Can I get addicted to a prescribed dose of oxymorphone (Opana®)?

Find out more about oxymorphone, its prescribed use, side effects, and the risk of addiction. Discover ways to minimize misuse risks.

Ophelia team
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Fact checked by
Arthur Robin Williams, MD

Like other opioids, oxymorphone use carries some risk of addiction, even as a prescribed medication. Healthcare providers and patients using prescription oxymorphone for pain management must be aware of these risks to better mitigate them. 

What is oxymorphone?

Oxymorphone is a semi-synthetic opioid prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. It is available as immediate-release and extended-release tablets and injectables. Depending on the substance’s form, the dose, recommended schedule for taking oxymorphone, and the presence of other narcotics in the patient’s system may differ. 

For adults who are not taking other narcotics, the recommended initial dose of extended-release oxymorphone tablets is 5 milligrams every twelve hours. By contrast, the recommended dose of immediate-release oxymorphone tablets for adult patients not using other narcotics is 10 to 20 milligrams every 4 to 6 hours per day. Healthcare providers may adjust these doses according to the needs of each individual patient.   

Opana and Opana® ER were brand names for oxymorphone, but Opana has since been discontinued and is no longer available. 

What are the possible side effects of oxymorphone?

This prescription medication may cause some side effects. Some possible side effects of taking oxymorphone include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness 

Some side effects will go away or improve as you use oxymorphone and your body acclimates to the drug. If you experience severe or worsening side effects while using oxymorphone, you should get in contact with your healthcare provider to make adjustments to your oxymorphone dosage to manage these side effects. Do not mix oxymorphone with alcohol, as this can increase the risk of severe side effects such as respiratory depression, a potentially fatal condition when the patient’s breathing slows down or stops entirely. 

Oxymorphone dependency and addiction

Perhaps the largest potential side effect that worries many patients the most is addiction. Patients whose doctors recommend oxymorphone often want to know the exact risks of oxymorphone addiction if they pursue that option for pain management.  

It is important to distinguish between oxymorphone dependency and addiction. Oxymorphone dependency occurs over prolonged use as the body develops a tolerance to the drug. To achieve the same level of pain management as before, the patient’s healthcare providers may increase their dose. Over time, the patient will develop a physical reliance on oxymorphone and may be unable to function normally without the substance. This type of reliance is oxymorphone dependence. 

Someone experiencing oxymorphone dependency or addiction will generally experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the substance. These symptoms will likely appear within 12 hours to three days after the last dose of oxymorphone. A patient who has developed oxymorphone dependency does not necessarily have an oxymorphone addiction, however. 

Addiction to oxymorphone includes a psychological component. At this point, the patient will likely feel strong oxymorphone cravings and may undergo some unfavorable personality changes. 

Some factors that put a patient at an increased risk of oxymorphone addiction include:

  • Previous or current substance misuse
  • Younger (18 to 25 years old) or older (65 years old and above)
  • Living in a high-stress environment
  • Experiencing poverty or homelessness
  • Current unemployment
  • Family history of substance misuse
  • Untreated mental illness

The most pressing concern is that once a patient is addicted to oxymorphone, there is an even higher risk of overdose, or even death. Pay attention to signs of an oxymorphone overdose, such as slowing pulse, vomiting, pinpoint pupils, and irregular breathing. 

Reducing the risk of oxymorphone misuse

As with any other prescription medicine, patients should take oxymorphone exactly as their prescribing doctor directs. Do not change your oxymorphone dosage or take the drug more often than your doctor recommends. If you miss a dose by accident, skip it and adhere to your regular prescription schedule going forward. Don’t double up on your dose the next time you take your oxymorphone. If you have questions or concerns about your prescription while you are using oxymorphone, reach back out to your healthcare providers to address them. An open, honest dialogue between the patient and their healthcare provider is key to reducing the risks of oxymorphone misuse. 

It is the responsibility of healthcare providers prescribing oxymorphone to reduce the risk of opioid misuse as much as possible. They should only prescribe the drug when no other pain management methods are available and effective for the patient. Opioids like oxymorphone are not the only options for pain relief, and patients who can manage their pain effectively with other painkillers are often better off without opioids. 

If they do prescribe oxymorphone to patients, healthcare providers must stay closely connected with their patients through the process. Regular checkups can ensure the providers see and address worrying signs of opioid misuse before they spiral into addiction. Continued involvement and care are essential when prescribing oxymorphone. 

Addiction care done differently

There’s no substitute for qualified, dedicated healthcare professionals when you’re proceeding along your treatment journey. At Ophelia, we understand the risks associated with opioid use and are committed to providing quality online opioid addiction treatment to those who need it. 

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