Oxycodone is an opiate analgesic that is used by medical professionals to treat patients who are suffering from moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone has a chemical structure that is similar to the opiate drug codeine.
Oxycodone is present in a number of commonly prescribed medications, including Percocet, Percodan, Combunox and OxyContin. When taken under a doctor’s supervision, oxycodone or medications that contain oxycodone are taken by mouth in liquid, tablet or capsule forms.
Individuals who abuse oxycodone and products containing oxycodone ingest the drug in a variety of ways, including chewing it, crushing the drug into a power form and then inhaling or snorting it, and even dissolving the oxycodone in water and then injecting the drug directly into the bloodstream. Inhaling, snorting and injecting oxycodone can increase the speed and intensity with which the drug’s effects are felt.
The United States has experienced a dramatic increase in oxycodone abuse in recent years, with the abuse of OxyContin receiving considerable media attention. OxyContin has been referred to as “the poor man’s heroin” because oxycodone’s effects are similar to heroin, but the drug can often be obtained via illicit means more inexpensively than heroin can be purchased.
Oxycodone, OxyContin and similar drugs affect the user by interacting with areas of the brain that are known as opioid receptors. When these drugs attach to certain opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord they can effectively block the transmission of pain messages to the brain.
In addition to relieving pain, opiates and similar drugs (including but hardly limited to oxycodone, OxyContin, morphine and heroin) can also trigger pleasure centers in the nervous system, which leads to the initial euphoria that these drugs produce upon ingestion. Like the other drugs in this category, oxycodone use can quickly escalate to abuse – and as the oxycodone abuser’s body develops a tolerance to the drug, the oxycodone abuse can lead to addiction.
When taken under the supervision of a qualified healthcare provider, oxycodone and other opioids can be used without developing addiction. However, those who abuse oxycodone are at increased risk for forming dependency, and for experiencing intense (and even dangerous) physical symptoms in the absence of this opiate.
Depending upon the nature and severity of an individual’s oxycodone addiction, treatment options may include therapy, partial hospitalization, residential treatment, medically assisted treatment or a combination of these protocols.
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