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Eight Critical Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

How do you know if someone is addicted to oxycodone?

The signs of oxycodone addiction are sometimes not so easy to see. It is surprising how many people can go through life, appearing to function normally, while secretly suffering from oxycodone addiction.

While people can hide their oxycodone addiction for some time, eventually, there will be signs that they are struggling with opioid addiction. Living with an addiction means living in survival mode. They must make a considerable effort to complete basic tasks required at work and home, maintain their habit, and avoid getting caught.

Why wouldn’t a victim of oxycodone addiction want to be caught? The nature of addiction causes its victims to believe that they need to continue feeding the addiction to survive. Anyone who might try to stop them becomes an enemy.

People addicted to opioids still often recognize that they have a problem and will need help eventually. While they do not want anyone to discover their problem, they understand that they will need support to recover from addiction.

Here are some signs of oxycodone use and oxycodone addiction signs to look for.

1) Chronic pain management patients may be at risk.

When a person experiences severe pain from illness or injury, it begins as acute pain and may progress to being chronic. When pain lasts beyond the point that is reasonable for the original cause, it is “chronic.” In many cases, the injury that caused the pain is no longer present.

During the decade after the FDA approval of OxyContin, the Purdue pharma company salespeople made an effort to educate doctors to use OxyContin for chronic pain. They pointed to data that indicated that OxyContin was only very minimally addicting. Doctors reasoned that if OxyContin rarely caused addiction, its main ingredient would likely not cause addiction.

After a couple of decades of ongoing prescribing of oxycodone for chronic pain, experts determined that addiction was more likely to occur than previously believed. The public blamed Purdue executives for covering up the fact that they were aware of this from the beginning. There is still debate over how likely it is to become addicted to oxycodone. When patients take it as prescribed, there may be an increased risk if the patient previously had issues with addiction in the past.

2) Known abuse of oxycodone is a risk for oxycodone addiction.

The risk of becoming addicted to oxycodone is present when a person misuses the drug. When a person takes oxycodone to get high, they are training the reward system in their brain to believe that opioids are necessary for survival. For many people, the training of this primitive part of the brain will not progress further.

Yet, for some, oxycodone addiction will take hold and get progressively worse. If you know that someone has used medications, such as Percocet, Percodan, Endocet, OxyContin, Oxyfast, or OxyIR for recreational use, they may have become addicted.

3) Oxycodone is missing from the medicine cabinet.

If you or someone you know is missing oxycodone tablets from a prescription bottle, you should assume that there is a friend, family member, or visitor who has an oxycodone addiction. Since addiction programs the brain to believe it needs to feed the craving for survival, stealing becomes an option for a person who would typically not take money or medication. It seems, in their mind, well justified, like a starving person stealing a loaf of bread.

To protect yourself and others, if you have an oxycodone prescription bottle in your home, you should keep it hidden and secured with a lock. By keeping it locked up and in a secret hiding place, you will protect children, pets, and people in your life who are addicted to oxycodone. Also, it is essential to discard oxycodone when you are no longer taking it for pain.

You should not save it in case you need it later. There are safe drug take-back events where you can safely dispose of prescription medications. If you have no other way to dispose of old pain relievers, you may flush them down the toilet.

4) A family member has prescriptions for oxycodone from two or more doctors.

In the past, patients addicted to oxycodone were able to get away with “doctor shopping” more easily than they can now. The change has been that states now have prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). These programs keep track of controlled prescriptions to identify what was prescribed by a doctor and what was filled by a pharmacy for every patient.

Yet, there may still be incidents where a person addicted to oxycodone attempts to go to more than one doctor for their prescription. The reason they do this is that one doctor will not prescribe enough oxycodone to feed their addiction. Rather than turning to the streets to buy more, the patient goes to a second doctor.

Over time, a person who uses opioid drugs develops a tolerance. Developing tolerance quickly is less likely when following medical advice and taking oxycodone as prescribed for moderate to severe pain. However, after a period of time, even taking opioids as directed by a doctor can lead to opioid tolerance.

Years ago, there were even doctor shoppers who would go to many doctors and pharmacies. They had to pay cash so their insurance would not catch on. And, they had to maintain written plans to avoid being caught by a doctor or pharmacist.

If you witness a doctor or pharmacist reporting to your family member that they have already filled an oxycodone prescription from another doctor recently, be prepared to hear excuses to explain the discrepancy. You may hear reasons that range from identity theft to a pharmacy filling a prescription that they did not intend to have filled. 

Usually, when a person who is addicted to oxycodone is confronted, they will not easily give up and confess to having an oxycodone addiction problem. Rather than getting into an argument, you may want to offer your support. Let them know that you are there for them and that there is help available to treat oxycodone addiction that has a high rate of success. Medication-assisted treatment with Suboxone or other buprenorphine containing medications, such as Subutex, ZubSolv, Bunavail, Sublocade, Probuphine, and Brixadi, is highly effective for oxycodone addiction.

5) A friend or family member keeps nodding off at mealtime. 

If you have a nurse in the family who works long shifts at the hospital, it may be reasonable that they come home tired after a long day of work. In fact, many jobs can be tiring, and most of us do not get enough sleep.

However, if you notice that someone close to you is persistently falling asleep at the table, they may have an opioid addiction or other drug abuse issue. Opioids cause sedation and sleepiness as a side effect, and they are apparent symptoms of oxycodone abuse.

When a person takes prescription oxycodone for pain, it should not make them too sleepy. If it does, this is a side effect that should be reported to the doctor. Yet, when a person is abusing oxycodone, they will purposely take too much to get more of a high feeling. Overusing the drug leads to side effects, such as sedation, being more likely.

