Oxycodone is an opiate and as such, the effects of continued use or abuse has been studied extensively. One of the greatest areas of study has centered around the impact of oxycodone on the brain. There are many effects of oxycodone, both short and long term.
Oxycodone is a prescription medication often dispensed to help manage pain. Like all opiates, it has a powerful effect on the brain, even from the first dose. Scientists have long studied these effects in a range of patients. The data they’ve collected has had been nothing short of amazing but at the same time, quite concerning.
With synthetic opioids like oxycodone, your reward system is greeted with a rush of dopamine, which serves as a powerful neurotransmitter. Dopamine signals the neurons of your body in such a manner that it creates a much higher level of excitement, pleasure or euphoria. The heart rate becomes more rapid, senses are more acute and the body is in a state of excitement. This is often referred to as a “high.”
As you might of guessed, the body and brain like this sensation and users will be compelled to seek it again and again. This is the basis of addiction.
Our brains naturally seek out these rushes, whether initiated by adrenaline or through ingestion of stimulants or narcotics. The body knows only that it craves and needs these ongoing feelings of pleasure.
Even in the absence of opiates, our brains seek reward or pleasure from activities like eating or sex. The chemical rewards triggered from any of these actions produce the dopamine that satisfies the brain. As time goes on, your brain and body crave it more and more.
The problem with this is that after time, the rush diminishes significantly and might even disappear altogether. Continued use or abuse of opiates makes the receptors in the brain less sensitive to them over time. For the brain and body, this means that higher doses are needed to get the same high. You can see how this leads to dependence.
Speaking medically, we know that the mesolimbic reward system in the brain and is responsible for dopamine and related feelings of pleasure. Because opiates and opioids provide direct rewards to this system, the brain naturally views the use of drugs positively insofar as it satisfies the brain’s reward system. This is a big part of the reason why addiction is considered a disease — because abuse is directly linked to physical changes in the brain.
While there are many individual factors that are relevant to how a person might develop an addiction to opiates or opioids, addiction is a real possibility if not carefully monitored. Scientists have looked at these factors to try to determine how fast it would take for an addiction to occur. What they found is that it depends on many factors, and without care and supervision, it is something that should not be ignored. Addiction can occur in just a few weeks, as demonstrated by studies.
These same studies showed that even after just a month of using morphine, users had undergone changes in their brains. MRIs of subjects showed that patients who took morphine had a reduction in their gray matter volume. This was true throughout the study.
These reductions were largely in the areas of the brain that are in charge of the regulation of pain, cravings/urges and emotions. The same studies showed increases in gray matter in the areas relating of learning and memory. This discovery lead scientists to conclude that opiates affect learning long-term behavior patterns, even after the pleasurable effects of using opiates have subsided.
One of the more dangerous side effects of how opiates affect the brain is how they slow the central nervous system. This leads leads to depressed respiration and is big reason why people on opiates are at a high risk of an overdose. When this happens, a person’s breathing slows down significantly, and in extreme cases, it could stop completely. Obviously, this is a life-threatening condition.
Opiates affect the brain in so many ways, the damage can take months or even years to reverse. Opiates might produce a quick high, but users are playing with fire. They seem especially malicious in how they effect users. They attach themselves to to just the right receptors in the brain to make them hard to resist. Users quickly become addicted and crave higher and higher doses. Long term use or abuse can have serious, long-lasting side effects.
Even after someone stops using opiates, their brain will continue to display evidence of the effects of the drugs. It takes a long time to recover with post-acute withdrawal symptoms that might include a myriad of symptoms. Some of those include apathy, mood swings, anxiety, problems concentrating, memory loss, sleeplessness among other things.
Recovery from opioid use or prescription medications like oxycodone requires professional supervision and medical monitoring. It’s for this reason that patients seeking recovery typically start with Rehab/detox to get them off the drugs, then follow up with intensive outpatient (IOP) or outpatient treatment to slowly adapt to a life without drugs.
If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, we can help recommend a program to fit your needs. Many rehab/detox programs are covered by private insurance or for those who can’t afford insurance, state/federal MediCare/MediCal.