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Oxymorphone (Opana) Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

April 15, 2019

Oxymorphone (Opana) is a powerful opioid used in pain management and surgical procedures. This prescription opioid is high risk for addiction when abused.

What Is Oxymorphone (Opana)?

Oxymorphone is a powerful opioid drug, similar to morphine. Oxymorphone is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a schedule II drug due to its abuse potential. Other schedule II drugs include fentanyl, Vicodin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

Oxymorphone has been available since the 1960’s but became FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved in pill form in 2006, and sold under the brand name, Opana. This potent opioid analgesic is intended to treat moderate to severe pain, to relieve anxiety in pre-op situations, and to help maintain anesthesia.

Opana is available as a fast-acting pill, an extended release pill, or as an injectable liquid. It acts as a depressant on the central nervous system (CNS), reducing pain and anxiety, and increasing feelings of calm and euphoria.

Oxymorphone is a highly addictive opioid, and since Opana became available, availability of this drug has exploded. From 2007 to 2012, the number of prescriptions written for Opana more than quadrupled and over 1.22 million prescriptions were distributed. In 2013, the DEA approved production of nearly 7,000 kg of Opana for medical need.

As with any substance that can be abused, when availability increases, the rate of abuse and accidental exposure increases as well. In 2011, over 12,000 people visited emergency rooms due with oxymorphone related issues. Additionally, poison control centers received 1,041 oxymorphone exposures that same year, which was nearly 10 times the amount from the year prior.

According to an FDA report from 2017, Opana was reformulated to make pills harder to crush, liquify, snort or inject, in attempt to reduce potential for abuse. This was after a number of concerns regarding availability, abuse, and illegal distribution of oxymorphone.

When Opana is sold illegally it has been known by several street names, including blue heaven, new blues, Mrs. O, organsa, pink lady, pink O, stop signs, oranges, octagons, and O bomb. This highly addictive opioid has been seized by several law enforcement officers, nearly doubling every year.

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Oxymorphone (Opana) Abuse And Effects

The way that oxymorphone works to relieve pain is also what makes it so addictive. Opioids, like Opana, attach to the opioid receptors in the brain and the rest of the central nervous system (CNS). While this prevents pain receptors from communicating to the brain, it also increases feelings of euphoria and relaxation. This ‘high’ can sometimes lead to a person abusing drugs like oxymorphone, and taking it in a way other than prescribed.

Opana can have notable effects on the body, according to the National Library of Medicine:

  • loss of appetite
  • dry mouth
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • problems sleeping
  • confusion
  • lethargy
  • tolerance

In addition to these effects, a study revealed significant cognitive impairments with long-term opioid use (like oxymorphone). Long-term use was shown to impair memory, psychomotor function, attention, concentration, poor reasoning skills and decreased impulse control.

When a person develops tolerance to Opana, this means they will need more oxymorphone to feel the same effects as before (including pain-relieving effects). Taking more pills, or crushing and snorting Opana to feel the same effects is considered oxymorphone abuse, which can result in dependence and addiction.

Opana Addiction Symptoms

In addition to abusing oxymorphone, a person may be struggling with an Opana addiction if they show any of the following symptoms:

  • doctor shopping (making several appointments with multiple doctors for opioids)
  • forging prescriptions
  • taking different opioids if oxymorphone is not available
  • lying about symptoms to get opioids
  • buying Opana illegally
  • stealing or asking for others prescription opioids

A person struggling with oxymorphone addiction will be unable to stop taking Opana, even if:

  • using oxymorphone takes priority over responsibilities
  • avoiding social situations to use Opana happens regularly
  • lying about abusing oxymorphone becomes common
  • falling asleep during inappropriate times occurs regularly
  • the person wants to stop taking Opana

Additional risk factors associated with Opana addiction and dependence are overdose and withdrawal.

Oxymorphone Overdose

When a person takes too much oxymorphone, an overdose can occur. Because Opana is a CNS depressant, it slows down all major body and organ functions, including respiration and cardiovascular systems. This can result in a number of side effects, including:

  • bluish/purplish/grey skin, lips, or fingertips (depending on skin tone)
  • slowed or no breathing
  • unconscious
  • pinpoint pupils
  • blood pressure drop
  • cardiac arrest
  • stroke
  • coma
  • death

If a person is experiencing these symptoms and unable to respond, seek emergency medical services. Emergency service personnel are usually equipped with Narcan (naloxone), which can usually reverse the effects of an opioid overdose when used in time.

Additional risk factors that can lead to an oxymorphone overdose include:

  • altering extended-release tablets by crushing or adding liquid
  • going back to old dosage after a period without abusing Opana
  • abusing other CNS depressants (benzos, alcohol, barbiturates) at the same time

Opana Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person who is addicted or dependent on Opana decides to stop taking oxymorphone, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. While the withdrawal symptoms of opioids, like Opana, are not usually fatal, they can be extremely uncomfortable.

A person dealing with Opana withdrawal may experience several of the following symptoms:

  • sweating
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • muscle and/or joint pain
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • seizures

Withdrawal from oxymorphone can easy disrupt day to day life, and be increasingly miserable. Seeking help from substance abuse treatment facilities that offer medically supervised detox is one way to ease the discomfort of withdrawal on the journey to sobriety.

Opana Statistics

  • In 2015, an HIV outbreak in Indiana linked to illegal IV abuse of Opana
  • Nearly 7,000 kilograms of oxymorphone was approved by the DEA in 2013 for production to meet the medical needs of the U.S.
  • Of the 185 oxymorphone related deaths in Florida from January to June of 2012, 55 were determined to be directly caused by oxymorphone

Opana Addiction Treatment Options

Substance abuse locations that offer opioid treatment programs (OPTs) are able to help individuals who are addicted to oxymorphone. These rehab facilities follow guidelines that are federally regulated to ensure that people with opioid addiction are given evidence and outcome based interventions that have been proven effective in treating opioid use disorders, starting with detoxification.

During the detoxification at an OPT, clients are monitored and medications are distributed as needed. Medicines, like benzos, buprenorphine, or naltrexone can be used to relieve some discomfort associated with opioid withdrawal. Some of these medications (buprenorphine, naltrexone) may be used after detox as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to prevent opioid relapse.

Once detox is complete, clients are encouraged to continue onto substance abuse treatment to build coping strategies, develop healthy habits and alternatives to Opana use, build appropriate support systems, and create aftercare plans to maintain sobriety after treatment.

Substance abuse treatment at these locations includes behavioral therapy (CBT, motivational enhancement, and contingency management), educational and vocational training, medical care, and skills training to increase the likelihood of continued abstinence from opioids.

If you or your loved one is struggling with oxymorphone dependence or addiction, please contact us today. Let us use our resources to help you find a substance abuse treatment location to help achieve sobriety.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Emerging Trends and Alerts

Neuropsychology Review - Neuropsychology Consequences of Opiate Use

Medline Plus - Oxymorphone

Drug Enforcement Administration - Oxymorphone

Food and Drug Administration - Regulatory History of Opana ER

AdaptPharma - Narcan

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