Why is oxycodone so addictive, and what causes an everyday user who has been prescribed oxy to abuse their prescription? How does addiction to the chemical lead users to transition to illicit substances such as heroin and what happens to their body when they attempt to detoxify their system of the drug?
In this article, we answer all of those questions and more. We talk about the history of the drug and share some statistics about oxy overdoses in America. We discuss the side effects of oxycodone, the symptoms of detox and withdrawal, as well as the common treatments for oxy addiction.
The drug is the active ingredient in the popular painkiller OxyContin. It functions by inhibiting the pain receptors in the brain and increasing dopamine levels, enabling users to enter a euphoric state when they might otherwise be experiencing pain.
The drug is often prescribed to people after surgery or when they feel regular, ongoing pain due to illness or injury. It acts as a form of relief by preventing the chemicals that usually notify the body that it should be feeling pain from ever actually reaching the brain. As a result, oxycodone causes the body to be more relaxed, decreasing the user’s heart and breathing rates in the process.
Once a person uses oxycodone for a significant period of time, their brain becomes accustomed to being free of pain receptors. Therefore, the body can go into withdrawal mode when use is ceased. The nervous system starts to need the drug in order to function properly and the user may find themselves dependent on its chemical effects.
Although the drug has only become more popular during the past few decades, it has actually been around since the early 1900’s. In 1916, scientists developed the drug in an attempt to create a medication that could provide its user the pain-numbing effects of opium without the risk of addiction. At the time, heroin was often prescribed by doctors to alleviate the pain that their patients felt after undergoing surgery.
The new chemical gave rise to the earliest branded prescription opioid products such as Percocet, Percodan, Endocet, OxyContin and others. By the early 1960’s, scientists deemed the drug to be highly addictive and cited that it accounted for at least 30% of all drug addiction in the state of California. However, pharmaceutical companies continue to use the drug as an active chemical in their medications and doctors continue to prescribe it to patients.
It is common, as well, for street users to refer to the drug by its milligram quantity. When speaking of OxyContin, for example, you may hear users call certain pills “Oxy 40s” or “Oxy 80s”, (referring to the fact that the pill contains either 40 or 80 milligrams of oxycodone).
The danger of abusing oxycodone stems from the fact that the drug works by limiting certain functions of the body. As the user's pain receptors are inhibited from working normally, the body will start to perform other bodily functions in a slowed-down manner. The worst-case scenario in oxycodone use is a complete stoppage of necessary functions, commonly known as an overdose.
People with asthma or other respiratory problems are usually advised by their doctor not to take oxycodone. This is because opioids and narcotics, when blocking pain receptors, also interfere with the part of the brain that triggers breathing. Although a normal prescribed dose of oxycodone won’t stop the user from breathing completely, the drug will interfere with its user's breathing process more when taken in higher doses.
Even people who a prescribed the drug for pain relief and take a minimal amount of it may experience breathing difficulties during the time that they use it. However, those who abuse or are dependent on the drug will most likely find that they have trouble taking air in and out of their bodies. Serious addicts put themselves at great risk for overdose. As Richard Horner, professor of Medicine and Physiology at the University of Toronto, says, “Opioids are highly effective at killing pain, but they can also kill people by depressing their breathing and at the same time sedating them so that it can be impossible for them to wake up from oxygen deprivation”.
A common depiction of heroin users and opioid addicts on television shows them falling asleep at work, while having a conversation or trying to do other everyday activities. The half-sleeping, half-awake state is called “nodding out”. The term gets its name from the motion that a user’s head makes as the drug takes effect and causes them to experience drowsiness. Their head, and even sometimes their entire upper body, will start to move forward as they start to fall asleep and gravity takes control.
“Nodding out” isn’t a scientific word but can be a sign of serious problems. If an oxycodone user has been taking the drug for more than a few weeks and begins to start falling asleep in public or during conversations, they may be using too much and experiencing early (or later) symptoms of opioid addiction. A user who falls asleep after taking too high of a dose, they can potentially lose consciousness or slip into a coma. Once asleep, their heart rate or breathing rate can drop to an unsafe level, causing their necessary functions to cease.
