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April 5, 2019

How to Get Off Oxycodone

Oxycodone is a semisynthetic opiate synthesized from the poppy plant, marketed under the brand name OxyContin. It is a potent opiate analgesic employed by doctors for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. Because opiates such as oxycodone are so effective at both dulling pain and causing elation, it is all too easy to fall into a pattern of use that morphs into a habit, dependence, abuse, and addiction.

If someone you love exhibits the signs of oxycodone addiction, it is crucial that they seek help immediately. Even if it feels hopeless at times, do not give up; thousands of people manage to get off these pain medications every year with the support of their loved ones and trained professionals. Below, our drug detox experts will discuss the signs of oxycodone addiction, and the steps you can take to encourage a loved one to seek help from an inpatient drug rehab center.

Spotting the Signs of Oxycodone Addiction in Your Loved One

Over time, regular use of this pain medication can have lasting effects on a person’s physical appearance, their emotions, mental health, and social life. Although the severity of the symptoms of oxycodone addiction varies from person to person, the signs of addiction are rarely subtle. By remaining vigilant and keeping an eye out for the following indicators, you should be able to identify addiction when you see it, and then intervene.   

Signs They Are High on Oxycodone

Opiates, whether natural, semi-synthetic, or synthetic, artificially attach to natural opioid receptors that can be found in the:

  • CNS (central nervous system)
  • PNS (peripheral nervous system)
  • Spine
  • Gastrointestinal tract

Opiates stimulate the receptors, which results in nearly instantaneous psychoactive and somatic analgesic effects. While pain relief is the intended side effect, the rush of dopamine into the brain causes a euphoric high. When taken in larger than recommended doses, this flood becomes a deluge of good feelings pouring directly into the pleasure center of the brain. As a result, a person who is high on oxycodone will typically present the following symptoms:  

  • Drowsiness
  • Feelings of wellbeing
  • Inability to maintain a conversation  
  • Incapability of focusing
  • Incomprehension
  • Intense euphoria
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • No appetite
  • Nodding off
  • Pupil constriction
  • Reduced motor coordination
  • Slow speech
  • Slurred speech
  • Temporary aphasia
  • Vomiting

Emotional Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction

As time passes, this pain medication is able to rewire the brain’s neural pathways, which can lead to lasting changes in a person’s mood and personality. Their overwhelming need to satisfy their cravings can cause them to enter a heightened and uncontrollable emotional state. If someone you love rarely struggled with mood swings and outbursts and now rapidly vacillates from one emotional disposition to another, it could be a sign of oxycodone addiction.

Typical emotions or moods include:  

  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • Angst
  • Anxiety
  • Bitterness
  • Confusion
  • Delusions of grandeur
  • Depression
  • Euphoria
  • Indifference
  • No motivation
  • Paranoia
  • Petulance

Appearance Changes Caused by Oxycodone Addiction

Long-term oxycodone abuse will inevitably wreak havoc on a person’s body, physical appearance, and physical health. Many of the common physical symptoms are impossible to hide, so be on high alert for any of the following:

  • Acute asthma
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Bruises
  • Chronic runny nose
  • Constipation
  • Constricted pupils
  • Dark circles around the eyes
  • Extreme itching
  • Flushed skin
  • Hyperactivity and then fatigue
  • Listlessness
  • Moving slowly
  • Nausea
  • Regular respiratory infections
  • Severe weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting

Personality Changes Caused by Oxycodone Addiction

Oxycodone addiction will often leave a user’s personal life in shambles, leaving a wake of destruction behind their overwhelming need to use oxy. Common signs of addiction in a person’s life include:

  • Financial issues, continually borrowing money
  • Inability to hold onto a job
  • Flunking out of school
  • Failing to fulfill marital or parental obligations
  • Declining physical health
  • Declining mental health
  • Socially isolating
  • Spending time with a bad crowd
  • Giving up old hobbies and passions
  • Neglecting personal duties and responsibilities
  • Acting erratically
  • Sneaking about
  • Lying or making excuses
  • Neglecting to keep up their personal hygiene, exercise regimen, or a healthy diet

How to Get Off Oxycodone

If you see these signs, either in your own life or in someone close to you, it is crucial that you intervene as soon as possible. Getting clean from oxycodone can be a long and grueling process and the fear of withdrawal symptoms can keep many users from taking action on their own towards recovery. As a result, many people need the intervention of loved ones to truly see the ramifications of their oxycodone addiction.

