Oxymorphone Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options
Prescription opioids, like oxymorphone (Opana), are responsible for increasing instances of abuse, addiction and overdose each year in the United States. Opioid medications like oxymorphone elicit euphoric effects when abused, leading the drugs to be diverted for misuse often.
The effects of opioids such as oxymorphone have become highly sought in recreational use. Unfortunately, oxymorphone has properties which make it addictive after a short time of use, a risk that increases greatly the more frequently a person misuses the drug.
Treatment options for opioid abuse and addiction are expanding all the time, and there are currently a wide array of options for opioid use disorders throughout the nation to help individuals overcome abuse and build a life that will sustain sobriety.
What Is Oxymorphone?
Oxymorphone, brand name Opana, is a narcotic prescription medication also known as a painkiller. Opioid medications are used to treat moderate to severe pain, particularly in patients with chronic pain or diseases which cause chronic pain, such as cancer. The drugs are not intended for long-term use due to their addictive properties.
In fact, the warning labels for oxymorphone caution that the drug may become habit-forming, even after a short time and even, sometimes, when taken as directed. When a person is prescribed oxymorphone, he or she should take it exactly as prescribed and refrain from increasing dosage or changing method of administration without first speaking to a doctor.
Oxymorphone, like other opioids, is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which means it works to slow certain functions in the brain and body—an effect which results in the altered perception of pain for which the drug is prescribed. In the brain, oxymorphone attaches to opioid receptors, interrupting the natural flow of communication and creating an influx of happy chemicals.
The body responds very well to this process; so well that it eventually stops making happy chemicals on its own. When this happens, a person becomes addicted to and/or dependent on oxymorphone. Because oxymorphone is so addicting and due to the effects it causes, stopping use without professional help can be both difficult and dangerous.
Signs Of Oxymorphone Abuse
Oxymorphone is a prescription medication, so abuse of it constitutes any way of using it other than prescribed use. This includes changing the dosage, changing the frequency of the dosage or changing the method of administration.
Signs of oxymorphone abuse generally include signs which point to the development of addiction or dependence and the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Some people begin abusing the drugs without intending to do it, such as upping their dosage in seeking relief from pain or taking the medication more frequently to avoid the medication wearing off.
Someone who is abusing oxymorphone may try to hide the abuse at first. As abuse leads to addiction, though, the abuse becomes more involved and a person has a hard time controlling it.
Signs of oxymorphone abuse may be physical, psychological or behavioral, and may include:
- Physical: drowsiness, sedation, lethargy, sweating, flushing of the skin and small pupil size (“pinpoint” pupils).
- Psychological: increased or unexplained euphoria, having a false sense of well-being, lack of interest in activities which used to interest a person and disrupted sleep patterns.
- Behavioral: “doctor shopping” or seeking prescriptions from multiple doctors, obtaining prescriptions illegally or stealing them and preoccupation with seeking and using the drug.
Abuse of oxymorphone is highly dangerous. The drug causes slowed breathing and heart rates, especially when abused in high or frequent doses. Abuse can also lead to increased risk of overdose due to the buildup of the drug in the body, either at one time or over a prolonged period of time. For these reasons, it is extremely important to seek help right away for anyone who may be abusing oxymorphone.
Effects Of Oxymorphone Abuse
Because oxymorphone is a narcotic drug, use of it comes with many side effects and risks, both of which increase when a person abuses the drug. The most dangerous of these effects include effects on the brain and body, addiction and physical dependence.
Effects On The Brain And Body
Even when used as prescribed, possible oxymorphone side effects include:
- anxiety and confusion
- dry mouth
- extreme sweating
- increased heartbeat
- reddened eyes
- stomach cramps/swelling
Abusing oxymorphone increases both the chances that these side effects will occur and the severity and duration of them.
Oxymorphone abuse, with time, can also lead to adverse effects, such as:
- changes in pain tolerance
- constant nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
- gastrointestinal issues
- hormone imbalances
- sexual dysfunction
- worsening of mental health overall
- weakened immune system
A person may also experience a number of other side effects, depending on their method of abuse. For example, a person who crushes and snorts the oxymorphone tablet may experience side effects of insufflation abuse, such as damage to the nasal cavities. A person who crushes the tablet to make an injectable solution to take the drug may experience side effects of injection abuse, such as damage at the injection site, increased risk of contracting infectious diseases and skin lesions.
Still, some of the greatest risks of oxymorphone abuse are the risks of developing an addiction and physical dependence, as these two conditions are what keeps a person continually abusing oxymorphone and often unable to break free from this cycle.
A person who abuses oxymorphone can develop an addiction to it in as little as two weeks or less. With opioid abuse, a person experiences an initial rush of euphoria followed by a prolonged period of feelings of well-being and altered perceptions of pain, a “high.” These feelings are largely responsible for keeping a person going back to oxymorphone again and again.
Also, each time a person abuses oxymorphone, they are rewiring their brain to depend on the drug. Essentially, the body enjoys the feelings and results experienced by the drug and comes to rely on it for these feelings.
Addiction leads to any number of adverse side effects. A person caught in addiction becomes so preoccupied with seeking and abusing the drug, they often experience rifts in relationships, loss of jobs or trouble at school. Some even end up in legal trouble or in auto or other accidents. Opioid abuse also leads individuals to make decisions they would not otherwise make, such as risky sexual decisions and stealing medication from family or friends.
Addiction also takes a toll on a person’s health. People abusing opioids like oxymorphone may lack appetite, and addiction in general causes people to neglect their overall health. Weight loss is common with addiction, and forgetting to eat or drink enough water can lead to nutritional deficiencies and dehydration.
