The Importance Of Educating Yourself About The Dangers Of Opioids
Oxycodone, Oxycontin, and Hydrocodone are three of the most popular opioid drugs prescribed by doctors for severe and chronic pain. They are also among the most commonly abused. Although these three medications are very similar, they also have their differences. With everything happening in the country right now in relationship to opioid drugs, it’s important for us to educate ourselves as much as we can about these powerful and highly addictive substances.
In case you haven’t heard, opioid addiction is ravaging the country – so much so that President Donald Trump declared the U.S opioid crisis a public health emergency in October of 2017. Millions of people across America are addicted to opioids and tens of thousands are dying every year from opioid overdose. This is why opioid education is vital to your health if you are taking these potent drugs. You don’t want to end up becoming a statistic.
If you’re taking Oxycodone, Oxycontin, or Hydrocodone because it has been prescribed, how much do you know about the medication you are taking? If you are abusing one of these substances, do you really know how much danger you are in? Furthermore, if you have become addicted to any one of these drugs, do you know how to get the help you need to end the cycle of addiction?
Understanding Opioid Addiction In America
Opioid addiction is a major problem in the United States. Here are some statistics that will help you gain a better perspective on the issue:
- According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), “Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.”
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that at least 90 people die every day from an opioid related overdose.
- Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
- Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
- An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
- About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
Many attribute the opioid problem in America to overprescribing doctors. More and more information is coming out that proves opioids aren’t that effective for treating long-term pain. Furthermore, we are becoming more educated about the nature of opioid addiction.
However; when opioids first became the go-to pain reliever prescribed by doctors, they were given misinformation about opioids. Big pharmaceutical companies allegedly misrepresented the dangers and addictive nature of opioid drugs. States and governmental agencies across the United States have since filed lawsuits against these companies for their deceptive marketing practices.
But, before having this information, doctors would prescribe opioids like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Oxycontin not realizing how dangerous and addictive they truly are. Let’s talk about these three drugs in greater depth.
Oxycodone, Oxycontin, and Hydrocodone Are All Examples Of Synthetic Opioids
Before we discuss these medications individually, it’s important to understand that all three drugs belong to the opioid classification. Opioids are narcotic pain-killing drugs derived from the opium poppy plant, which is cultivated in different tropical climates around the world.
People often get opioids and opiates confused. Opiates are natural substances made entirely from parts of the opium plant. Heroin, morphine, and codeine are examples of opiates. Opioids, on the other hand, can be synthetic or semi-synthetic substances. Semi-synthetic opioids are made both from natural opiates and chemically manufactured compounds. Synthetic opioids are entirely chemically manufactured.
We admit, it can be difficult to understand the difference between opiates, semi-synthetic opioids, and synthetic opioids. To make things less complicated, most medical professionals and addiction experts have recently stopped making a distinction and use the blanket term “opioids” when referring to any type of opium-based substance.
Oxycodone – One of the Strongest Opioid Medications On The Market
Oxycodone – also called “Oxy” – is a semi-synthetic opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is synthesized from a naturally occurring opioid alkaloid called thebaine. It is the active ingredient in several different pain medications like Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox. It is a highly addictive and dangerous substance that should only be taken in extreme cases.
Oxycodone might be prescribed to people who complain of extreme back pain or pain sustained from a serious injury. It is also given to people who have undergone a major surgery of some kind. Furthermore, Oxycodone is prescribed to those who are in the progressed stages of a life-threatening illness.
Oxycodone comes in a tablet form in dosages of 20 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg, and 80 mg. It can also be administered in its liquid form by injecting it into the muscle, bloodstream, or skin. It usually lasts about four to six hours.
Oxycodone is a popular drug of abuse. Many people use Oxy by crushing it up into a fine powder and sniffing it or diluting it in water and injecting it with a needle. Oxycodone pills can be bought on the street for as much as $50 a pill.
Oxycontin – A Potent Opioid Prescribed For Long-Lasting Pain Conditions
Oxycontin – known on the street as “Hillbilly Heroin” – is the time-released version of Oxycodone. Where Oxycodone provides immediate pain relief that lasts a few hours, Oxycontin has a time-release agent in it that releases the narcotic over a 12-hour period of time. It is a semi-synthetic opioid used for those who need round-the-clock pain relief and is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. It is also very addictive.
Like Oxycodone, Oxycontin is prescribed for serious injuries, advanced stages of life-threating illnesses, and is given post-surgery. It comes in tablet or capsule form in dosages of 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg, and 80 mg and also comes in a liquid form that can be administered with a needle. Typically, the higher doses of Oxycontin are only given to those who have been using the drug for an extended period of time.
Many people abuse Oxycontin and crush it and sniff it or dilute it in water and inject it. Like Oxycodone, it can purchased on the black market for as much as $50 per pill.
