ARTICLE SUMMARY: Oxycodone affects every organ in the body. It can also cause long term changes in brain function that can be reversed thanks to the brain’s neuroplasticity. What effects are more serious? Read on for details.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Defining “Long-Term”
- Physical Response
- Risks of Chronic Use
- Who’s Using?
- Signs of a Problem
- What Next?
The medical definition for “long-term” use of a prescription drug like oxycodone can vary. Some experts consider anything more than daily dosing of one month to be “long-term” use. Others consider intervals of 3 months or 6 months to be “long-term”. Usually, these are the basic markers: one month, 3 months, or 6 months.
In medical studies, an episode of long-term use is defined as at least 3 one-month prescriptions issued within a 90-day period from the date of an initial prescription. Episodes of long-term use typically end when there is a gap of 6 months or more without a prescription.
Oxycodone affects all organs and organ systems in your body. Physical effects of oxycodone vary among users, and are generally based upon unique and individual genetic makeup. Still, there are a few factors that can affect how you react to oxycodone. This can include:
- amount used
- frequency of use
- length of use
Using oxycodone several times a day for a few weeks or more can lead to physical dependence and in some instances, addiction. The withdrawal symptoms of oxycodone are just the beginning of some of the long term effects of this strong drug. In fact, physical dependence may be least of your worries. Why?
Simply put, exposing your body to a lot of oxycodone for a prolonged period of time will start to affect the health of your organs and their optimal way of functioning. Physiological effects of oxycodone include:
- cough suppression
- pain relief
- papillary constriction
- respiratory depression
Risks of Chronic Use
Extended or chronic use of oxycodone containing acetaminophen may cause:
- cardiac arrest
- death from overdose
- heart failure
- impairment of mental and physical abilities
- kidney failure
- liver failure
- low blood pressure
- phantom pain in arms and legs (when out of oxy)
- severe liver damage
- suicidal ideation
- withdrawal symptoms
Who Is Using?
Oxycodone is one of the most popular prescription painkillers in the U.S. Normal people are using it. Many people have been prescribed oxycodone for acute bouts of pain. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the acceptance and use of prescription opioids like oxycodone for the treatment of chronic pain, such as back pain or osteoarthritis, despite serious risks and the lack of evidence about its long-term effectiveness.
The 2016 National Survey of Drug Use and Health estimates that
- 27.6 million people used a medicine containing oxycodone in the last year.
- 3.9 million people reported misuse of oxycodone in the last year.
In fact, oxycodone is affecting every American in every state…especially in rural areas of the country. This Department of Justice 2014 report on oxycodone states that, “every age-group has been affected by the relative prevalence of oxycodone availability and the perceived safety of oxycodone products by professionals. Sometimes seen as a “white-collar” addiction, oxycodone abuse has increased among all ethnic and economic groups.”
While prescription painkillers like oxycodone can be used to treat moderate-to-severe pain…they are also used for euphoric effect. Some doctors over-prescribe oxycodone and are more like drug dealers than medical doctors. These doctors operate “pill mills” that over-prescribe medications for kickbacks from pharmaceuticals. Plus, tablets are sold from $7-40 each on the illicit drug market. You can report any prescription drug dealing to the DEA here.
Signs of a Problem
So, how do you know if you’re experiencing negative effects of oxycodone, or not? Generally, if you think that you have a problem with oxycodone, you probably do. Oxycodone not only affects the body. It can also affect the brain, and the way that the brain functions. Some of the main signs of a problem include:
- Continued use despite problems at home, work, or with your health.
- Failed attempts to quit oxycodone.
- Feeling high when you take your medicine.
- Losing control of use amounts, frequency, or duration.
- Only feeling normal when you’re taking oxycodone.
Oxycodone is known to be a strong drug. IT WILL CREATE DRUG DEPENDENCY, a side effect that is explicitly explained in the FDA approved drug label. However, drug dependence is physical. It is sometimes present when you’re addicted…but is not addiction in itself. A drug problem is more of a mental dependence on a drug and is determined mainly by intention of use.
If you are using oxycodone to get high, to avoid stress, or to deal with emotional issues…you may be addicted to it.
If you’re struggling with oxycodone, know that you are not alone. An estimated 22 million people in the U.S. need help for a substance problem. Still, this may not be the comfort you’re looking for. If you’re ready to take action and get help for a drug problem, we recommend that following steps:
1. Seek a diagnosis. Before you know what exact steps to take, you need a full assessment. You can seek a diagnosis with a medical professional, including: your prescribing physician, a psychiatrist, an addiction specialist (MD), a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, or in an addiction treatment center.
2. Get oxycodone out of your body. If you have become physically dependent, you’ll need to slowly remove oxycodone from your body. There are specific opioid painkiller tapering guidelines that doctors recommend. Generally, dose reduction is no more than 25% at a time and happens over the course of a few weeks. Tapering helps minimize the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, and is characterized by periods of stabilization periods with intermittent step-down doses.
3. Learn how to live drug-free. Physical dependence is one thing. Psychological dependence is another. Once you get oxycodone out of your system, you’ll need to learn without it. Often, this involves psychotherapy in individual and group settings. You’ll need to learn how to cope with cravings and how to change behaviors over the long-term. This way, you can deal with stress, anxiety, and/or anger in healthy ways, rather than turning to oxycodone.
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