Constricted pupils are a sign that someone’s nervous system is not operating like it is intended to. The reason that our pupils expand and dilate under certain conditions is that our brain is adjusting to the amount of light in the environment. When it’s sunny outside of there is sufficient light available to the eyeball in the room, the pupil will shrink so that we don’t take in too much all at once. Conversely, our pupils will expand in dark environments to maximize the amount of light that we receive. When under the influence of oxycodone, however, a person’s brain does not receive the signal that their eyes need to accommodate the surrounding light. Therefore, people who use narcotics often have pupils that don’t expand, no matter how much light is available to them.
The main reason that oxycodone and other opioids cause vomiting is that they are essentially toxic chemicals our bodies do not like. Even if they are prescribed to help us cope with pain, human beings haven’t been interacting with these chemicals long enough for the body to recognize it as something useful. We have a function in our brains called the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) that causes us to vomit whenever a potential threat enters into our digestive system or bloodstream.
After someone ingests oxycodone, therefore, the brain sends a signal to the digestive system that basically says, “This is poison. Get this stuff out of here as soon as possible”. Thus, a user who takes OxyContin or Percocet might find themselves hovered over the toilet a few minutes after they take their first dose.
Obviously, not all oxycodone users vomit after ingesting the drug. Doctors are experts in analyzing the nature of a patient’s use-case, weighing it against the size of their body (which determines how much of the chemical they can process) and factoring in any important information like illnesses that may prevent their system from ingesting the drug. Their job is to use all of that information to prescribe the safest possible dose of medication. However, users who abuse the chemical by taking more than they are prescribed and by snorting or injecting it are likely to find themselves throwing up.
It’s common for oxycodone abusers and addicts to experience constipation during the time that they use the drug. While this can be attributed to the poor diet that opiate addicts sometimes take on, oxy can cause constipation in some people. Opiates, in general, cause a disruption in the digestive process, making food slow down as it moves through the user’s system. In turn, food will take much longer to digest completely, resulting in constipation.
In the worst cases, opioids can paralyze the stomach and other digestive organs completely. In these situations, the user will experience complete constipation and won’t be able to expel food and toxins from their bodies without the aid of laxatives. Constipation can cause serious injuries and long-term health issues if not treated within an adequate timeframe.
An overdose happens when a user takes enough oxycodone to halt their necessary bodily functions. Overdoses start by slowing the central nervous system down to a point where the brain no longer instructs the lungs to keep breathing and the heart to keep pumping. As a result, the respiratory system can stop functioning and blood can have a difficult time flowing through the arteries.
Overdosing is the worst possible outcome of oxycodone abuse and addiction. If the user experiences an overdose but is unable to get help fast enough, there is a chance that they could die or face life-changing health consequences. Those who misuse their oxycodone prescription by taking too much, snorting it or injecting it via needle greatly increase the likelihood of an eventual OD.
It can be difficult to identify whether someone is abusing oxycodone, particularly when the signs of addiction aren’t visible to the eye.
Although the drug is helpful for people coping with short and long-term pain, oxycodone is a highly addictive drug. Within the larger landscape of opioid addiction in America, has taken a toll on many individuals, families and communities. Prescription pain pills such as OxyContin and Percocet often act as a “gateway” drug to heroin and other illicit substances, given that the professionally engineered products tend to be somewhat less expensive. Those who abuse their prescriptions run a high risk of addiction and are more likely to progress to illicit substances such as heroin and other injection drugs.
It is no secret that opioid addiction is a huge problem currently faced by the United States. At this point in time, the American Society of Addiction Medicine has officially deemed the situation around opioid drug use and overdoses an epidemic. Their “Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures” sheet outlines that over 2 million Americans have an addiction to prescription pain-relief medication of some kind.
Compared to the broader topic of opioids and prescription drug abuse, oxycodone specifically has received much less attention from researchers. The chemical is often lumped in with heroin to look at issues such as narcotic overdoses and the regularity with which users transition from prescription drugs to illicit substances.
A New York Times article published in 2012, however, points out that prescriptions for oxycodone grew by more than 80% between the years of 2007 and 2010.
Another article, published by the Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration in 2010 shows that over 180,000 emergency room visits that year could be attributed to the abuse of OxyContin and other oxycodone-based drug products.