There is a characteristic appearance to the way a person nods off when they are high on oxycodone. It is different than just dozing off for a moment from being sleepy or overworked. People sometimes refer to it simply as “nodding.”

6) You find drug paraphernalia in the house.

While a prescription bottle for oxycodone is a clear sign that someone is taking the drug, there are other signs to look for that might indicate oxycodone addiction. If the prescription bottle has someone else’s name on it, or if the pills are loose and not in a prescription bottle, it is likely that you have discovered a family member misusing oxycodone.

Other items to look for include syringes and needles, powder from crushed tablets, metal spoons with unusual residue stuck to them, pieces of foil with burn marks and residue. You may also find rubber tourniquets, such as those used in a doctor’s office or lab to draw blood.

If you find a syringe and needle, there is a good chance that your family member is using oxycodone or another drug intravenously. IV drug use is highly dangerous because it is more likely to lead to overdose, and it increases the risk of infectious disease, including HIV, hepatitis, and heart valve damage due to bacterial infection. 

The metal spoon is used to “cook” the drug to prepare it for injection. There may also be cotton balls lying around, used to help draw up and filter the liquified drug for injection. When a person accidentally shoots up cotton fibers, they can get very sick with fever, muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting. The reaction to injecting cotton is known as cotton fever.

If you find plastic straws and burnt aluminum foil, you may have discovered that the person is smoking oxycodone. While there may be other ways to smoke the drug, placing a crushed tablet on a folded piece of foil, lighting the bottom, and inhaling the thick smoke through a straw is one way that it is done. People refer to this method as “chasing the dragon” because the thick smoke resembles the smoke of a mythical dragon. 

Smoking oxycodone this way is dangerous because the smoke may be harmful to the lungs, and the risk of overdose is higher than if tablets are swallowed. Also, the fumes from the straw getting burned can be dangerous. Additionally, aluminum has been blamed for increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia. Heating foil with a lighter or torch and inhaling fumes is clearly not a good idea.

7) Your family member has an opioid overdose.

When someone is addicted to oxycodone, they have a high risk of eventually having an overdose. While they may believe they are being careful and taking every precaution most of the time, it only takes one incident of taking too much to have a potentially deadly overdose.

Of the signs of oxycodone overdose, the most dangerous is shallow breathing. Opioids cause respiratory depression, which is the cause of death in opioid overdoses.

What if they have an overdose and end up in the hospital, but the drug test is negative? What if there is no oxycodone, heroin, or fentanyl in their system?

Unfortunately, we are dealing with a whole new world of street opioids that are more dangerous than ever. There are synthetic designer opioids on the streets that are being sold as heroin and even pressed into fake oxycodone tablets. U-47700, or “pink,” is one example. “Gray death” is another.

Some of the designer drugs mostly created in China and smuggled into the US via the United States Postal Service, cannot be detected with a standard drug test, even an advanced quantitative lab study. In the case of overdose death, the medical examiner may order special forensic testing to determine if a designer drug was to blame. However, for a patient who survives the overdose, the doctors may not be able to determine the opioid that caused the problem.

8) Your family member is exhibiting oxycodone withdrawal symptoms.

When a person becomes addicted to opioids, they are psychologically and physically dependent on the drug. If they are not able to obtain their drug of choice, they will eventually go into opioid withdrawal.

The symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal are similar to other opioid withdrawal symptoms. The person may experience flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, muscle aches, cold sweats, chills, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

When they take their opioids again, the symptoms go away. If your family member seems to be getting sick often and it does not seem like they are having normal symptoms of a cold or flu, it could be due to opioid withdrawal.

People addicted to oxycodone are at great risk.

Abusing oxycodone has always been risky. The medication was not intended to be taken in order to feel high. Oxycodone, and other prescription opioids, is important medicine for pain relief. People with acute and chronic pain, as well as cancer patients and patients with other terminal conditions, benefit from doctors prescribing oxycodone and other opioids.

Now, the danger is greater than ever. Many people addicted to oxycodone use the drug over other opioids because they believe it is safer to use a known pharmaceutical grade pill over an unknown street drug. Heroin is now being tainted with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. The potency of street opioids can vary and is highly dangerous. 

With the introduction of fake oxycodone pills on the streets, there is no guarantee that the little blue pills came from a legitimate pharmaceutical manufacturer. These fake pills can be highly potent and contain any number of synthetic designer drugs and prescription sedatives combined together.

The best solution to surviving oxycodone addiction is to start medical treatment as soon as possible. There are several medications that doctors can dispense or prescribe to treat opioid addiction, along with psychotherapy.

One of the most effective is buprenorphine, the medication in Suboxone. A person in treatment can do very well, without exhibiting any symptoms of oxycodone addiction. They simply take treatment medication once or twice daily as directed by their doctor. Doctors can prescribe Suboxone in their office, so there may be no need to go to behavioral health treatment centers or drug addiction treatment programs.

The obsession with finding and using opioids goes away during treatment. Buprenorphine is a safe and effective treatment drug that works well long-term and saves lives. Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, can get a loved-one off of the streets and away from dangerous oxycodone tablets, heroin, fentanyl, and deadly synthetic designer street drugs.

For more information on the subject of oxycodone addiction and abuse, tune in for our oxycodone addiction podcasts coming up. We will be discussing this topic further in detail to give you a better understanding so you can help yourself or a loved one to overcome oxycodone addiction.

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