The Dangers of Hillbilly Heroin

Prescription medication users should be aware of the danger of “hillbilly heroin.”

This is a slang term for the opioid painkiller oxycodone.

The same term may sometimes also be used to describe other opioid medications.

How did the term hillbilly heroin come into use?

In 1999, misuse of prescription opioids began to spread across the U.S.

To this day, large amounts of that misuse take place in the nation’s rural areas.

Some reporters started labeling the opioids misused in rural areas as hillbilly heroin.

The idea was to provide a contrast with the opioid misuse taking place in more urban areas.

Despite this labeling, the dangers of misusing prescription opioids are not limited by geography.

Anyone who misuses oxycodone or a similar medication can run into major problems.

Those problems include the possibility of experiencing an overdose.

They also include the risk of developing a serious condition called opioid use disorder, or OUD.

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The Dangers of Hillbilly Heroin – What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is partially made from substances found in the opium poppy. It also contains manmade ingredients. For this reason, it is known as a semi-synthetic opioid.

Inside your body, the medication has an effect similar to another opioid, morphine. It eases pain symptoms by dulling signals sent to your brain from injured nerves. At the same time, it triggers an intense form of pleasure called euphoria.

The painkilling qualities of oxycodone make it valuable as a medical treatment. Doctors prescribe it to relieve moderate or severe pain symptoms.

The most well-known oxycodone product is likely OxyContin. This is an extended-release tablet that slowly feeds its contents into your bloodstream.

OxyContin has no other active ingredient besides oxycontin.

Other products of this type include:

  • Oxaydo
  • Xtampza ER

There are also a number of products that combine oxycodone with acetaminophen or aspirin, such as:

  • Percodan
  • Percocet
  • Oxycet
  • Roxicet

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The Dangers of Hillbilly Heroin – Prescription Opioid Misuse

Prescription drug misuse is common in America. It occurs whenever you take a prescription medication in ways not desired by your doctor.

You can do this by:

  • Taking larger doses than prescribed
  • Increasing the number of doses you take per day
  • Using a medication that was not prescribed to you
  • Taking a medication to get high instead of for legitimate use
  • “Doctor shopping” to get access to multiple prescriptions at the same time

You can also misuse a medication by changing the way it is used. OxyContin is a perfect example of how this kind of misuse can occur. It normally takes about 12 hours for a single tablet of OxyContin to leave your system.

However, some people crush up their tablets and snort or inject the resulting powder. This action defeats OxyContin’s extended-release safeguards. Instead of entering your system gradually, oxycodone floods your bloodstream. In turn, this rapid exposure to the drug triggers intense feelings of euphoria. Unfortunately, it also increases your chances of getting addicted.  In addition, it increases your chances of dying from an overdose.

A few years ago, the makers of OxyContin changed its formula. The change made it harder to crush the medication and misuse it. This has resulted in a lower number of OxyContin-related deaths. Still, the broader problem of prescription opioid misuse remains.

The Dangers of Hillbilly Heroin - Emerald Isle Health and Recovery - A young woman sits on the couch next to her addiction counselor to discuss her abuse of hillbilly heroin and how to seek the proper treatment to rid herself of this addiction.

The Dangers of Hillbilly Heroin – Opioid Overdose

Overdoses occur when you have too much of a substance in your system at once. This excess alters how your body works, although not all substances have the same effects. The main danger with an opioid overdose is a major change in your breathing.

Opioids slow your lungs down. If you take too many of them, this effect makes it hard for you to get enough oxygen. During an overdose, your lungs may slow down beyond a sustainable point. If that occurs, you can stop breathing. Without prompt medical help, you can also die.

Every year, public health experts track the number of people who die from opioid overdoses. In 2019, that number was just short of 50,000 fatalities. This is the total for all opioid substances. It includes both medications and street drugs. Today, the biggest sources of fatal overdoses are powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl. But drugs like oxycodone are still significant contributors.

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The Dangers of Hillbilly Heroin – Abuse and Addiction

All opioids are addictive. If you take an oxycodone as prescribed, your doctor can help you avoid getting addicted. However, this protection is not available if you misuse the medication. Any misuse of an opioid greatly increases your risks for problems.

You can also run into major problems even if you never get addicted. This happens when your opioid misuse becomes serious enough to be classified as substance abuse. Addiction and abuse occur at the same time in many people. For this reason, the definition for opioid use disorder covers both issues.

The Dangers of Hillbilly Heroin - Emerald Isle Health and Recovery - Individuals in recovery for an addiction to hillbilly heroin are attending a group therapy session as part of treatment to discuss their own experiences and offer support to one another.

Treatment for OUD

The presence of OUD has a major, negative impact on everyday life. To safely recover from the condition, you must seek professional help. A supervised opioid detox program will help you stop taking oxycodone.

It will also:

  • Help reduce the severity of any opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • Monitor your well-being and help stabilize you
  • Prepare you to join an opioid rehab program

During rehab, you will receive medication that helps you avoid a relapse. You will also gain the skills you need to stay oxycodone-free.

Medications used to treat people with OUD include:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone

The skills that help you stay opioid-free are learned in something called behavioral therapy.

Types of this therapy used in OUD rehab include:

  • Community Reinforcement
  • Contingency Management
  • Family Behavior Therapy
  • 12-Step Facilitation Therapy

There are several possible settings for rehab. People with milder OUD symptoms may get help as outpatients. However, if you are severely affected, you will need inpatient help. Both forms of rehab will customize their care to meet your needs.

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Learn More About the Dangers of Hillbilly Heroin

Hillbilly heroin is a slang term for oxycodone.

The name comes from the medication’s role in the rural opioid crisis.

Oxycodone has a legitimate medical use.

However, when misused, it creates serious risks for problems.

Those problems include overdose, abuse, and addiction.

The drug OxyContin is often a target of oxycodone misuse.

Numerous other medications may also serve as targets.

Almost 50,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2019.

This figure is a continuation of a long-term trend.

Oxycodone is not the main source of fatal opioid overdoses.

Still, anyone who misuses the medication could potentially die as a result.

Oxycodone abuse and addiction are forms of opioid use disorder.

There is no real way to safely recover from this illness on your own.

That is why experts recommend professional treatment for everyone affected.

After detoxing from oxycodone, you can enter an OUD rehab program.

In your program, you will receive both medication and therapy.

Together, these treatments help you avoid relapse and stay sober long-term.

To learn more about the dangers of hillbilly heroin, contact Emerald Isle today.

Our team of experts specializes in the treatment of OUD.

Whether you have problems with oxycodone or another opioid, we have customized plans to fit your needs.

Emerald Isle Health and Recovery features both outpatient and inpatient services.

We also feature aftercare options designed to support your ongoing recovery.