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What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a prescription pain medication used to treat acute moderate to severe pain and some types of chronic pain relief. It is used in combination with other drugs to form powerful pain relievers such as Percocet, Oxycontin, and Endocet.

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Oxycodone is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that belongs to a class of drugs known as opioid analgesics. It is taken orally, though sometimes the drug had been injected in the past.  

Oxycodone was reformulated in 2014 to prevent intravenous use. This was done by making the pills and tablets resistant to crushing, as well as turning them into a thick gel when added to water. 

All current oxycodone medication has controlled release properties, even if turned into a gel by adding water.

Side Effects of Oxycodone 

Oxycodone typically affects each individual differently, but common side effects may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Euphoria
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Allergic rash
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How Addictive is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is highly addictive and is one of the most misused prescription drugs in the United States. Many people who are prescribed oxycodone initially take the proper amount but increase usage as their body develops a tolerance to the drug.

The transition from opioid use to opioid addiction is often quick. Oxycodone is a powerful drug and it can be hard to stay in control, especially if it provides relief from severe pain.

Recognizing oxycodone addiction early could help save someone’s life. This type of addiction is not only expensive and debilitating, but it could easily lead to overdose and even death.

Is it Safe to Mix Oxycodone and Alcohol?

It is not safe to mix oxycodone and alcohol. Oxycodone is dangerous on its own, but can become life-threatening when mixed with another depressant such as alcohol. 

Combining these substances together can increase the risks of side effects from each individual drug. Additionally, it can also cause more potential side effects that only occur from mixing. 

Taking just one oxycodone tablet with even a small amount of alcohol increases the risk of experiencing respiratory depression, a potentially life-threatening side effect. This causes extremely shallow breathing or the possibility of stopping breathing entirely.

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Side Effects of Mixing Oxycodone and Alcohol

Mixing oxycodone with alcohol can cause side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Decreased responsiveness
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Chest pain
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Coma
  • Increased risk of opioid overdose and death

What are the Risks of Mixing Oxycodone and Alcohol?

There are many risks associated with mixing oxycodone and alcohol. In addition to increased confusion, a marked decrease in responsiveness, and breathing difficulties, there is also an increased chance of overdose and death. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is involved in more than 20% of deaths and 20% of all emergency room visits involving prescription opioid drugs.

On top of that, more than 50% of teens that misuse opioids have combined them with alcohol at some point, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Call an ambulance or emergency healthcare professional immediately if you or someone you know may be at risk of overdosing.

Alcohol and Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms for both alcohol and oxycodone can be severe, though they vary depending on the individual and level of addiction. Typical withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Severe restlessness
  • Anxiousness or nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling too hot or too cold
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hypertension
  • Shakiness
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Pale skin
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

Hospitals and treatment centers have experienced healthcare staff who have the tools and abilities to provide appropriate treatment for these symptoms.

Signs of Alcohol and Oxycodone Abuse

Some signs and warnings signify alcohol and oxycodone misuse. These include physical, psychological, and behavioral changes that accompany substance use disorder (SUD). 

Some of these signs include:

  • Using oxycodone more often than prescribed or in higher doses than prescribed
  • Inability to stop using or even cut back on taking oxycodone or alcohol even if it is causing noticeable problems
  • Continuing to use both alcohol and oxycodone even when it leads to dangerous situations, such as driving while under the influence of either substance
  • Acquiring oxycodone from illicit sources
  • Developing a tolerance to oxycodone, therefore requiring a higher dose for the required result
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when reducing regular intake of oxycodone
  • Craving oxycodone and alcohol
  • Interference with regular life at home, work, school, or recreational activities from mixing alcohol and oxycodone

Regular use of oxycodone and alcohol together may also cause:

  • Dental issues
  • Severe mood swings
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Decreased testosterone levels in men
  • Menstrual problems in women
  • Using more of both substances to get the same effect
  • Home, work, or social problems

Addiction Treatment for Oxycodone and Alcohol

As with other opiates, stopping oxycodone use can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. This is exacerbated further when the patient is also suffering from alcohol addiction. 

Unmonitored withdrawal symptoms from both substances can be life-threatening. This is why detoxing should only be done under medical supervision.

Treatment for oxycodone and alcohol addiction is best done with professional therapy sessions, formal or informal support groups, and (in some cases) medication. 

Therapy and support groups help treat the root cause of addiction, allowing patients to identify and overcome the psychological compulsion to drink alcohol and take oxycodone in the first place. 

Various inpatient and outpatient treatment centers can treat this type of addiction. It is essential to find the best fit for each patient, as each person is different and has different needs when it comes to recovery. 

Though it is typically best to receive all of the treatments mentioned above together, there are many cases where patients will not need to use them all, at least at the same time.

If you or a loved one suffers from alcohol and oxycodone addiction, reach out to a medical professional or healthcare provider to explore treatment program options.

Resources

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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Harmful Interactions. NIAAA. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines

Cushman P., Jr (1987). Alcohol and opioids: possible interactions of clinical importance. Advances in alcohol & substance abuse, 6(3), 33–46. https://doi.org/10.1300/j251v06n03_04

Zacny, J. P., & Drum, M. (2010). Psychopharmacological effects of oxycodone in healthy volunteers: roles of alcohol-drinking status and sex. Drug and alcohol dependence, 107(2-3), 209–214. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.10.012

Babalonis, S., Coe, M. A., Nuzzo, P. A., Lofwall, M. R., Ali, N., Sloan, P. A., Fanucchi, L. C., & Walsh, S. L. (2021). Acute administration of oxycodone, alcohol, and their combination on simulated driving-preliminary outcomes in healthy adults. Psychopharmacology, 238(2), 539–549. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33169203/

Cherrier, M., Terman, G., Shen, D., Shireman, L., Saxon, A., Simpson, T., Kooner, P., & Wicklander, K. (2019). COGNITIVE AND SUBJECTIVE EFFECTS OF OXYCODONE IN OLDER ADULTS WITH HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY ALCOHOL PATTERNS. Innovation in Aging, 3(Suppl 1), S890. https://doi.org/10.1093/geroni/igz038.3256

Rutger van der Schrier, M.D.; Margot Roozekrans, M.D.; Erik Olofsen, M.Sc.; Leon Aarts, M.D., Ph.D.; Monique van Velzen, Ph.D.; Merijn de Jong, B.Sc.; Albert Dahan, M.D., Ph.D.; Marieke Niesters, M.D., Ph.D. Influence of Ethanol on Oxycodone-induced Respiratory Depression: A Dose-escalating Study in Young and Elderly Individuals. Anesthesiology, February 2017 DOI: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000001505

American Society of Anesthesiologists. "Mixing opioids and alcohol may increase likelihood of dangerous respiratory complication: Especially in elderly, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170207105306.htm

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