Staging an Intervention for Oxycodone

Because addiction is often a personal source of embarrassment and pain, interventions can be tricky affairs. If you want to help your loved one get off oxycodone, it is critical that you approach this delicate meeting with sensitivity and love and take the following steps:

  • Keep it small – This should be an intimate group of people that are closest to the user. The goal of the meeting is to surround them with the people who care about them, know them best, and can say how their oxycodone use has affected them.
  • Pick a safe location – Select a spot where the person will feel safe and free from embarrassment. A private location is much better than a public location.
  • Use an interventionist – It may be wise to hire a trained interventionist who is either a pastor or a psychologist that has experience with such momentous gatherings.
  • Appoint a group leader – If you do not hire someone, make sure that someone is leading the meeting and guiding the process in a positive direction towards rehab.
  • Stick to an “I” message – Avoid using statements that say “you,” which tends to put the blame squarely on the user. Instead, say, “I” statements that show the user how you feel and display how their oxycodone use has personally impacted your life.
  • Remain calm – It is easy for emotions to get out of hand and tempers to flare. Avoid blaming, judging, shaming, or getting angry at the user. Such actions only lead to them becoming defensive.
  • Have a plan – If successful, you should have already planned out your next steps so you can act right away. Research your options in terms of detox centers in your area.
  • If at first you don’t succeed – It may take more than one intervention to convince your loved one that they need to change or for them to be ready to hear that message. It might require some introspection that they are unable to have at that moment. Whatever you do, do not give up on them. Just keep on encouraging them to get off Oxycodone.  

Oxycodone Medical Detox

If you stage a successful intervention, the next step for getting off oxycodone is detoxing from the drug. When most people hear the word detox, they think of opiate withdrawals. In reality, detox is made up of three stages:

  • Evaluation
  • Stabilization
  • Guiding the patient into treatment

Each of these phases are critical steps to getting off oxycodone.  

Evaluation

Once you have convinced your loved one that their oxycodone addiction is hurting them, they’ll have to agree to go to rehab. Before they can do that, they will have to undergo an evaluation. In this first phase, your loved one meets with a medical professional trained in assessing and treating all forms of substance abuse.

During this meeting the doctor will conduct rigorous interviews and medical tests to ascertain the following:

  • Patient’s physical condition
  • Patient’s psychological condition
  • Severity of patient’s addiction
  • Ascertain whether or not oxycodone is the only substance being abused
  • Discover any co-occurring mental health issues

This meeting allows the doctor to see what is required for your loved one to get off oxycodone safely. They will plan a treatment course that makes oxycodone detox as safe and successful as possible. Depending on the severity of the addiction, they may recommend a taper plan and prescribe lesser opiate medications to reduce the severity of physical dependence and ease withdrawal symptoms.

Stabilization  

Stabilization is the hardest part of detox. Because withdrawals from opiates can be so uncomfortable, and possibly dangerous, your loved one’s doctor will recommend that they undergo a medical detox at an inpatient facility such as our Florida rehab center. The withdrawal period from oxycodone can last up to a week, so you will want them to have the medical supervision and emotional support they will need to successfully wean themselves off of the potent opiate.