While opiate addiction is a widespread problem in America, many people still fail to understand exactly what this means. Those who don’t personally use opiates, especially, can fail to have empathy for those who struggle with addiction to pain medication or illicit substances. They often misjudge it as a sign of moral weakness instead of seeing it as a problem of chemical dependency. It isn’t uncommon to hear somebody ask, “If they want to stop using drugs why don’t they just quit?”.
The truth is that opiate addiction is a complex disease with long-lasting effects on the body and brain of the drug user. Anyone who has ever struggled with an addiction to drugs, especially prescription drugs like OxyContin, can tell you that, in most cases, it isn’t possible to just quit. The chemical dependency that oxycodone can generate in its user holds a strong grip on the addict, having a potentially massive effect on the way they think and act.
When we eat, drink or use drugs, our body extracts chemicals from the ingested substance. Some of those chemicals are sent directly to our brains, triggering a response from the nervous system. While most foods take several days for our bodies to experience the physical effects of them, drugs like oxycodone are engineered in such a way that the user feels the effects of them immediately.
Like many drugs, oxycodone and other opiates function by allowing more serotonin and dopamine to reach the brain. These are the chemicals that enable us to feel pleasure and joy. When we aren’t under the influence of drugs, these chemicals still reach our brains but in much smaller quantities. There are neurotransmitters that work to prevent too much of these chemicals from reaching our brains on a regular basis, as a flood of these chemicals to the brain can actually have negative effects. However, oxycodone allows a person to experience a rush of serotonin and dopamine that they otherwise won’t have.
This short-term effect often acts as a form of relief for the user. Oxycodone, after all, enables someone to feel better when they might otherwise be in pain due to a recovering injury or surgery. This can be a good thing when the substance is used responsibly and taken only in professionally-administered doses. However, addiction happens when the person uses misuses drugs by taking too much of them, altering the form in which the drug is supposed to be consumed or using the drug when they don’t actually need it.
In these cases, the user is opening themselves up to the risk of addiction by abusing and misusing the drug. They give their bodies too much of the substance, prompting their neurotransmitters to crave more of it. If that craving is fed, the body can get to a point where it becomes reliant on the substance and will not operate normally otherwise.
In everyday life, we get dopamine rushes without drugs by experiencing joyful things. Petting a dog or laughing, for example, will block pain receptors, allow dopamine into the brain and generate happy feelings in its users. However, drugs like oxycodone and other opioids allow dopamine into the brain simply by taking a pill. Over time, therefore, the user can start to become emotionally attached to the drug and find it to be their only source of actual joy. Over time, of course, the addict will develop a tolerance to the quantities they are used to and require larger amounts of the drug in order for it to keep doing the same job.
When taking drugs like OxyContin or Percodan, particularly in large quantities or over a long period of time, the user actually implements physical changes in the chemistry of their brain. Oxycodone is able to function by blocking pain receptors in the user’s brain, after all, and the body can become accustomed to this effect over time. Not only does the brain become used to operating under such conditions, it actually starts to crave the drug when it feels its effects wearing off. It continuously sends signals to its user's body, telling them, “We need more of that chemical if you want everything to keep working properly”.
Chemical dependency starts at that point where the oxycodone user cannot function 100% properly if they don’t have the drug in their system. The effect that the drug has on the brain can cause them to lose self-control and make irrational decisions in an attempt to satisfy their body’s need for the substance.
Without proof of an actual prescription, possession of oxycodone products such as OxyContin is classified as a crime. It can lead to an arrest and heavy punishment such as prison sentences, fines and probation. If found to be carrying oxycodone-based drugs illegally, the perpetrator will be held to trial for possession of narcotics.
Like many commonly abused prescription medications, OxyContin and other drugs containing oxycodone are legal as long as the person in possession holds an up-to-date prescription written by an authorized medical professional. Otherwise, possession of oxycodone is an illegal act.
The Controlled Substances Act classifies oxycodone as a Schedule II controlled substance. This class of drugs is characterized by the fact that they are FDA-certified drugs that are prescribed by medical professionals, yet can be easily abused and therefore carry a high risk of leading to addiction. These drugs are regulated and taken very seriously by the U.S government, who keeps a close eye out for their distribution, manufacture and possession.
Citizens are prohibited from possessing oxycodone-based drugs such as OxyContin or Percocet without an authorized prescription. Those who are caught in possession of the drug are charged with a crime. Selling the drug, or even having the intent to sell it, is an offense that the government takes much more seriously. Possession with the intent to sell is a felony and those who are charged with this crime will face a much more severe penalty than those who are simply found with the drug on their person.
