What are the Symptoms of Overdose?
OxyContin, a long-term pain relief medication produced by Purdue Pharma, was meant to be a boon to persons needing to manage chronic pain. Misrepresentation of its risk factors by the manufacturer and abuse by users, however, lead to its being the poster child for the opioid crisis of the early 2000s.
Taking high doses of an opioid prescription medication could lead to a potentially fatal overdose. The user’s system can begin to quickly shut down or they could suffer sudden cardiac arrest.
It is important to recognize the symptoms of an overdose for drugs and especially those of an OxyContin overdose. The person taking the drug is often disabled by the overdose effects and unable to understand that they are in a life-threatening situation that requires emergency medical treatment.
OxyContin Overdose Symptoms
- Slowed heart rate
- Trouble breathing
- Breathing problems
- Slowed breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Inability to wake the person up
- Limp body
- Extreme sleepiness
- Cold, clammy skin
- Appearance of tiny “pinpoint” pupils
- Slurred speech
- Impaired motor skills
- Choking or gurgling sounds
- Very runny nose
- Flu-like symptoms
What Should You Do in Case of Overdose?
In the event of an OxyContin overdose, dial 911 immediately and seek emergency medical help.
You should assume the patient has too much oxycodone in his or her system. Whether they took larger doses illegally or were taking oxycodone or other opioids without full understanding of the drug’s effect–such as might be the case of family members with mental illness–they need immediate emergency medical attention.
Trained first responders provide emergency services on the scene or in the hospital emergency room, focusing on stabilizing the patient. Initial actions may include providing intravenous fluids, CPR, or the use of Naloxone (a drug that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose).
Be prepared to provide the EMTs with information about the patient. Is this their first OxyContin or oxycodone overdose? Did they also drink alcohol with the drug? Did they have an oxycodone addiction? Had there been long-term abuse of the drug? Did the patient immediately dispose of any bottles or packaging that might be incriminating? What other risk factors did they exhibit?
What is the difference between OxyContin and Oxycodone?
The two prescription medications are very similar and often confused. The difference is that OxyContin is branded extended-release version of oxycodone with hydrochloride added that provides relief for severe pain throughout the day, usually with extended-release tablets.
Whether it’s the brand name OxyContin or the generic oxycodone, these two medications are very powerful drugs that can lead to oxycodone overdose or opioid use disorder.
OxyContin (sometimes just called Oxy) and oxycodone both have the risk of overdose. Drug abuse of either is risky. Both require medical emergency care if taken in excess, and the symptom of an overdose is similar.
Both Are Part of the Opioid Family of Drugs
The powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin and generic oxycodone are part of the classification of drugs called opioids which affect the opioid receptors in the nervous system. When opioids attach to the receptors, they trigger a series of chemical changes that lead to sensations of pleasure and pain relief.
This class of drugs also includes the illegal drug heroin and the legal but much-abused prescription painkiller fentanyl. Other drugs like codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone are also opioids, types of pain medication derived from opium found in the poppy plant.
How did Opioid Medications Cause a Crisis?
Purdue Pharma created an aggressive marketing campaign promoting OxyContin as a better pain treatment because it can be used long-term. The slow-release oxycodone hydrochloride was thought to reduce the chances of drug dependency and pharmaceutical marketers were eager to sell the new OxyContin tablets.
Critics say aggressive marketing persuaded doctors to prescribe opioids too liberally, leading to an increased risk of overdose and helping usher in the deadly opioid crisis of the early 21st Century. Overdoses have killed more than 500,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 50,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2019, according to the National Institutes of Health, a good source of trustworthy health information.
In addition to the human toll, the crisis has a monetary side. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.”
Be Informed About Opioids
Persons taking oxycodone or other opioid medications need to know what an opioid overdose looks and feels like and how to respond to a medical emergency.
If you have concerns about your medications or fear having an oxycodone overdose, see a doctor immediately who can provide medical advice and information. An accidental overdose can cause damage to the central nervous system that is hard to reverse.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with oxycodone abuse and may be a candidate for oxycodone overdose, you probably understand how this drug has negatively impacted you on a very personal level.
Oxycodone overdose can be prevented. Anyone who is taking prescription drugs like oxycodone should be aware of the risk of overdose. Addiction is a life-threatening disease that can be addressed through a variety of addiction treatment options.
