According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2018 there were 4,415 deaths in Pennsylvania due to drug overdose. Sixty-five percent, or 2,866 deaths, were due specifically to overdoses of opioids.
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic frequently prescribed to control severe pain. Historically, this has made it easier to obtain for people who want to abuse it.
The effects of overdosing on oxycodone are similar to those of other opioid medications. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, these include slow heart rate, shallow breathing, clammy skin and muscle weakness. Changes in consciousness may occur, ranging from extreme drowsiness to coma.
However, there are additional risks involved in abusing oxycodone. Many medications containing the narcotic also have acetaminophen. If a person takes too much acetaminophen, especially in a short period of time, he or she may experience damage to the liver.
Doctors, pharmacies and lawmakers have made efforts to curb the number of prescriptions written for opioid pain medications such as oxycodone. In 2018, the rate of opioid prescriptions per 100 persons in the United States was 51.4. During the same time frame, Pennsylvania’s rate was slightly lower at 49.9 prescriptions for every 100 people.
Pennsylvania state law allows residents to carry and administer naloxone for emergency overdoses. This is a medication that can reverse the effects of overdose due to an opioid such as oxycodone, buying the patient time until emergency responders can arrive and take the patient to the hospital. Family members or friends of people who use narcotics can obtain a prescription for naloxone from their doctors, which most pharmacies are able to fill.