Hydrocodone – The Lesser Of The Three Evils
In comparison to Oxycontin and Oxycodone, Hydrocodone (also known by its brand names Vicodin, Norco, Lortab, and Lorcet) is relatively weak. This is not to say that Vicodin is not a strong opioid, however. Quite the contrary. Hydrocodone is powerful stuff and it should be treated with respect. Like the two oxys, this is a highly addictive substance that hooks hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting new users every year.
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid that comes mixed with acetaminophen, a non-opioid pain reliever similar to Tylenol. It produces a feeling similar to that of codeine.
Here are the dosages:
Norco is much more commonly prescribed by doctors than Oxycontin and Oxycodone. In its tablet form, Hydrocodone might be prescribed by a doctor for knee, back, or joint pain; or it could be given to you by the dentist for a toothache. You may also be prescribed Norco after a minor surgery of some kind. In addition to the popular tablet, Vicodin also comes in a liquid form as a cough suppressant, which is not quite as common.
Like Oxycontin and Oxycodone, Hydrocodone is a popular drug of abuse. Many people buy this medication on the black market with a street value of $4 – $10 per pill.
Oxycodone, Oxycontin, And Hydrocodone Come With Similar Side Effects
These three medications are similar in. As such, they come with similar side effects and warnings.
Here are some of the most common side effects found among Oxycodone, Oxycontin, And Hydrocodone:
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
Here are some the less common side effects:
- Abdominal or stomach pain or discomfort
- Back pain
- Bladder pain
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Difficult, burning, or painful urination
- Dry mouth
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Itching skin
- Lower back or side pain
- Muscle spasms
If you are taking Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Or Oxycontin, you should get immediate medical help if you have any of the following side effects as they may be an indication of overdose:
- Blue lips and fingernails
- Blurred vision
- Change in consciousness
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Cold and clammy skin
- Mental confusion
- Constricted pupil (black part of the eye looks very tiny)
- Coughing that produces a pink froth
- Decreased awareness or responsiveness
- Increased sweating
- Irregular, fast or slow, or shallow breathing
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
- Pale skin
- Overwhelming sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
- Slow or irregular heartbeat
Continued Opioid Use Almost Always Leads To Tolerance
We cannot stress this enough – Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Oxycodone are all very addictive. They should be treated with respect and only taken as prescribed. If you are buying any of these drugs on the street – no matter what the reason may be – you are abusing opioids.
It is important to understand that while opioids are prescribed to treat pain, they also cause a euphoric effect that can cause the user to catch a buzz. For this reason, many people abuse opioids because they like the way they make them feel. Opioid users report that taking the drug takes all their cares away and puts them into a perpetual state of bliss – that is, until the drug wears off.
Once Tolerance Sets In, Addiction Follows
The problem with opioids is that they quickly create a tolerance. Tolerance is what happens when the body becomes accustomed to processing a certain drug and it gets used to it. When this happens, more and more of the same drug is needed to get the same effect someone use to get from a lower dose.
If someone is taking Vicodin, Oxycodone, or Oxycontin to relieve pain, they will no longer get pain relief from the dose they have been prescribed. To get the desire effect, they will up the amount of opioids they are taking – either with or without the okay from their doctor. This is very common. Soon, of course, this dose won’t work either, so they will again take a higher dosage. Before long, someone taking opioids will develop an addiction to the stuff.
Opioid Addiction Affects The Individual By Producing Withdrawal Symptoms
When someone becomes addicted to opioids, they are in real trouble. Opioids are incredibly difficult to quit taking because they bring about the painful process of withdrawal. Withdrawal is what happens when the body has become accustomed to processing a powerful chemical and you take that chemical away.
If you have been using opioids for an extended period of time, and you attempt to lower your dosage or stop taking them altogether, you will experience very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Here are the most common:
- Abdominal cramps
- Cravings for more opioids
- Head-to-toe body aches
- In extreme cases: seizures, coma, death
Are you abusing opioids like Vicodin, Oxycodone, or Oxycontin? If so, you need professional help. You should not attempt to stop taking them on your own and go cold turkey. Withdrawal from opioids can be a life-threatening condition.
If You Have An Addiction To Opioids, You Need Professional Help
A professional medical detoxification is recommended for someone who wants to end the addictive cycle of opioid abuse. A medical detox happens in a medical facility or addiction treatment center where you will be given medication to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. You will also be monitored around the clock to ensure your comfort and safety. A professional medical detox usually takes three to five days.
Many people who successfully stop taking opioids opt out of a professional medical detox and undergo Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT) instead. Opioid Replacement Therapy is a process that usually takes six months to a year.
If you choose this route, you will be given an opioid replacement drug like Suboxone, which contains an opioid and an opioid blocker. This allows you to get opioids in your system without getting a buzz from the stuff. With ORT, you will slowly lower your dosage of the drug to alleviate the withdrawal process and lessen cravings until you are off opioids completely.
No matter how you choose to get it done, if you are addicted to opioids, we recommend that you seek professional help right away – before it’s too late.