If found by authorities to have oxycodone in their possession, a perpetrator will need to prove in court that they had no intent to sell it or can be charged with a heavy sentence of prison time.
Those who make any attempt to sell or produce documented evidence that they were planning to sell oxycodone will be charged and penalized the same as an individual who was actually caught selling it. Evidence can come in many forms. Although TV shows about police and the legal system might have you believe that drug dealers are most often caught in secret “sting” operations where they unknowingly attempt to sell to an undercover officer, this isn’t usually the case.
Someone who is caught with several thousand Percocet pills, a box filled with Ziploc bags, and a few hundred dollars in a backpack could easily be charged with having the intent to distribute the pills to other people.
The Controlled Substances Act states that any person who attempts to sell within a certain distance of a school (including colleges) or another place where young people congregate can be sentenced to twice the amount of prison time. In addition, they can also be sentenced with a doubled fine and a doubled amount of probation time after they get out of jail.
In addition, many colleges have their own policies concerning the sale of drugs on campus that can add to dealer’s punishment if the institution chooses to pursue charges.
If caught in possession of oxycodone with the intent to sell it, perpetrators can receive a sentence of between five and twenty years of prison time. They may also be sentenced to pay a fine between $250k and $5M. In some cases, the perpetrator will receive both punishments. As it has been pointed out, this sentence will most likely increase if the perpetrator is found to have been selling or intending to sell oxycodone near a school or similar institution.
Additionally, the sentence will increase if an individual died as a result of the perpetrator’s dealings. If someone overdosed, caused a car accident or died for any other reason, the dealer could find themselves facing a life sentence.
An article published in Reason Magazine a few years back outlined the experience of a young man who, simply by being caught in possession of a single OxyContin pill, found himself faced with a drastic change in his quality of living. After being found to have marijuana on his person while he drove home from a concert in Florida, the man was searched by police for other substances. The police officer who found the pill arrested him for possession and charged him with illegal possession of a prescription narcotic.
Although he clearly had no intent to sell the drug and his clean record prevented him from doing jail time, he still faced serious consequences. As part of his sentencing, the judge required the man to attend several months of Narcotics Anonymous meetings and to report the crime to his employer. Working as a stockbroker, he was required to adjust his broker’s license to account for the fact that he’d been arrested. Unwilling to employ a man they believed to be using drugs, his employer fired him. The man was unable to find another job and found his formerly comfortable life turned upside down.
Even possession of a small amount of oxycodone, therefore, can have long-lasting legal consequences.
When an oxycodone user gets to the point that they can’t function properly without the drug in their system, they are showing clear signs of dependency. Even if they don’t enjoy using the drug and want to stop, they may find it difficult to quit using. People can become addicted to OxyContin and other prescription narcotics by using injecting or snorting them, but dependency can develop even when the user takes the drug orally in pill form.
Once an oxycodone addiction decides that it is time for them to commit to their recovery, they may experience some uncomfortable detox effects. Depending on the nature of their addiction, detox may present serious withdrawal symptoms. In those cases, detox should happen in the presence of medical professionals who will ensure that the addict is safe as their body attempts to flush the drug out of its system.
Oxycodone has a half-life between 3 and 6 hours. “Half-life” is the term used to describe the amount of time it takes a person’s body to reduce the quantity of the drug present in the body by 50%. When a person takes 80 milligrams of OxyContin for the first time, it can take up to 6 hours before they have only 40 mg left in their system. It will take another 6 hours before they have little to none of the drug present in their body.
It is important to remember that oxycodone is used in a variety of prescription drugs. Each of these drugs has its own half-life. The 3-6 hour range, therefore, reflects the half-life of oxycodone itself less than it reflects the half-life of each of the commercial products that contain the chemical.
It is also vital to note, here, that the half-life only reflects the amount of time it takes for the body to break the drug down if the user is taking the drug orally as it is intended to be taken. Those who crush up and snort the drug or cook it and use a needle to inject it will greatly increase the half-life of the substance.
