Can Oxycodone Kill You?

Oxycodone is a highly addictive, opioid-containing medication, that can kill a person if the medication is abused.

What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic, opioid drug that is similar to morphine. The prescription opioid medication is highly addictive. Oxycodone is a central nervous system depressant because it binds to the opiate receptors in the brain. The prescription medication is typically used for the treatment of acute or chronic management of moderately to severe pain. The drug can also be combined with acetaminophen to enhance its effects and treat pain.

Oxycodone is classified as a narcotic or opioid drug. Oxycodone is a Schedule II controlled substance meaning that it has a high potential for abuse. Abuse of this medication can result in severe psychological or physical dependence.

Effects on the Brain and Body

Oxycodone is a narcotic (opioid) that has a wide range of effects on the brain. Opioids like oxycodone travel through the bloodstream to the brain. The chemicals in oxycodone impact the nerve cells in the brain and body. When these chemicals link onto the receptors it stimulates the reward center of the brain resulting in feelings of pleasure.

Can oxycodone get you high? Yes, it can because the chemicals in oxycodone tell the brain to block pain receptors and release dopamine, which makes you feel high. When the brain’s reward system encounters oxycodone it produces signals to release dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure and makes a person feel high.

Oxycodone also impacts other areas of the brain. For example, the brain creates a memory that associates the good feelings with the circumstances and environment in which they occur. Therefore, when a person uses oxycodone and experiences a high, the brain remembers what the person was doing, who he or she was with, and other cues. This links the feeling to the drug and the environment in which it occurred. These memories are known as associations and cause a person who was abusing the drug to crave the drug when they reencounter the person, place, or thing that was present when they experienced the high.

Prescription Opioid Abuse

There is a serious prescription opioid abuse problem happening in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017, more than 191 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed to patients. Oxycodone was one of the most commonly prescribed drugs that resulted in prescription opioid overdose deaths. In 2016 more than 11.5 million Americans reported abusing prescription opioids in the last year.

Can oxycodone kill you?

Can oxycodone kill you? According to the National Institute on Drugs, in 2017, 17,029 people died from a prescription opioid overdose such as oxycodone. Abusing oxycodone is extremely dangerous because taking too many opioid pills can cause a person to stop breathing. This can result in death.

How many oxycodone can kill you? The amount of oxycodone pills it takes to kill a person varies from person to person. For adults orally taking extended-release capsules, it is safe to take 9 mg every 12 hours with food. It is not recommended to use more than 288 mg per day. For adults orally taking extended-release tablets, it is safe to take 1 tablet every 12 hours. For adults orally taking immediate-release tablets 5 to 15 mg every 4 to 6 hours is safe. For adults orally taking liquid concentrate or solutions 10 to 30 mg every 4 hours is safe. Taking high doses or in ways other than recommended by your doctor can result in a fatal overdose.

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Overdose

Taking more than prescribed or abusing oxycodone can result in a life-threatening overdose. Symptoms of an oxycodone overdose are pinpoint pupils, constipation, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, weak pulse, coma, drowsiness, seizures, difficulty breathing, slow breathing, no breathing, blue-colored fingernails and lips, and muscle damage. Oxycodone overdose occurs when someone intentionally or accidentally takes too much medicine containing the drug. If someone you know is experiencing an overdose call 911 immediately.

Other Dangers

When oxycodone is combined with acetaminophen it can create oxycodone acetaminophen high. This combination is extremely dangerous because it has been linked to liver failure as well as many cases of unintentional overdose. This is because acetaminophen enhances the effects of oxycodone making it extremely deadly if abused.

Other dangers can occur when mixing oxycodone with alcohol. Taking oxycodone with alcohol increases the risk of experiencing respiratory depression which causes breathing to slow or stop. This is because both alcohol and oxycodone are central nervous system depressants. They both slow a person’s breathing and if untreated can result in brain damage and death.

Tolerance and Dependence

Over time, a person who is abusing oxycodone will develop a tolerance and need a higher and higher dose of the drug to experience the same effects as before. Tolerance occurs because the brain cells that have the opioid receptors on them gradually become less responsive to the opioid stimulations. As a result, more opioid is needed to produce pleasurable feelings compared to before.

Repeated oxycodone use alters the chemical balance of the brain so it functions “normally” when the drugs are present and abnormally when they are not. This is known as dependence on oxycodone and is accompanied by withdrawal symptoms when attempting to reduce dosage or abruptly stop using the medication.

Some of the more severe withdrawal symptoms that a person experiences come from changes in the base of the brain known as the locus coeruleus. This area of the brain is responsible for stimulating wakefulness, breathing, blood pressure, and alertness. When the opioid molecules link to this part of the brain it suppresses these functions resulting in drowsiness, slowed respiration, and low blood pressure. When opioids are not present in the body to suppress this area of the brain it becomes over-excited resulting in the withdrawal symptoms of jitters, anxiety, muscle cramps, and diarrhea.

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Detox and Withdrawal

When a person is dependent on oxycodone and stops or reduces their intake of the medication it can result in painful withdrawal symptoms. Depending on whether or not a person is using the immediate-release formula or extended-release formula, withdrawal from oxycodone typically begins 8 to 24 hours after the last dose. Early oxycodone withdrawal symptoms include feeling sick, anxiety, increased tearing, insomnia, sweating, runny nose, heat pounding, yawning, agitation, feeling cold, twitching, and muscle aches. Withdrawal symptoms reach their peak between 36 to 72 hours and a person might experience diarrhea, dilated pupils, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, and goosebumps.

Withdrawal symptoms typically lessen within 5 days. The duration of oxycodone withdrawal is typically 4 to 10 days. However, some people experience fatigue, feeling unwell, insomnia, and irritability for 6 to 8 months after abstinence from the drug. These symptoms often cause a person to relapse which can happen at any point after a person withdraws from the medication. Relapse occurs in an attempt to stop withdrawal symptoms.

Rehab Treatment

Overcoming an oxycodone addiction can be done through a medical detox at a rehabilitation clinic. An oxycodone detox typically involves the use of medications, behavioral therapy, and aftercare to help a person overcome their addiction to oxycodone and prevent future relapse.

Medications are used to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Common medications that are used during medical detox to ease symptoms are methadone, lofexidine, and buprenorphine. These medications are used to block opioid receptors in the brain.

Behavioral therapy is used to help change a person’s attitudes and behaviors related to opioid use, develop healthy life skills, and helps them stick with other forms of treatment, such as taking their medication. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), when medications are combined with behavioral therapy it provides a whole-patient approach and results in better treatment outcomes.

Long-term care is often needed to prevent relapse due to addiction’s chronic relapsing nature. According to Current Psychiatry Reports, Naltrexone is a medication that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for use after a person has detoxed from oxycodone and works by reducing cravings to prevent relapse. Along with medication, aftercare can include various forms of therapy such as Narcotics Anonymous, Smart Recovery, spiritual and faith-based groups, and outpatient counseling or at inpatient clinics.

Getting Help

Overdosing on oxycodone is extremely dangerous and can result in life-long harmful consequences or even death. While addiction to opioid-like oxycodone may feel hopeless, it is a very treatable disease. If you or someone you love is suffering from an oxycodone addiction, finding a high-quality rehab can provide a comfortable and relaxing environment to help with the detox process. Rehab clinics provide a person with the tools necessary to beat their addiction and get back to living a healthy, addiction-free life.

References

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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