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Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

Oxycodone is a prescription medication used for pain relief. A branded version, OxyContin, was aggressively marketed by Purdue Pharma from 1996 with sales growing from $48m in 1996 to $1.1b in 2000. This has led to high availability and correlates with increased abuse and addiction.

In addition, there is a high risk of oxycodone abuse and dependence due to its potency and its euphoric effects.

We will talk about oxycodone addiction, signs and symptoms of it, risk factors, the process of quitting, and how you can seek support.

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid painkiller used to treat moderate to severe pain such as cancer and post-operation pain. It was first synthesized in Germany in 1916 from thebaine, a compound found in opium poppies, and was introduced to the US in 1939.

At first, oxycodone was used for battlefield surgeries as it is a strong analgesic that also causes tranquilizing effects and anterograde amnesia.

Oxycodone works by hyperpolarizing neurons. This means that more excitation is needed to activate them and therefore a depressant effect is produced.

The effects of oxycodone start after one hour and last for up to twelve hours. These include psychoactive effects, euphoric feelings, reduced anxiety, and increased confidence.

Oxycodone Abuse and Addiction

Oxycodone is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that while it has medical use, it also has a high risk for abuse and severe psychological or physical dependence.

The United States Department of Justice reported that more than 13m Americans abuse oxycodone annually.

Prescription drug abuse is defined as the taking of a prescription drug in a way that was not prescribed. This includes taking:

  • more frequent doses than prescribed
  • larger doses than prescribed
  • someone else’s prescription
  • in a different way than prescribed e.g., crushing and snorting rather than swallowing a pill

Addiction is defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a chronic brain disease that is very difficult to control and is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use. This differs from drug abuse in that with abuse without addiction, your behavior will not be so strongly affected and you will have more control over how and when you take the drug. Abusing oxycodone can lead to addiction as oxycodone is a very potent drug.

Causes and Risk Factors for Addiction


The response of the brain to drugs varies from person to person. Some people may be able to take oxycodone occasionally for pleasure, while others will develop a substance use disorder quickly.

It is thought that up to half of your risk of developing an addiction is based on genetics.

Environmental Factors

  • Family history of addiction
  • Childhood neglect or trauma
  • Previous substance abuse problem
  • Exposure to drugs – people taking them in your environment

Mental Health

It is common to have co-occurring mental illness with addiction. Common co-occurring disorders include depression and bipolar disorder. This is because untreated mental illnesses are often self-medicated with drugs or alcohol.

Signs of Oxycodone Abuse

Even when used as prescribed, oxycodone can have side effects. With long-term use and higher doses, the effects become stronger. These effects can have both psychological and physical symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

Side effects of normal oxycodone use:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach problems
  • Itchiness
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness and vertigo

Signs and symptoms of oxycodone abuse:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Low blood pressure
  • Poor coordination
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Swelling of limbs
  • Increased pressure of spinal fluid
  • Coma

Psychological and Cognitive Symptoms

Side effects of normal oxycodone use:

  • Confusion

Signs and symptoms of oxycodone abuse:

  • Hallucinations
  • Abnormal thoughts
  • Memory problems
  • Impaired judgment
  • Outbursts of violence or anger
  • Anxiety and paranoia

Behavioral Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

As addiction is described as a compulsion to seek drugs despite negative effects. The behavioral symptoms of addiction may be a better indication of whether you or a loved one has an oxycodone addiction.

You might have an oxycodone addiction if you:

  • Are secretive
  • Perform poorly at work or school
  • Increase your dose to get the same effect as tolerance builds
  • Try to quit and fail to
  • Obsess about getting your next dose
  • Steal oxycodone
  • Lose interest in hobbies
  • Fail to meet personal responsibilities
  • Feel like oxycodone is taking over your life
  • Lose control over how much you take and how frequently
  • Withdraw from friends and family members
  • Neglect hygiene and self-care
  • Start risk-taking behavior e.g., drug driving, mixing oxycodone with other drugs, unprotected sex
  • Go to multiple doctors for prescriptions i.e., doctor shopping

Oxycodone Overdose

There is always the risk of overdose. However, the amount you need to take in order to overdose depends on different factors such as weight, tolerance, gender, and metabolism.

There is also a higher risk of overdose if you mix oxycodone with other substances. This is especially true of mixing with other depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines. Since these depress the nervous system, together they can cause slowing of breathing and heart rate to the point where they stop.

Overdose effects include

  • Stomach spasms
  • Weak pulse
  • Coma
  • Difficulty breathing, shallow breathing, or no breathing
  • Blueish fingernails and lips

Oxycodone Withdrawal

Quitting oxycodone can be very difficult as the first thing you must do is detox which causes you to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Quitting abruptly is not recommended as withdrawal symptoms are not managed and the chance of overdose is very high. Instead, it is better to taper your drug use, reducing the dose you take until you are clean. While you will still experience symptoms, they may be less severe.

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Sweating
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Headaches
  • Runny nose
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Shakes and seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cravings

Timeline of Withdrawal

The acute symptoms of withdrawal from oxycodone generally last for five to seven days. However, if you have been taking it for a long time, or you take it heavily, the withdrawal symptoms may last up to ten days.

Symptoms usually start within six to thirty hours after your last dose and peak at seventy-two hours. However, psychological symptoms and cravings can last for longer and it is therefore important to have support after detoxing to reduce your chances of relapse.

Addiction Treatment

When quitting drugs, it is recommended to seek professional treatment. Getting medical support makes the withdrawal process easier and also reduces your chances of relapsing both during detox and after.

Treatment Process

At a treatment center, you will receive twenty-four-hour support during the withdrawal process. This means that both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms can be managed which is important to prevent the risks of self-harm and relapse.

Following detox, you will continue to get support to help deal with cravings and your initial reasons for taking the drug. This is done through individual and group therapy.

Get in Touch

At Empowered Recovery center, we customize drug treatment to suit your needs. We know that it is difficult for those with substance abuse disorders to seek treatment. If you are ready to seek treatment or would like more information in order to make that decision, please feel free to visit our website and contact us.

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    Marietta, GA 30066

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