Death From Oxycodone Overdose
The U.S. is currently being weighed down by the effects of what’s called the opioid epidemic. This refers to the number of people who are addicted and dependent on opioids, including prescription pain medications and heroin, as well as the number of people who die from opioid overdoses each year.
In the period between 1999 and 2014, drug overdose deaths almost tripled according to the CDC. Among overdose deaths in the U.S., the large majority involve the use of opioids.
The CDC and other state and federal organizations are looking at ways to deal with the opioid epidemic in the U.S., but so far there is little relief.
Oxycodone is one drug, in particular, that is an opioid and can cause deaths related to overdoses. The following is an overview of what to know about oxycodone and overdoses.
While oxycodone does have legitimate medical uses regarding being a pain reliever, it’s also addictive, and people develop a physical tolerance to it as well.
Oxycodone can be prescribed as a single-ingredient drug, but it’s also often used in combination medications. Opioids are combined with other drugs such as acetaminophen to increase their effectiveness. Brand name drugs that contain oxycodone include OxyContin and Roxicodone.
Oxycodone can be prescribed as an immediate-release version, as well as an extended-release medication that can help control pain around-the-clock.
Along with pain relief, oxycodone and other opioids can also trigger a flood of dopamine into the brain, which is a feel-good neurotransmitter. When this happens, the person who’s taken the oxycodone will likely feel a sense of euphoria and well-being. This is considered getting high from oxycodone, and it then creates a reward response in the brain, which is how addiction occurs.
Also possible with oxycodone is the development of physical dependence. A physical dependence on a drug like oxycodone indicates that you have a tolerance to it from taking it for an extended period of time, and if you stop taking it suddenly you’ll go through withdrawal.
It’s important for people who are prescribed oxycodone to follow the dosage instructions provided by their physician very carefully. The typical starting dosage of oxycodone for an adult who’s never used opioids before ranges from 5 to 15 mg every four to six hours. With an extended release version of oxycodone, the starting dosage is typically 10 mg taken every 12 hours.
Also important is taking oxycodone in the way it’s intended. Some people who are chasing a high will crush up oxycodone and snort the tablets, or they might dissolve tablets and inject them.
This makes the drug riskier because it reaches the brain more quickly and is more likely to lead to serious consequences or death.
So what happens if someone doesn’t follow the dosage instructions or takes oxycodone in a way other than how it’s supposed to be used?
As with other opioids, oxycodone depresses the activity of the central nervous system. This includes respiration, so an opioid overdose means that someone has taken a dose so large that it slows their breathing to the point that’s dangerous or deadly.
Someone who is experiencing an overdose on oxycodone will show symptoms such as losing consciousness or nodding off, having skin or nails with a bluish tint, slow or shallow breathing, low blood pressure, delusions, hallucinations, shaking or seizures.
An overdose on oxycodone can be accidental because someone simply doesn’t realize how much of the drug they’re taking, or they might mix oxycodone with something else, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, which causes further respiratory depression.
According to the CDC, oxycodone is the second most common drug involved in opioid overdose deaths in the U.S., and more than 1,000 people go to emergency departments every day in the U.S. because of the misuses of prescription opioids.
The effects of an oxycodone overdose are reversible in some cases, but many people ultimately die because they don’t receive care quickly enough.
To avoid an oxycodone overdose death it’s important to make sure medications are properly labeled and stored, and dosage instructions should be carefully followed. It’s also extremely important to speak with your physician about any other drugs or substances you might regularly use, to ensure they won’t increase the risk of an oxycodone overdose death.
Have more questions about Oxycodone abuse?Read the most frequently asked questions
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