The chemical byproducts of oxycodone tend to accumulate in the liver and other organs over time. As the body breaks the drug down, sediment created during the process of metabolizing the drug gather in the digestive system like sand on a beach. Therefore, someone who uses the drug regularly will have the drug present in their body for many days after its half-life has expired. For this reason, habitual users will find that it can take several days or up to a few weeks to rid their body of oxycodone entirely.
Detox is the most important aspect of addiction recovery. When the addict stops using and their body starts to detoxify, their system works to flush every trace of the drug outwards. Oxycodone in the organs and blood will be expelled out of the body through urine, sweat, stool and vomit. The entire detoxification process can take up to 10 days, depending on how much the user’s body is accustomed to having in it.
As the detox process starts, a serious oxycodone addict will experience potentially severe withdrawal symptoms. Because the brain has become so dependent on the chemical, it will go into a manic state as it attempts to recalibrate itself without the aid of the chemical. This process will continue until the brain becomes accustomed to no longer receiving the drug.
Oxycodone withdrawal can be a painful process. It is similar in intensity to heroin withdrawal. However, those who are able to withstand the side effects of withdrawal and work through the pain until those effects subside are far more likely to avoid a relapse in the future.
Not every person who goes through withdrawal will experience all of these symptoms. At the same time, some of these symptoms can be extremely heightened in certain cases. The severity of the symptoms will vary depending on the nature of the user’s addiction and other factors such as their age and the health of their liver (which is vital in helping to flush out toxins).
The average user will not take longer than 2 weeks to physically detoxify from oxycodone. Most people are able to flush the drug out of their system in roughly a week’s time. Although the psychological symptoms of addiction are long-lasting and may take years to overcome. For this reason, it is important that recovering addicts remind themselves that recovery can be a lifelong process and physical addiction is only one step to overcome. Those who are able to detoxify from the chemical, however, get through one major step toward recovery and are on the road to a sober life.
First 48 hours after the last dose: Depending on how much oxycodone the user consumes, withdrawal symptoms can start to take hold within the first two days after they stop using. They will begin to feel pain in their muscles and bones during this time. They may also start to sweat heavily and get nauseous as their brain starts to recognize that the drug is absent from its system. It is common for addicts to relapse during this period in order to avoid facing the painful symptoms that come along with the detox process.
48-120 hours after the last dose: The user will experience the most painful withdrawal symptoms during this time period. Muscles and bones will start to ache. The addict will likely vomit or experience diarrhea. They may begin to shake or feel severe cramping in their stomach muscles.
120-168 hours after the last dose: During this time, the physical symptoms will begin to subside. However, the psychological effects of withdrawal will begin to take their toll. As the user starts to feel less physical pain, they may focus more on the mental aspects of their addiction. This is in part due to the severe depression that comes along with depriving the brain of a steady flow of dopamine. As a result, addicts may start to feel heavy anxiety or become depressed toward the end of the first week after detox.
168+ hours after the last dose: At this point, the addict has not taken a dose of oxycodone for more than 1 week. The drug should be entirely absent from their body at this point. The psychological aspects of withdrawal and addiction, in general, can start to be a constant focus for the user. They may start to think about the way they acted or decisions they made while under the influence of the drug. The pain of confronting such issues can have a negative impact on the person’s psychology and cause them to relapse. It is important, therefore, that the user focuses their attention on staying clean and avoiding a relapse during this time.
Detox can happen in a variety of different places. Where a person chooses to detoxify will depend on the severity of their addiction and the conditions under which they decide to cease their oxycodone user.
Those who are required to quit using drugs because they are in prison, for example, will detox from drugs under the supervision of a medical professional in the prison they are sentenced to. Other users will detoxify in a detox center or rehab facility. Many people choose to check in to a medical facility such as a hospital or clinic in order to wean themselves off of drugs.
Although it is uncommon for people to die during opioid withdrawal, professional doctors can help the process to go smoother and ensure that the addict is not in danger as they withdraw. Doctors and other medical professionals are usually present in rehab centers and detox facilities, as well.
It is possible to detox from oxycodone usage at home. Some addicts are skeptical about the benefits of rehab and therefore do not want to attend one in any capacity, including during the withdrawal process. Others do not have the funds necessary to attend a rehab facility. Thus, they choose to do detoxification on their own.
