Can you overdose on oxycodone?
Yes. It is possible to overdose on oxycodone, especially when oxycodone addictive effects compel you to increase dosage or you begin mixing alcohol with oxycodone. Here we review what happens to the body when you overdose, as well as what medical interventions help treat an oxycodone OD. If you need more help, we invite your questions about using oxycodone at the end.
What happens when you overdose on oxycodone?
Prescription painkillers like oxycodone work by binding to receptors in the brain to decrease perception of pain. The same chemical reaction in the central nervous system that cause pain relief, however, can also cause sedation and slow down a person’s breathing. So if you take larger doses of oxycodone (to either get high or to prevent withdrawal), these larger doses can cause breathing to slow down so much that breathing stops, resulting in a fatal overdose.
Note here that oxycodone overdose is more likely to occur 1-2 hours after using oxycodone rather than just after chewing, injecting or snorting oxy. If you take too much oxycodone, the three telltale signs of an overdose are:
- Bluish lips and nail beds resulting from lack of oxygen
- Slowed or shallow breathing
- Unresponsiveness to stimulation (nodding out)
How many oxycodone is too much?
It’s hard to say. How many oxycodone tablets that are too much for your body depends upon your current tolerance of and exposure to opiates or opioids. People who have had no exposure to opioids, however, can follow these general guidelines.
- Opioid naive patients on immediate release oxycodone hydrochloride tablets are first prescribed only 5 to 15 mg every 4 to 6 hours as needed for pain. Higher or more frequenting dosing can cause overdose.
- Opioid naive people should not take more than 40 mg of a single dose of controlled release oxycodone or total daily doses more than 80 mg in a day.
Additionally, there are a few factors which increase your risk of overdose.
1. Tolerance – Regular use of oxycodone leads to greater tolerance so that you need more dosage to achieve the same effect (same high). Overdoses occur when people take oxycodone after a period of not using (abstinence) such as incarceration, detox or “drug free” drug treatment.
2. Mixing oxycodone with other drugs – Mixing oxycodone with other drugs, especially depressants such as alcohol or benzodiazepines can lead to an overdose. These combined drugs are “synergistic” or “additive”, so that the effect of taking mixed drugs is greater than the effect you would expect if taking the drugs separately.
3. Serious illness – If you have a serious illness including HIV/AIDS, liver disease, diabetes and/or heart disease, you are at greater risk for an oxycodone overdose.
Oxycodone overdose help
The main oxycodone overdose complication is slowed respiration. The antidote to an oxycodone overdose is Naloxone (Narcan). Naloxone reverses an opiate overdose by blocking opioid receptors in the brain. The medication will wake a person who is overdosing in 3-5 minutes and will continue working for about 30–90 minutes, which is usually enough to prevent death even if no further care is provided. Rescue workers are trained to perform the following steps in the case of an oxycodone OD:
1. Provide stimulation. Yell the person’s name, shake the person and rub the sternum. The sternal rub is a very good technique to bring an oxycodone user back to consciousness. Make a fist and then rub the sternum (breastbone) with your knuckles in center of the chest, and apply pressure while rubbing. If there is no response after 15-30 seconds of doing a sternal rub, it is likely that the person is overdosing and requires immediate attention.
2. Call 911 or emergency medical services.
3. Check breathing and respond. If the person is not breathing, administer a few rescue breaths.
4. Administer naloxone.
5. Perform rescue breathing, if necessary. Tip the head back with one hand under the neck. Use the other hand to hold the nose closed. Make a seal over the mouth with your mouth and give two quick breaths; then one every five seconds. Continue rescue breathing until the person breathes on his/her own.
Overdose on oxycodone questions
Do you still have questions about oxycodone overdose? Please leave them here. We are happy to help answer your questions or refer you to someone who can.