Oxycodone was developed in 1916 in an effort to create an opioid that wasn’t addictive. The two Germans scientists who developed it designed it to replace heroin. In 1939, oxycodone was introduced to America, and about 30 years later, it became a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Today, it remains a commonly abused substance.
What Is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a highly addictive opioid pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain. This semisynthetic opiate can be found in medications by itself or in combination with other pain relievers. It’s given as a pill, capsule, or liquid solution.
It comes in both immediate-release and extended-release forms. The extended-release versions last up to 12 hours and releases a small yet steady dose of the drug over time.
People who abuse it ingest, inject, or snort the drug.
The following brand name medications are examples of drugs consisting of only oxycodone:
- Xtampza ER
Examples of prescription drugs consisting of oxycodone in combination with another drug include the following:
- Endocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen)
- Percodan (oxycodone and aspirin)
- Combunox (oxycodone and ibuprofen)
How and Why Is It Injected?
Some people opt to inject oxycodone because the brain receives the drug more rapidly via this method. Additionally, the effects of the drug are enhanced when taken intravenously; however, those who have abused the drug in this manner report it doesn’t cause an initial “rush” like other similar drugs do when they are injected.
People typically shoot the immediate-release versions nowadays since the formula of oxycodone in its extended-release form changed to discourage people from snorting or injecting it. The tamper-proof oxycodone turns into a gel when somebody tries to crush it, which makes it difficult to inject and impossible to snort. However, CNN revealed that 24 percent of people who were surveyed admitted they found a way to defeat the tamper-resistant feature of extended-release opioids pain relievers.
Those who take oxycodone intravenously first crush the tablet. In order to acquire the beads from a capsule, they must first open the capsule and then crush the beads. The mixture must be crushed as finely as possible to ensure it dissolves. The powder is then put on a spoon or another device people choose to use as a “cooker.” The powder is mixed with water. Some people who abuse oxycodone this way opt to cook the solution because they believe it dissolves better while others use cold water and shoot it without cooking it. Before they fill the syringe, people tend to use cotton or another filter to remove as much particulate matter as possible.
How Common Is Oxycodone Abuse?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it’s estimated anywhere between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids throughout the world. NIDA also states that the number of prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other opioids has risen from 76 million in 1991 to almost 207 million in 2013.
Statistics provided by the American Society of Addiction Medicine indicated that nearly 2 million people in the United States had a prescription pain reliever substance use disorder. Findings from an annual survey conducted in 2005 published by NIDA revealed that teen oxycodone abuse was on the rise. In fact, one in 20 high school seniors in the United States admitted to using oxycodone for nonmedical purposes. The survey also showed that five times as many 12th graders used oxycodone when compared to the amount of 12th graders who used methamphetamine. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World reported that 4.4 million people between the ages of 12 and 17 admitted to taking prescription painkillers in 2005.
According to Washington University in St. Louis, 75 percent of all people in one survey chose oxycodone or hydrocodone as their favorite drug. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Nova Southeastern University in Miami asked over 3,500 people in 160 drug treatment programs about their drug of choice, and people favored oxycodone by 45 percent. The survey also indicated that one in five of those oxycodone users injected the drug at some point.
What Are the Short-Term Risks of Injecting Oxycodone?
When people inject oxycodone, they receive all of the drug at once, and it affects those who shoot it in under 30 seconds from the time it’s administered. Injecting the drug puts users at a greater risk of overdose. Respiratory failure can occur from prescription opioids even in people who use it as recommended, and the risk is even greater for those who abuse it, especially those who shoot the drug.
Those who survive an overdose from injecting oxycodone may still have serious side effects, such as low blood pressure (hypotension), a weak pulse, seizures, extreme drowsiness, shallow or no breathing, coma, or heart failure. Difficulty breathing or slow breathing can happen as a result of overdose. Some people experience intestinal issues as a result of overdosing on oxycodone. For instance, some individuals become severely constipated, have nausea, or begin vomiting. Spasms may occur in the stomach or intestinal tract.
The number of people who overdosed from opioids including oxycodone quadrupled from 1999 to 2015. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 183,000 people died between the years of 1999 and 2015 in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids. As of now, more than half of opioid drug overdoses are due to prescription painkillers. In addition to the number of people who die from overdoses, more than 1,000 people seek emergency medical treatment for abusing prescription opioids. It’s not known how many overdoses involved injecting oxycodone or another prescription pain reliever.
What Are the Long-Term Risks of Injecting Oxycodone?
Injecting oxycodone has a number of long-term consequences. For example, injecting oxycodone can lead to addiction. Injecting opioids is more addictive than ingesting them since a higher dosage of the drug reaches the brain more quickly.
The symptoms of withdrawal tend to be worse for those who inject drugs. How much and how often people shoot the drug determine the severity of the withdrawal too. How long people inject the drug plays a role as well.
Withdrawal symptoms from oxycodone include:
- Runny nose
- Thoughts of suicide
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle aches and pains
- Abdominal cramping
Those who go through the initial detoxification process and relapse put themselves at a greater risk for overdose since their tolerance decreases when they stop taking the drug. Therefore, if they shoot the same amount as they used to before they stopped, it can be more than their bodies can handle.
Those who inject oxycodone are at risk of contracting diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV, when they share needles with other people. Using a drug via a needle may damage the veins, even causing a collapsed vein. Poorly dissolved oxycodone causes particulate matter to flow through the veins and can possibly cause a blood clot. Infection of the heart, heart valves, and lungs is possible as a result of intravenous oxycodone abuse.
Because injecting substances interferes with blood circulation, it can cause death to tissue. Oxycodone, especially when combined with other pain relievers like acetaminophen, can be hard on the liver, leading to various liver problems.