While you can go through the withdrawal process in your own house, without the aid of professionals, there are several risks involved. Those who are left to their own devices will have an easier time giving up on detox and therefore run the risk of relapsing back into their addiction. Dehydration, as well, is a serious risk involved in the process of withdrawal and medical professionals are trained in the best methods to keep a person hydrated as they detoxify. Those who detox from home will not have the benefit of a professional monitoring their hydration levels to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Clonidine: This drug eases some of the side effects of the withdrawal process. It reduces vomiting as well as the pain felt in the joints of muscles. As some of the anxiety felt during withdrawal can be attributed to the severe pain that the process causes, clonidine can also ease the addict’s nerves as they work through detoxification.
Suboxone: Suboxone is a widely-used opioid replacement drug. It simulates the effects of opioids without taking the same toll on the body. This drug is used in the treatment of both heroin and prescription oxycodone addiction. It is intended only to be taken for a short amount of time after the addict quits using opioids.
Subutex: Similar to Suboxone, this drug is often used as a substitute for opioids. Like Suboxone, the drug carries a risk of being abused and therefore should only be used under the supervision of a doctor. Neither Subutex or Suboxone can be used while other opioids are in the user’s system, but are designed to help the user avoid relapsing in the weeks or months after they go through the initial withdrawal process.
Naltrexone: Naltrexone functions by performing the opposite role that oxycodone and other opioids do. Instead of blocking the neurotransmitters themselves, they prohibit the opioid receptors in the brain from receiving the drug. Naltrexone does not satisfy the cravings that the addict has, but disables them from experiencing the effects of the drug even if they relapse on it. This drug is administered by doctors to those in recovery for several months after detox in order to help them get the balance of chemicals in their brain back to normal.
In their quest to overcome oxycodone addiction, some users will decide to attend a rehabilitation program. A rehab program conducted in a specialized drug treatment facility or detox center will enable the person to receive support from professional addiction treatment specialists as well as other recovering addicts.
There are a variety of rehab options out there, each with their own benefits. Depending on the personality of the addict and the nature of their problem, different types of programs work better for different types of people. The goal of every kind of treatment program is to help addicts detoxify from drugs, to cope with the issues that surround their addiction and to work toward living a productive, oxycodone-free life.
Oftentimes, people who struggle with oxycodone or opioid addiction choose to detox from the drug in an inpatient rehabilitation facility. In these programs, the addict will live on campus at the rehab and spend their days with other recovering addicts. In most cases, they will not leave the premise of the facility for any reason during the initial few weeks after detox. The patient will spend their time in the inpatient program meeting with drug counselors or therapists, consult with medical professionals regularly and attend group support sessions with other addicts.
Some oxycodone addicts will attend outpatient treatment programs while living outside of the rehab facility itself. Many times, recovering addicts graduate to outpatient programs after living in an inpatient facility for a certain duration. In other cases, the person will opt to attend an outpatient treatment program because living on campus inhibits them from meeting obligations elsewhere. Those who want to recover but have a job that they can’t leave or family matters that need regular attending will often choose this method of recovery. Outpatient treatment is usually only recommended for those addicts who have their addiction under control enough that they can avoid relapsing during the initial stages of recovery.
For many people, inpatient rehab is the only way to ensure that they steer clear of drugs and don’t relapse during the most difficult time an addict can go through. It is also a way to place the addict in an environment where they are surrounded by the support they need during such a difficult time. While each facility and program are different, most inpatient programs will provide the recovering addict with a rigorous schedule of therapy sessions and group meetings that they are required to attend each day. These obligations give the addict something to focus on and provide constant reassurance that they are taking the first steps toward getting better.
Oftentimes, both methods of treatment will be steps in an individual's efforts to recover from oxycodone addiction. Those who are committed to overcoming addiction will find that continued support far after the detox period ends is the key to maintaining sobriety and transitioning back into a healthy life.
Both inpatient and outpatient programs will vary in length. Inpatient programs often incorporate the detoxification process and allow the user to stay at the facility for several weeks afterward. A short-term rehab program generally consists of 4-6 weeks of inpatient treatment followed by many months of outpatient treatment. A longer rehab treatment program can require a few months of time spent living in the facility. Certain facilities will enable their patients to extend their stay as long as they feel is necessary to recover.
