How to Tell If Someone Is Using Oxycodone

Oxycodone comes with a high risk for abuse and addiction regardless of whether a person takes it for medicinal or recreational purposes. This means anyone can get caught up in a cycle of drug abuse when taking this drug. When oxycodone drug abuse becomes an issue, a friend or loved one will start to change in noticeable ways, which is how to tell if someone is using oxycodone.

How Oxycodone Works

Oxycodone is designed to treat conditions involving pain, such as injuries, post-surgery recovery, chronic pain conditions, and even cancer, which speaks to just how powerful this drug is. It works by kicking the body’s natural pain-regulating mechanisms into high gear. Your central nervous system(CNS) is primarily responsible for managing pain and also plays a central role in regulating feelings of pleasure, your sense of contentment, and how you think. The CNS uses chemical messengers, such as dopamine and other endorphin-like chemicals to manage these functions.

If your friend or loved one suffers from some form of injury or chronic pain, he or she may have been prescribed oxycodone. However, oxycodone works in such a way that the risk of abuse and addiction increases the longer they’re on the drug. Abusing oxycodone changes how the brain works over time. These changes start to show up in the way a person thinks and behaves, providing clues on how to tell if someone is using oxycodone.

How Oxycodone Abuse Gets Started

Opioids like oxycodone are highly effective at relieving pain but this benefit can come at a high cost. As a general rule, oxycodone should only be taken on a short-term basis to avoid the pitfalls of abuse and addiction. The only problem is oxycodone’s effects cause changes in the cells it targets. When you take this drug, it forces opioid cells throughout the brain and CNS to secrete large amounts of dopamine and other endorphins.

With each dose of the drug, opioid cells become less sensitive to its effects. As this happens, you have to keep increasing the dosage amount you take to experience the desired effects of the drug. These changes occur whether you’re using oxycodone as a treatment for pain or to get “high.” The end result of these interactions creates a state of a chemical imbalance in the brain that continues to worsen each time you take the drug. In effect, continued use can quickly turn into a self-perpetuating cycle of oxycodone drug abuse that leads straight to addiction.

Methods of Abusing Oxycodone

If you suspect drug abuse, the way your friend or loved one uses drugs may offer signs of how to tell someone is using oxycodone. Common methods of abuse include snorting, smoking, injecting, and of course pills. Each method may leave clues, such as the different types of paraphernalia used to ingest the drug.

When snorting oxycodone, the drug must be crushed up into powder form. This requires a blunt object, such as a hammer, which may have the residue of the powder still on it. To create lines of powder for snorting, he or she would have to use something with a sharp edge, such as a razor or credit card. You might also find vials, which are used as containers to hold the powder.

Smoking oxycodone also requires the drug to be converted to powder. The powder is heated using aluminum foil to create smoke. The smoke is then inhaling through a pipe that’s held over the smoke. Look for little sheets of aluminum foil and pipe-shaped utensils, such as straws, hollowed-out pens, or even store-bought pipes.

Injecting oxycodone requires the powder to be mixed with water and heated using a spoon or small basin. The solution is then placed in a syringe. Arms bands may also be used to help find a vein. So look for burnt spoons, discarded syringes, and materials that can be used as an armband, such as rubber hosing or small rolls of cloth.

With pill-popping, things to look for include empty prescription bottles, small Ziploc baggies, or small envelopes. If your friend or loved one is abusing oxycodone, the prescription bottles will show the names of different doctors or different pharmacies. This is a clear-cut sign of “doctor shopping.”

What You Can Do

While you can’t force someone to get treatment help, you can take steps that help them see the problem. Expressing your concerns in a non-judgmental way is a good first step. If your friend’s or loved one’s drug use has reached the point where it’s causing harm to others, it may be time to hold an intervention meeting. If he or she still refuses to get help, consider setting boundaries that prevent their actions from disrupting your well-being. Hopefully, setting limits and being clear about where you stand will help your friend see oxycodone drug abuse for what it is.

Sources –

  • – UT Health McGovern Medical School, “Pain Modulation & Mechanisms”
  • – Journal of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, “Opioid Tolerance Development: A Pharmacokinetic/Pharmacodynamic Perspective”
  • – Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, “The Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS)

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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