Oxycodone is a type of opioid, part of a group of narcotic analgesics that are used to treat pain. Oxycodone is semi-synthetic opioid that is derived from an alkaloid called thebaine, which is found in the opium poppy. Oxycodone is sold under brand names such as Oxycontin and is found in such drugs as Percocet or Percodan. On the street, oxycodone is known as percs (short for Percocet), blue (due to the pill’s blue color), OC or hillbilly heroin.
Oxycodone is often prescribed to treat severe pain in people. However, people use it for recreational purposes and it is one of the most common narcotics that people abuse or are addicted to. That’s because by its very nature, oxycodone is very addictive, due to the pleasurable, euphoric high it can create.
This high is caused because oxycodone targets the reward center of the brain, making it flood with dopamine and giving the user a pleasurable feeling. This part of the brain is also hardwired to repeat pleasurable activities and, due to how much dopamine is released, it is pleasure that can’t be compared to much else. People often continue to use the drug in order to feel that effect again, which can lead them down the path toward addiction.
Over time, the effects of oxycodone start to lose their potency as the body builds tolerance to it. That means in order to feel the same effects, a person has to take more and more oxycodone. This puts them at the risk of becoming dependent on oxycodone, as their brain stops producing dopamine on its own and instead relies on the drug to do so. A person may soon be unable to feel pleasure unless they’re taking oxycodone, and then their brain may make them compulsively seek out the drug. This is known as addiction, a disease that is life-altering and fatal if left untreated.
Symptoms of oxycodone addiction include:
- Doctor shopping — obtaining multiple prescriptions from different doctors to obtain more oxycodone
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking oxycodone
- An increased reliance on oxycodone
- Switching from one oxycodone to another opioid, such as heroin
- Aggressive behavior
- Episodes of psychosis
- Abuse of other opioids or other drugs, such as alcohol
- Permanent mental impairments
- Compulsively seeking out the drug (i.e., addiction), often at the expense of everything else
People also put themselves at risk of oxycodone overdose every time they take it, by either taking too large of a dose or by poisoning themselves by snorting or injecting oxycodone rather than taking pills. The most common overdose symptom is slow breathing or their breathing coming to a full stop which can cause brain damage or death.
Due to the addictive nature of oxycodone and the risk of overdose, it is important that a person who abuses or is addicted to oxycodone seek oxycodone addiction treatment as soon as possible.