Outpatient treatment similarly lasts as long as the individual addict is necessary. While the user may detoxify from oxycodone completely and have no traces left in their system, they may find it necessary to their recovery that they continue to meet with therapists and doctors. Outpatient rehabilitation is helpful for addicts in that it enables them to work steadily on overcoming the psychological effects that drug abuse can have.
PHPs (partial-hospitalization programs) often function as a hybrid of both outpatient and inpatient treatment options. Such programs often work as a more intensive version of outpatient rehabilitation. When working through a PHP, the individual will spend the majority of their day on campus as a treatment facility but will go home to sleep and attend to the other needs they may have there. These programs give recovering addicts the benefit of continued support from counselors and other addicts. Many patients who attend PHPs hold part-time jobs at night in order to work toward financial stability while they recover from drugs.
Both inpatient and outpatient rehab require the recovering oxycodone addict to participate heavily in various types of drug counseling. The user will meet individually with one or more therapists to discuss their addiction, its psychological roots and the status of their recovery process. Additionally, the addict will meet with groups of other addicts to share experiences and provide support for one another as they work through the recovery process at the same time.
In some cases, people recovering from addiction to narcotics or other substances will participate in family counseling. In these sessions, the user’s family will gather to discuss the effect that the addiction has had on all of their lives. A licensed therapist or addiction treatment specialist will be present in the room to help move the conversation along and make sure that everyone has an opportunity to speak about their feelings. Like many counseling sessions, family therapy can be a painful process for everyone involved. However, it is a useful tool that can open the addict’s eyes to how their actions have had an impact on the lives of people around them.
Recovery from oxycodone addiction is a lifelong process. Even those who attend an intensive inpatient treatment program and live on campus for several months will most likely still find themselves struggling with addictive tendencies after they reenter society.
They may have made life-changing mistakes while under the influence of drugs or struggle with depression, anxiety and urges to relapse after they become sober.
In order to overcome these challenges and adapt to a new life without oxycodone in it, many addicts will seek additional support post-rehab. There are many forms of “aftercare” that are designed to provide such support. Aftercare options include:
Sober living facilities are houses either owned by an organization or an individual committed to helping former addicts stay clean. Many people will choose to take up residence in a sober house if they are afraid that living on their own after leaving inpatient treatment will make them vulnerable to relapsing. Sober homes are occupied entirely by newly-sober people, providing recovering addicts with a drug-free environment to live in. People who rent rooms in sober homes are free to live their life, come and go as they please and work at a job as long as they remain free of drugs.
Many rehabilitation treatment facilities offer to house people who formerly lived there as part of an inpatient program. As a post-inpatient resident, the patient is encouraged to find work off-campus and to work toward transitioning into a productive member of society. These residents will not be held to a rigorous schedule in the same way that inpatient residents are, but are usually allowed to attend group counseling sessions. Oftentimes, treatment centers will book alumni of the facility to come in and speak about their path to recovery.
12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous help many recovering addicts to get and stay clean from drugs. NA is particularly useful for those who have abused oxycodone or transitioned from oxy to heroin in the struggle to feed their addiction. In most cases, recovering addicts will begin to attend NA meetings shortly after they detox from the substance. In other cases, users who want to quit but can’t bring themselves to will attend NA meetings in order to find inspiration in those who have successfully kicked their narcotics addiction and found a life after drugs. Depending on the facility in which the individual gets treatment, NA meetings may be conducted on-campus and required as part of their addiction treatment schedule.
The focus of NA and other 12-step programs is to help addicts maintain their sobriety by taking a hard look at the effect that their addiction had on their own life and the lives of others. As a user of oxycodone or other narcotic drug confronts the choices they’ve made, they will strive to have compassion for themselves and those around them. NA focuses on helping people to overcome the challenges that one can be faced with after living a drug-dependent life.
Outside of treatment facilities, NA meetings are held regularly around the world. They are scheduled by members and conducted in a variety of different settings such as town halls, public schools or privately-owned properties. While a small number of meetings are open only to those who have attended meetings regularly in the past, most NA meetings are public and open to anyone who wants to join. As the organization’s mission statement says, “This is a program of complete abstinence from all drugs. There is only one requirement for membership, the desire to stop using”.
While the cravings may appear from time to time, its possible to stop using and maintain an entirely drug-free life. With some hard work and a commitment to recovery, we can work toward limiting the unfortunate number of oxy overdoses that occur each year and live longer, happier lives in the process.