system becomes less sensitive to oxycodone, he or she will be compelled to take increasing amounts of the drug to reach the desired effects. This cycle of cause-and-effect behavior can rapidly result in a worsening of the addiction, and, ultimately, overdose.
Side effects from consuming large doses of oxycodone, regardless of administration, include the following:
- Respiratory depression
- Low blood pressure
- Heart failure
Effects of Smoking Oxycodone
One of the fastest methods of becoming intoxicated by a drug is by smoking it. When oxycodone is consumed in this way, the person rapidly becomes intoxicated. Effects may include the following:
- Altered mental status
- Slow breathing
- Lack of alertness
- Pinpoint pupils
- Stomach discomfort
- Impaired coordination
The euphoric effects of the drug will subside more rapidly when opioids are smoked. Because of this fact, persons who smoke oxycodone are more likely to ingest it in a binge-like fashion. Unfortunately, this cycle can result in overdose and death.
Overdose is potentially the most severe side effect caused by excessive doses of oxycodone. When the drug is tampered with and delivered rapidly, the person may be more likely to consume too much. His or her brain may begin to shut down as a result of oxygen deprivation and profound respiratory depression.
Long-term smoking of any substance, including oxycodone, can result in lung infections due to tissue damage, emphysema, or lung cancer. Overdose death is the most severe potential side effect caused by excessive doses of oxycodone.
Effects of Snorting Oxycodone
The manifestation of symptoms of intoxication is slower by way of snorting oxycodone versus smoking. Crushing the drug into a fine powder and ingesting it through the nose still allows the person to avoid the time-release element of the drug and experience the effects more intensely and rapidly than if it were consumed orally as a tablet.
One of the primary side effects that occur due to snorting oxycodone is tissue damage to the nose, sinuses, and throat. This damage can result in chronic nosebleeds, loss of sense of smell or taste, and recurrent bacterial infections in the nose and upper respiratory system.
When oxycodone is snorted, it is absorbed into the bloodstream via mucous membranes that line the nose and throat. This action allows the opioid to reach the brain more rapidly, meaning that its effects can onset within as little as two minutes after intranasal ingestion.
How to Overcome Oxycodone Addiction
Those who tamper with the method of administration, such as moving from oral ingestion to smoking or snorting oxycodone, put themselves at a higher risk of overdose, dependence, addiction, and death.
Rehab programs that specialize in helping people overcome narcotics addiction, such as those offered by Harmony Treatment and Wellness, can help manage withdrawal symptoms and also provide therapy to facilitate long-term recovery.
Our treatment center offers integrated treatment that includes services vital to long-term recovery, such as behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, medication-assisted treatment, aftercare planning, and more.
If you are struggling with an addiction to oxycodone or another substance, call us today to discuss treatment options and learn how we can help!