• Oxycodone Use and Anxiety
• Oxycodone and Withdrawal
• Anxiety and Oxycodone Use
• Treating a Dual Diagnosis
The widespread use of oxycodone as a painkiller even as the epidemic of the opioid worsens, and more people die from an overdose of opioid medication every year. People with mood disorders and anxiety account for a more significant percentage of opioids prescribed use. The most likely reason for this is that opiates can alleviate mental and physical discomfort. Even though opioid drugs are not approved for the treatment of anxiety by the Food and Drug Administration, they often end up being used for that purpose by people with pressure-prescribed opioids for another reason.
Oxycodone is an opioid that is typically prescribed for the treatment of pain. Taking oxycodone according to a doctor’s instructions should only lead to minor side effects, but even this comes with risks. Recreational or non-prescription use of oxycodone can lead to severe physical and mental health issues like anxiety, ranging from moderate to severe anxiety.
Oxycodone Use and Anxiety
Abusing oxycodone can easily lead to addiction. There are many physical and psychological defects of oxycodone addiction, including the potential to overdose fatally. An oxycodone overdose can result in:
• Cold and clammy skin
• Low blood pressure
• Low heart rate
• Respiratory depression
• Respiratory arrest
Studies support that regular oxycodone use makes people more sensitive to stress and more prone to anxiety. Among psychological defects of oxycodone use, anxiety is one of the most frequently listed. In extreme cases, these side effects can trigger panic attacks even in people who haven’t had them before.
Oxycodone use or abuse can cause anxiety as a side effect. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health “found that mood and anxiety disorders are highly associated with non-medical prescription opioid use.”1 This isn’t a surprise, as anxiety puts individuals at risk for dependence and addiction.
Psychiatric Times shares, “The odds of alcohol dependence being diagnosed are 2 to 3 times greater among patients with an anxiety disorder; these correlations are even greater for drug dependence.”2 You may struggle with anxiety as a result of oxycodone use, or you may work with drug dependence because of anxiety. These two issues support one another and create an unhealthy, escalating cycle.
Points to remember about oxycodone and anxiety include:
• Oxycodone mimics natural opiates in the brain that help alleviate pain, reduce stress, and signal that a threat has passed
• Integrated treatment programs can help people recover from anxiety while also helping them address substance use disorders and control cravings
• Opiates like oxycodone can only provide short-term relief from stress, and ultimately, they make it worse as the cycle of tolerance develops
• As more significant amounts of oxycodone are required to alleviate anxiety, levels of the brain’s natural painkillers also drop, leaving people more sensitive to pain and stress, making them more uncomfortable or anxious than they originally were before they started using opiates
Risk Of Oxycodone Abuse Among People With Anxiety
Anxiety may not always occur as a result of oxycodone abuse. In some cases, people may struggle with anxiety before developing this opioid problem.
According to studies, people with an anxiety disorder can be at greater risk than others for abusing opioids like oxycodone. This risk also extends to people with depression and mood disorders.
One potential reason for this is self-medication. People who struggle with severe anxiety may turn to drugs or alcohol to ease, numb, or escape their symptoms.
Self-medicating symptoms of anxiety with oxycodone is a form of drug abuse. Taking oxycodone without a prescription or taking it for reasons other than prescribed can also be very dangerous.
Abusing drugs like oxycodone can decrease the effectiveness of treatment for anxiety and may worsen anxiety disorders. Certain anxiety medications can also be risky for people with co-occurring substance abuse because of their potential for abuse. Consideration for safety and effectiveness in treating both problems is necessary for recovery.
Oxycodone and Withdrawal
Oxycodone use can cause anxiety. It can also lead to anxiety when someone stops using it. The National Institute on Drug Abuse shares, “Opioid craving, depression, anxiety, and anhedonia are triggers for relapse.”3 Individuals experiencing withdrawal-related anxiety symptoms or panic attacks may return to oxycodone to find temporary relief. However, this isn’t a real solution, and in the long-term, it will create more anxiety problems than it masks.