Overall, addiction puts a person at continuous risk for overdose. High or frequent doses of oxymorphone can lead to respiratory depression, stopped heartbeat or seizures, a combination which can be fatal when left untreated.
Once a person has become reliant on oxymorphone to function throughout the day, that person has formed a physical dependence on the drug. This means he or she will experience uncomfortable, painful and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms if and when they try to stop using.
Addiction is a mental reliance on the drug which keeps a person believing they need the drug and must keep seeking it. Dependence is responsible for keeping a person going back to oxymorphone when they try to quit the use of it because withdrawal symptoms are so difficult to face, especially without help.
Oxymorphone withdrawal symptoms can begin in as little as a few hours after the last use but typically begin approximately 14 to 18 hours after the last use and peak around two days after last use. However, each person’s experience will be different and will depend on a number of factors, including the duration and severity of abuse.
Early withdrawal symptoms will mimic a case of the common flu, with body aches, anxiety, agitation, and cravings. These symptoms increase in severity during peak and add heightened cravings, nausea and vomiting and chills.
In general, oxymorphone withdrawal symptoms include:
- cold flashes with goosebumps
- diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- extreme cravings
- muscle and bone pain
- sleep issues
- uncontrolled leg movements
For many, the majority of symptoms will be over within a week. Most symptoms beyond that are psychological, including intense cravings, anxiety, and depression, though again, withdrawal and the symptoms it produces will depend on the person.
Dangers Of Oxymorphone Abuse
While the greatest risks of oxymorphone abuse include addiction and physical dependence, one of the greatest risks of abuse of this drug is an overdose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that “more than three out of five drug overdose deaths involve an opioid.” Also, overdose deaths from opioids, including prescription opioids like oxymorphone, have increased more than five-fold since 1999.
In total, 42,000 people died of an opioid overdose in 2016, and 40 percent of those deaths involved prescription opioids like oxymorphone.
When a person overdoses on oxymorphone, the cause is usually slowed or stopped breathing. This condition leads to decreased oxygen flow to the brain, which can result in a number of fatal consequences, including permanent brain damage, coma or death.
If someone is suspected of overdose, the person should be immediately transported to emergency medical care.
Oxymorphone overdose symptoms include the following:
- a bluish tint to fingernails, lips or skin
- cold/clammy skin
- difficulty breathing slowed breathing or stopped breathing
- extreme drowsiness
- increase/decrease in pupil size
- limp/weak muscles
- loss of consciousness
- slowed or stopped the heartbeat
- unusual snoring sound
To combat the growing opioid overdose epidemic in the nation, the overdose reversal drug, naloxone (Narcan), has become increasingly available and can now be bought over-the-counter in most states. Naloxone can be administered multiple times as needed to reverse oxymorphone overdose symptoms until professional help arrives, and directions for use and administration of the drug can be found at any doctor’s office or pharmacy.
Treatment Options For Oxymorphone Addiction
Treatment for opioid abuse and addiction has become a growing need nationwide, and with it has come to increased availability of both inpatient and outpatient programs, as well as an array of continued care services. Our inpatient rehab centers each offer the following forms of care for opioid-addicted individuals.
Inpatient Rehabilitation Programs
Inpatient rehabilitation programs, also called residential programs, are by far the most effective method for treating opioid addiction, including oxymorphone addiction. Within inpatient programs, individuals receive ongoing, daily care from experienced and licensed professionals in a residential setting. The best programs are housed in inpatient rehab centers situated in remote locations for the ultimate level of privacy and personal healing and growth.
Programs range in length depending on individual need and will generally be customized to fit each person’s unique treatment needs. Medication will be used as necessary, detox is available for those with physical dependence and most of these programs also offer ample resources for continued care to ensure lasting recovery results.
Our inpatient treatment programs are staffed by experienced, licensed professionals and offer a high variance in therapies and program components. Each of our treatment locations offers specialized programs tailored to individual need, recognizing the importance of addressing all of an individual’s treatment concerns at once.
Medically Supervised Detox Programs
Those who have grown dependent on oxymorphone will need first to undergo detoxification. Medically supervised detox programs help individuals safely rid their bodies of the drug while tapering off the use of it in a controlled manner for increased comfort. These programs typically utilize medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, such as buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex) and methadone.
Individuals in our medically supervised detox programs are monitored constantly to ensure their vital functions never reach unsafe levels, to restore overall physical health and to prepare them for formal treatment.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a form of inpatient treatment which combines medication management and a number of therapies and other treatment components for an optimal recovery outcome. While many people need some form of medication to endure withdrawal, some will also need medication to begin recovery. Prolonged withdrawal symptoms, such as intense cravings, can make staying the path of recovery difficult and medication can help them stay on track.
Use and duration of medication in this manner will depend on the individual. Some may need it even after they leave inpatient treatment. Medication-assisted treatment programs and counselors and clinicians who facilitate them work closely with clients to determine ongoing progress and chart a course for recovery that works for them.
Our MAT programs also incorporate behavioral therapy, counseling and alternative therapies to provide addicted individuals with the preparatory skills and tools necessary to sustain their recovery after leaving the program.
The most reputable rehab centers understand that addiction is a chronic illness which will require long-term management. Because of this, it’s important that all recovering individuals have access to a multitude of aftercare resources.
Our programs put individuals in touch with fellow alumni, provide contacts for local resources and counselors and reach out to program graduates on an ongoing basis to ensure they are staying on the path to recovery.Article Sources
National Institute on Drug Abuse - https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
U.S. National Library of Medicine: Medline Plus - https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a610022.html