Why is There an Urge to Take More Pain Medication?
Legal opioid drugs are obtained only after a patient talks to their doctor and receives a prescription. Doctors provide medical advice about how much to take and how often, but users may ignore their doctor’s advice and fall victim to oxycodone abuse, which can lead to addiction.
Pain medications like oxycodone make the user feel so good through their effect on the opioid receptors. They produce a euphoric sensation, otherwise known as a “high.” Users sometimes mix oxycodone with alcohol, other drugs, and other medications to intensify that sensation. (NOTE: You should never mix oxycodone with alcohol, illegal substances, or other medications not approved by your doctor.) This combination of substances increases the risk of overdose.
Danger of ‘If One Dose is Good, two are Better’
And if one dose makes a person feel good, then two doses must make them feel even better, right? So, someone taking OxyContin takes more than the prescribed amount in search of a better sensation, but instead it can lead to a fatal overdose.
There is also danger in having multiple prescriptions for chronic pain. Some patients “shop” different physicians to obtain these prescriptions. Other just come by them haphazardly, especially if they don’t provide the doctors with complete medical background information.
Another hazard is imbibing alcohol while taking drugs. When taking any prescription painkillers it is strongly suggested to not drink alcohol due to the combined effect on the central nervous system. Even with extended-release tablets, a person can experience extreme drowsiness. Add alcohol and a person’s breathing can become labored. Unintentionally, people overdose from this combination.
Prescription Drugs and Opioid Use Disorder
Opioid addiction is insidious and can fool even the most diligent person into believing the drug is needed for the pain they feel. Seeking treatment comes when the user or abuser realizes that perhaps they need to examine other options.
Like other drugs of great power, oxycodone is highly addictive. It may be prescribed by a doctor, but that does not mean you cannot become addicted to it.
As use of oxycodone increases, a person using too much cannot stop using the drug on their own. If they do, they will experience painful withdrawal symptoms. These include nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, diarrhea, runny nose, and flu-like symptoms. This experience is very uncomfortable, so users just continue to take more oxycodone to avoid these withdrawal symptoms.
By the time this happens, they have developed what is known as an opioid use disorder and are at risk of overdose or sudden death.
Addiction Treatment at La Hacienda
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says substance abuse and the taking of a potentially fatal dose of illegal substances cause more deaths, illness, and disabilities than any other preventable health condition. These are good reasons to seek treatment at a respected treatment center.
La Hacienda Treatment Center specializes in the detoxification and rehabilitation process for those seeking a life free from substance use disorders. We believe strongly in the 12 step philosophy and have seen it work for thousands who want to find freedom from addiction.
Board-certified addiction medicine physicians and substance use disorder specialists care for those seeking addiction treatment. They guide both the patient and their family through treatment options and the recovery process. Meeting daily with patients, they focus on the physical, spiritual, and healing aspect of treatment, revealing new pain treatment options and ways to improve physical health.
Staff psychiatrists address mental illness concerns in support the addiction treatment program, but La Hacienda does not admit patients for treatment of mental disorders. Separate treatment for those can best be sought after treatment for SUD.
Excellent professional nurses are present 24/7, delivering superb care throughout the treatment program. Licensed, caring counselors meet daily with patients to evaluate their progress and plan post-recovery options.
Amenities include a well-equipped exercise gym, small swimming pool, hilltop walking trail with exercise stations, disc golf, volleyball court, and cypress-shaded riverfront on the North Fork of the Guadalupe.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please phone (800) 749-6160 and begin the recovery journey. Experienced and knowledgeable admission specialists will calmly answer your questions and guide you toward a better tomorrow.
OxyContin is the trade name for a generic oxycodone hydrochloride narcotic for long-term pain management developed and patented by Purdue Pharma in 1996. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved OxyContin in December 1995 because officials believed it would lead to less abuse. The opposite happened.
How to Tell if Someone is on OxyContin
It is important that persons caring for users are understanding OxyContin addiction, learn the signs that can lead to increased risk of oxycontin overdose, and remain aware of their patient’s state of mind and behavior. Often, they are the only ones who can help a person abusing OxyContin.
Opiates are a class of medications that have a valuable role when appropriately prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. They are also one of one of the oldest medications on record.