These opioid withdrawal effects are listed below:
• Rhinorrhea (runny nose)
• Lacrimation (tearing)
• Abdominal cramping,
• Bone pains
• Muscle aches
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When Anxiety Occurs at the Same Time as Oxycodone Use
Oxycodone, like all opioids, results in severe addiction potential due to the physical dependence that results from the opioid receptor activation in the brain. This painkiller is often prescribed for severe pain and should be used with caution due to its addictive profile. Unfortunately, oxycodone, commonly referred to as oxy, is heavily abused and sold on the street and is one of the main contributors to the current trending opioid addiction.
Anxiety may exist before oxycodone use begins. It may develop independently of addiction. It may not simply be a symptom of use or withdrawal. Even if anxiety is its co-occurring issue, it is not separate from drug use. This Dual Diagnosis needs integrated treatment that addresses both problems at once. These two linked issues fuel one another, and leaving one untreated means both are likely to reappear in the future.
Treating a Dual Diagnosis
Early intervention for anxiety problems may reduce the risk of abusing addictive substances like oxycodone. This is also true for intervening early with oxycodone abuse. Long-term oxycodone abuse and anxiety struggles may be more challenging to treat.
However, effective treatments do exist and may be helpful, regardless of how long you have struggled with these co-occurring issues. One effective treatment for co-occurring anxiety and substance abuse is dual-diagnosis.
Integrated treatment begins with an in-depth assessment. Professionals then work with patients to create a customized plan. Many treatment methods that work for one benefit the other. For example, Cognitive Behavior Therapy teaches tools, tips, and strategies that help patients manage their complete mental health.
This is why Social Work in Public Health explains, “Cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBTs) are among the most efficacious psychosocial treatments that social workers can use to treat individuals with anxiety disorders and SUDs.”4
Treating co-occurring anxiety and oxycodone use issues is complex, but it is certainly doable. CBT is just one of many treatment approaches professionals can take to address co-occurring anxiety and oxycodone use disorder.
Integrated treatment comes with many benefits. As long as a person is in rehab, they can see multiple professionals in the exact location rather than visiting one doctor for oxycodone addiction help and another for anxiety treatment. Inpatient integrated treatment provides consistent care, accountability, and compassion.
Medical professionals can assess how well treatment is working on an individual basis and make necessary changes to the treatment plan. Inpatient facilities stress personal, individualized care and offer the range of resources needed for a solid foundation for long-term recovery.
Dual-diagnosis is also a type of treatment that can effectively be co-occurring substance abuse and mental disorders. This involves creating a personalized treatment plan capable of addressing all issues related to a person’s substance abuse and mental health problems.
Most often, this will include therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. This can be effective in treating both addiction and anxiety.
Treating severe anxiety will not be effective if a person is still engaging in opioid abuse. This may only worsen anxiety and increase other health risks. The most effective way to treat both anxiety and oxycodone abuse is with formal addiction treatment.
Oxycodone pharmacological treatment options
Buprenorphine: An opioid partial agonist, meaning it produces euphoria or respiratory depression; however, these effects are weaker than those of potent drugs such as heroin and methadone. Buprenorphine’s opioid effects increase with each dose until at moderate amounts they level off, even with further dose increases. This “ceiling effect” lowers the risk of misuse, dependency, and side effects. Also, because of buprenorphine’s long-acting agent, many patients may not have to take it every day.
The FDA has approved the following buprenorphine products:
• Bunavail (buprenorphine and naloxone) buccal film
• Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) film
• Zubsolv (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual tablets
• Buprenorphine-containing transmucosal products for opioid dependency
Methadone: Methadone is an opioid that works by changing how the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It lessens the painful symptoms of opiate withdrawal. It blocks the euphoric effects of opiate drugs such as heroin, morphine, and codeine, as well as semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. When taken as prescribed, it is safe and effective. It allows people to recover from their addiction and reclaim active and meaningful lives. For optimal results, patients should also participate in a comprehensive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program that includes counseling and social support.
Additional treatments for addiction and anxiety within inpatient rehab may include:
• Individual therapy
• Group therapy
• Family counseling
• Mindfulness skills
• Relaxation techniques
Recovering from co-occurring oxycodone abuse and anxiety is possible. To learn more about treatment options for oxycodone addiction, contact one of our specialists today.
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.