Oxycodone, also known as “O.C.”, “killer”, and “Oxy”, is a powerfull painkiller that is intended to be prescribed only under tight medical supervision. This (opiate) narcotic takes many forms including liquid medicine, tablets, concentrate solution, capsules, and extended-release tablets. Several pharmaceutical companies have generated a more sophisticated drug by compounding oxycodone with ibuprofen (percocet,roxicet, tylox) or acetaminophen (percodan, endodan, and roxiprin). Unfortunately, many teens and young adults are abusing one or more forms of the drug by taking higher doses than prescribed, crushing pills and snorting the drug, and/or smoking oxycodone on a piece of foil.
Oxycodone is more potent than morphine (1.6:1) when administered orally. However, hospitals still consider morphine the “gold standard” for pain management but will administer oxycodone when patients experience adverse side effects from morphine. Oxycontin contains lower levels of oxycodone (re: derivatives such as Percocet, Roxicet, or Tylox). The main difference between oxycodone and oxycontin, aside from semantics, is the distribution and absorption of each drug within the body. Oxycodone takes 10-15 minutes to affect the brain’s response to pain; Oxycontin takes approximately 1 hour for the patient to feel its effects.
The number of individuals who abused or became addicted to oxycodone has been slowly increasing since the late 1990’s. Between the years 2000-2001 alone, emergency room visits as a result of oxycodone addiction rose 44 percent. For those with a history of drug abuse, the odds of becoming addicted to oxycodone when prescribed the medication, are greater than those without a prior history of drug dependence. Although the numbers have been climbing since the 90’s, one NIDA-sponsored study found that “only four out of more than 12,000 patients who were given opioids for acute pain actually became addicted to the drugs. Thus, not everyone who is prescribed oxycodone becomes addicted.”
Those who become addicted to oxycodone require higher and higher doses of the drugs to feel the effects and become completely dependent on the medication to feel “normal”. When they initially start ingesting the drug, they report feelings of euphoria, lightheadedness, and numbness in the extremities.
Common side effects of oxycodone include:
*Nausea/loss of appetite
Like oxycontin, oxycodone is extremely addictive in nature. Because oxycodone was designed with chronic pain patients in mind, releasing chemical properties over a 12-hour period, it is highly concentrated in nature. Those who abuse the drug snort or smoke it which rapidly releases its effects in the brain over a shorter period of time. Also, purchase and sale of the drug comprises a lucrative underground market. A 40-milligram pill costs approximately $4 by prescription, yet it may sell for $20 to $40 on the street, depending on the area of the country in which the drug is sold.
If a patient continues seeking the drug once their source from a prescription has been depleted, and pain has been adequately controlled, they are probably addicted to the drug. Many people who become addicted to oxycodone go “doctor-shopping”, buy the drugs via the black market, and/or sometimes resort to stealing from pharmacies. Those who have been prescribed oxycodone legitimately and by a qualified professional should receive instructions on how to wean off the medication safely and properly. This will preempt many of the adverse side effects listed above.