Oxycodone Abuse and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment
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Last Updated - 10/03/2022View our editorial policy
Oxycodone relieves pain and causes euphoria and a pleasurable feeling, making your body crave the drug and increasing the risk of oxycodone addiction.
For decades, oxycodone has been one of the main opioids at the center of the opioid epidemic. Oxycodone is an opioid medication prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone is often used after surgery and sometimes to treat chronic pain that other drugs cannot. Because it is an opioid medication, oxycodone can become addictive and is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, making it illegal to sell or use without a doctor’s prescription. Nonetheless, the medication is often abused and can increase a person’s risk of developing addiction and dependence.
In 2020 alone, more than four million Americans received an oxycodone prescription. That same year, an additional 2.7 million Americans received oxycodone combined with another agent like acetaminophen. Overall, oxycodone and acetaminophen/oxycodone are the third and fourth most common opioid drugs prescribed in the U.S.
What Is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is an opioid drug and a Schedule II controlled substance. It is a semi-synthetic opioid, which is partly made in a lab and derived from natural opioids.
The medication is manufactured as both brand-name and generic drugs, and its appearance can differ widely depending on the manufacturer. It is available in tablet and capsule form and as an oral liquid.
Current brand names for oxycodone and oxycodone-containing products include:
- Xtampza ER
Street names for oxycodone also exist, such as:
- Hillbilly Heroin
Understanding Oxycodone Addiction
Oxycodone is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it carries a high risk of addiction. Addiction can occur with oxycodone because the drug, like other opioids, triggers the brain’s reward system. It relieves pain by binding to the brain’s mu opioid receptors and causes euphoria and a pleasurable feeling, making your body crave the drug and increasing the risk of addiction.
Signs of Oxycodone Abuse
There are often signs of drug abuse when a person struggles with a drug like oxycodone. For a prescription drug like oxycodone, this includes:
- Taking more oxycodone than your doctor prescribed
- Taking oxycodone more often than your doctor prescribed
- Taking oxycodone that has not been prescribed for you
Additionally, people may start showing physical signs of oxycodone abuse, which are similar to those of other opioids and include euphoria and excessive sedation.
Signs of Oxycodone Dependence
When a person takes a psychoactive substance like oxycodone regularly, their body begins to rely on the drug to function normally. This phenomenon is called physical dependence. When a person becomes physically dependent on oxycodone, they will start to have withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly try to stop or cut back on how much oxycodone they take.
Physical dependence is different from addiction. Someone can become physically dependent on a drug they take exactly as prescribed. However, for people who abuse drugs like oxycodone, a physical dependence can also be a stepping stone to addiction. Quitting the drug gets more complicated as the body becomes more dependent on oxycodone, and addiction can follow.
Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction
Many signs and symptoms can develop when a person starts to sink into an oxycodone addiction. These can include:
- Taking more oxycodone than intended or longer than intended
- Unsuccessful attempts to cut back on oxycodone use
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from oxycodone
- Cravings for oxycodone
- Not fulfilling obligations at work, school or home because of oxycodone
- Interpersonal problems caused or worsened by oxycodone
- Giving up or reducing activities because of oxycodone
- Using oxycodone even when it is physically dangerous
- Continued oxycodone use even though you know doing so is hurting you
- Needing more of the drug to achieve the same effects as before
- Withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit oxycodone
When a person uses oxycodone over the long term, their body becomes used to the drug and adapts accordingly. The brain chemistry changes to accommodate oxycodone in the system. If a person suddenly stops the drug or drastically reduces the dose, the brain’s chemistry is thrown off, leading to oxycodone withdrawal symptoms.
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Withdrawal Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction
Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable. They typically start within 12 hours of the last use, reach their maximum within 48 hours and diminish over the next five days.
Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Sleep problems
- Increased tear production
- Runny nose
- Enlarged pupils
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
Oxycodone can cause a potentially fatal overdose both on its own and when mixed with other substances. Symptoms of an oxycodone overdose include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Muscle weakness
- Cold or clammy skin
- Pinpoint pupils
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Slow heartbeat
If you suspect someone has overdosed on oxycodone, give them naloxone (Narcan) as soon as possible, and then call 911. An oxycodone overdose is a medical emergency and can quickly turn deadly.
Treatment for Oxycodone Addiction
Oxycodone addiction is often treated with a continuum of care, and The Recovery Village at Baptist Health can help. First, medical detox can help cleanse the body of oxycodone while preventing withdrawal symptoms with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) like buprenorphine as medically appropriate. Following medical detox, rehab can help you maintain your sobriety, teaching you skills to avoid oxycodone over the long term. Even after rehab is complete, aftercare support can help you maintain your focus on your recovery, increasing your chances of remaining oxycodone-free for life.
If you or a loved one struggles with oxycodone, help is available. Contact us today to learn how we can help you lead an oxycodone-free life.
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ClinCalc. “Oxycodone.” Accessed September 19, 2022.
ClinCalc. “Acetaminophen; Oxycodone.” Accessed September 19, 2022.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drug Fact Sheet: Oxycodone.” April 2020. Accessed September 19, 2022.
PsychDB. “Opioid Use Disorder.” May 3, 2021. Accessed September 19, 2022.
American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder.” December 18, 2019. Accessed September 19, 2022.