Once in rehab, your loved one will be hooked up to IVs, closely monitored, and allowed to undergo withdrawals. Within hours, the initial effects of oxycodone withdrawals will likely kick in, growing stronger with every passing minute. Common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Areas of Pain – Deep in the muscles
  • Behavioral – Agitation, anger, crying, excitability, irritability, self-harm, and suicidality
  • Cognitive – Disorientation, mental confusion, racing thoughts, and sluggishness inactivity
  • Eyes – Teary eyes, dilated pupils, sensitivity to light
  • Gastrointestinal – Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, gagging, flatulence, and stomach cramps
  • Mood – Boredom, self-detachment, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, sense of overwhelming dread, and nervousness
  • Nasal – Runny nose and/or congestion
  • Psychological – Delirium, depression, hallucination, paranoia, and severe anxiety
  • Sleep – Trouble sleeping, insomnia, night terrors
  • Whole body – Fatigue, lethargy, lack of appetite, severe sweats, restlessness, shakiness, clammy skin, extreme cravings, and feeling cold
  • Additional symptoms – Seizures, sensitivity to pain, slurred speech, teeth chattering, tingling in extremities, trembling, tremors, or physical weakness

By day four of stabilization, many of these symptoms should have already peaked and begun lessening. Although it may require a few more days to be wholly free from physical oxycodone dependence, a person will start to feel better and mentally clear for the first time in a while. Once they are clean, the rest of their time will be dedicated to learning about addiction and how to fight it.

Guiding a Patient into Treatment

After six days of discomfort, many patients are at their weakest point. They are mentally and physically exhausted, which, if they were on their own, would leave them extremely susceptible to falling back into oxycodone abuse. Inpatient rehabs offer patients a drug-free environment that provides a sense of structure, protection, and stability. Whether they are there for 30, 60, or in a long-term residential treatment program (60 days or more), the remaining time will be spent building up the physical, mental, and emotional defenses in preparation for the long fight ahead.

During this time, a patient will receive the following therapeutic treatment options to help them break off their psychological addiction to oxy:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Motivational enhancement therapy
  • One-on-one therapy

The time spent with medical professionals and other patients recovering from similar issues gives a patient a support system which they can learn from and lean on, especially when they are feeling low. Rehab will provide them with critical time to self-evaluate and see where things went off trail. This introspection and the countless hours of discussion can help a person learn how to live with themselves, their cravings, and their shortcomings, providing them with healthy tools for combating addiction.

Aftercare

Once a person has finished rehab, they will be discharged and sent back into the world and all of the stresses, triggers, and temptations therein. While rehab is an essential step towards long-term recovery from oxycodone, it is not by any means the final step. Getting off oxycodone starts with physical independence and then continues with aftercare. According to SAMHSA, studies show that a patient who participates in aftercare is 200% less likely to relapse than a patient that refuses to maintain their addiction treatment.

Programs include:

  • Complementary therapies – Wilderness, music, art, martial arts, physical activities, yoga, and Bible studies. All of the options are designed to complement their main aftercare programs
  • Medical management – Medications meant to depress or combat cravings or long-term symptoms
  • Social support groups – Such as AA, narcotics anonymous, or a non-12-step program
  • Therapy – Both one-on-one and group therapy
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders – Specialized care for people suffering from both oxycodone addiction and a mental health issue

Taking Back Control of Your Life

The fact that getting off oxycodone can be an arduous journey should not discourage you or your loved one from taking action. While it may be difficult, hundreds of thousands of other opiate users have managed to find freedom. If someone you care for wants to regain control of their life, stage an intervention, encourage them to seek addiction treatment, and support them during this trying period. The road towards long-term recovery can be perilous, but freedom from oxycodone is worth the discomfort.

Sources:

  • Adam S Sprouse-Blum, F. (2019). Understanding Endorphins and Their Importance in Pain Management. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3104618/ [Accessed 6 Mar. 2019].
  • Kenan K, Mack KA, Paulozzi L. (2000–2010). Trends in prescriptions for oxycodone and other commonly used opioids in the United States. Open Medicine. 2012;6(2):41–47. 
  • National Academies of Sciences, a., Division, H., Policy, B., Abuse, C., Phillips, J., Ford, M. and Bonnie, R. (2019). Trends in Opioid Use, Harms, and Treatment. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK458661/ [Accessed 6 Mar. 2019].
  • Recovery and Recovery Support, (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/recovery [Accessed 6 Mar. 2019].

 

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