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Understanding Oxycodone Abuse & Addiction

Oxycodone is an opioid and prescription painkiller that can produce powerful sensations of euphoria when used. These feelings of euphoria and the opioid status make Oxycodone have a high potential for addiction and abuse. Over 2 million people in the United States have an addiction to prescription painkillers, including those containing oxycodone. In addition, as of 2015, over 20,000 Americans had overdosed on prescription opioids, including oxycodone. 1

What is Oxycodone Used For?

Oxycodone is prescribed to control moderate to severe pain for conditions such as arthritis and cancer.2 However, many people experience intense euphoria when taking oxycodone. The human brain contains opioid receptors that react strongly to the drug and set up a neurochemical response that affects the brain’s reward centers. As a result of this process, a person wants to keep taking an opioid over and over. 3 Typically, when a person abuses oxycodone, they will crush and snort the tablet, chew it, or mix it with water and inject the mixture, as using it in these ways makes it easier to get high. 2

Brands of Oxycodone

Many people have heard painkillers called by many similar names and wonder if Oxycontin and oxycodone are the same drug. Oxycodone is the generic name for a semi-synthetic opiate that is derived from processing certain chemicals found in opium. Oxycontin is the brand name for oxycodone and is designed as an extended-release formula of oxycodone, which means the effects of the drugs occur slowly over time. 4 Other forms of oxycodone include Percocet (acetaminophen is added to the oxycodone formula) and Percodan (aspirin is added to oxycodone). OxyFast is an immediate release form of oxycodone.4

How Do People Become Addicted to Oxycodone?

While oxycodone has many legitimate medical uses for pain control, especially for people with severe pain, it can quickly become addictive. Oxycodone, along with numerous other types of opioid painkillers, can lead to addiction if used for a longer period of time or used in ways other than how it was prescribed. 3

Oxycodone is part of the opioid class of drugs that were prescribed in large numbers during the 1990s. People who took these medications, and the doctors who prescribed them, did not fully understand how addictive they were.5

To stem the tide of opioid misuse and overdoses, Federal and State governments worked to implement more control over oxycodone and other opioid prescriptions. These prescription-monitoring programs helped to curb opioid misuse by reducing overprescribing and doctor-shopping, a process where people would obtain legal opioid prescriptions from multiple doctors. 6

Unfortunately, there was an unintended outcome of prescription-monitoring programs, as people who were then unable to obtain oxycodone and other opioids started to turn to heroin as a substitute.7 Although heroin is an illicit drug with no medical purpose, it is cheaper and easier to obtain than opioid painkillers, such as oxycodone.8

In fact, around 80% of all heroin users report first using prescription opioids, which is a reversal from heroin use in the 1960s and 1970s, when heroin was the first opioid drug that 80% of people used prior to using prescription opioids.7  

Oxycodone Effects

Oxycodone effects can vary from mild to serious and are both short-term and long-term in nature. Some of these effects can be pleasant, while others are hard to cope with.

Short-Term Effects of Oxycodone

The short-term effects of oxycodone include: 3

  • Drowsiness.
  • Relaxation.
  • Confusion.
  • Pain relief.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Euphoria.

The sensation of euphoria can make oxycodone and other opioids addictive for many. Even in people who rarely use, or use it for the first time, the risk of overdose is also a possible short-term effect of use.

Oxycodone & Alcohol

Unfortunately, the combination of oxycodone and alcohol is all too common and can be deadly. Both oxycodone and alcohol depress the central nervous system and thus can lead to slowed breathing and overdose. 9

Long Term Side Effects of Oxycodone

Chronic abuse of oxycodone and other opioids can lead to serious mental and physical issues. These long-term side effects of Oxycodone can include: 10

  • Chronic constipation.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Negative effects on the reproductive system for women.
  • Increased danger to the fetus during pregnancy.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Increased risk of falls and fractures, especially in women, and in older people.
  • Physical dependence on oxycodone.
  • Oxycodone addiction.
  • Overdose.

Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

How can you tell if someone is abusing Oxycodone?

It is not always easy to determine if someone is addicted to oxycodone or other opioids. Physical and behavioral symptoms can become apparent if you know what to look for. In the following sections, you will learn more about the physical and behavioral signs of oxycodone addiction.

Physical Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

The physical signs of oxycodone addiction can include:10,11

  • Intense cravings for oxycodone.
  • Experiencing physical symptoms of withdrawal when oxycodone is not taken. These include sweating, nausea, gooseflesh, and body aches.
  • Constipation.

Behavioral Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

In addition to the physical symptoms of oxycodone addiction, a person may display a few or all of the following behavioral signs of oxycodone addiction:10, 11

  • Using more of the drug than prescribed.
  • Depression.
  • Ignoring family responsibilities, such as caring for children, to use oxycodone.
  • Not fulfilling work duties, such as calling in sick or missing work, due to using.
  • Using oxycodone in unintended ways, such as snorting or injecting the drug.
  • Spending time and resources locating, using, and recovering from using oxycodone.
  • Using despite knowing oxycodone makes your medical or psychological issues worse.
  • Giving up things you enjoy doing (i.e., hobbies) to use oxycodone.

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person becomes physically dependent on oxycodone but stops using the drug, they typically will experience oxycodone withdrawal symptoms. Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can include: 12 (66. 67)

  • Sweating.
  • Fever.
  • Gooseflesh.
  • Excessively runny nose.
  • Compulsive yawning.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Severe aches and pain, in bones and/or teeth.

These oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can be severe and extremely uncomfortable. Trying to stop oxycodone use and undergo oxycodone withdrawal without medical intervention is not advisable. Participating in a medical detox program can help minimize your oxycodone withdrawal symptoms using medications and provide you with the necessary emotional support to get through this difficult time. Staff members, including nurses, doctors, and counselors, can provide you with the support you need to cope with oxycodone withdrawal.

Are You Struggling with Oxycodone Addiction?

As you read through the symptoms of oxycodone addiction, do you recognize 1 or more of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one? Are you looking for help, but are unsure of where to start? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you should consider oxycodone addiction treatment for yourself or your loved one.

Finding The Best Inpatient Drug Rehab

Most inpatient addiction treatment providers also provide outpatient treatment as part of their treatment plan. American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of addiction treatment and operates in locations across the United States. Our largest centers are located in:

How American Addiction Centers Can Help

American Addiction Centers is committed to being a leading provider in addiction treatment, offering a 90-day inpatient treatment program in addition to other services encompassing all levels of addiction treatment to promote sustained recovery. We are focused on treating the whole person, addressing mental illness, physical and social issues as well as addiction. We are also committed to providing you and your loved one with the most up-to-date and accurate information about addiction and treatment options. We operate a confidential addiction hotline available 24/7 to help people find their path to recovery.

We can be reached at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? .

Still Unsure About Seeking Treatment

Learning about addiction and treatment options may feel overwhelming. If you are still unsure about how treatment works, how to ask for help, or how to get treatment, consider the following guides:

Don’t let your insurance, financial situation, or fear get in the way of getting the help you need. The first step is making the phone call to get valuable information that could help you heal and put you on the path to recovery.

Sources

1. American Society for Addiction Medicine. Opioid addiction. 2016 facts and figures.

2. University of Maryland. (2013). Oxycodone.

3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). What are prescription opioids?

4. DEA. (2020). Oxycodone.

5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Opioid overdose crisis.

6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Prescription drug monitoring programs linked to reductions in opioid overdose deaths.

7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin abuse.

8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Prescription opioids and heroin.

9. FDA. FDA warns about serious risks and death when combining opioid pain or cough medicines with benzodiazepines; requires its strongest warning.

10. Darnall, B. D., Stacey, B. R., & Chou, R. (2012). Medical and psychological risks and consequences of long-term opioid therapy in women. Pain Medicine (Malden, Mass.), 13(9), 1181–1211.

11. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.

12. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment.