Opioid painkillers account for 214 million prescriptions in the US. Opioid misuse is common and fatal opioid overdoses continue to increase.Of the opioid analgesics, oxycodone is among the most popular; last year alone, 3.2 million people misused this drug.
This article breaks down everything you need to know about oxycodone and its withdrawal so you can keep yourself (and your loved ones) safe.
What Is Oxycodone and How Does It Work?
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid that helps relieve acute pain (after a surgery or accident) and chronic pain (from long-term illness). It works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and triggering the release of endorphins (feel-good hormones), which blocks pain transmission.
Is Oxycodone Addictive?
Frequent oxycodone users may develop tolerance to the medication because of structural changes in their brains. This means having to continually increase doses to feel the same pain-relieving effects. Over time, this evolves into a dependence and addiction.
Is Oxycodone Available Over-the-Counter (OTC)?
The FDA classifies oxycodone as a Schedule II substance given its potential for misuse and dependence. Thus, oxycodone is not available over-the-counter.
How Long Do the Effects of Oxycodone Last?
The body takes a period of time equal to five half-lives (the time it takes for drug concentration in the blood to reduce by half) to eliminate any drug. Thus, the effects last the times indicated below:
- Immediate-release oxycodone formulations last 16 hours (given their 3.2 hour half-life).
- Delayed-release oxycodone formulations last 24 hours (given their 5.6 hour half-life).
What Causes Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms?
A part of the brain known as the locus coeruleus (LC) is abundant in opioid receptors. Oxycodone binds to these receptors, suppressing the release of noradrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormone). When users stop taking oxycodone abruptly, the LC produces excess quantities of noradrenaline, leading to withdrawal symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Withdrawal
Muscle pain and body aches
Hot or cold flashes
Tachycardia (increased pulse)
Hypertension (elevated blood pressure)
Diaphoresis (excessive sweating)
Rhinorrhea (runny nose)
Mydriasis (dilated pupils)