Oxycodone Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid that is often prescribed to treat individuals who are suffering from moderate to severe pain. OxyContin and Percocet are two of the more common brand-name medications that include oxycodone.

Understanding Oxycodone Addiction

Learn about oxycodone and substance abuse

As an opioid, oxycodone alleviates pain while also eliciting a sense of mild euphoria. When used as directed under the supervision of a qualified prescribing physician, oxycodone can have a significantly beneficial impact. However, its pleasurable effects can lead individuals to abuse this drug, either for extended periods of self-medication beyond their doctor’s orders, or for purely recreational purposes.

Regardless why a person begins to abuse oxycodone, this behavior can lead to several negative outcomes, including the development of an addiction. Known clinically as opioid use disorder, an addiction to oxycodone will place a person in ongoing danger for both immediate and long-term damage.

Oxycodone interacts with the areas of the central nervous system that control heart rate and respiration, which means that an overdose can be fatal. Also, when a person becomes addicted to oxycodone, attempting to stop or significantly reduce the abuse of this opioid can trigger the onset of several painful physical and psychological symptoms. The intense distress of withdrawal can quickly push a person back into oxycodone abuse and can complicate future efforts to escape this dangerous compulsion.

The high risk of harm from continued oxycodone abuse, the danger of irreversible damage from overdose, and the pain of withdrawal are among the many reasons why a person who has become addicted to oxycodone should seek professional treatment at a comprehensive center, hospital, or clinic. An effective treatment program can provide a safe and comfortable environment in which the individual can complete detox from oxycodone, and can then help him or her to make the lifestyle changes that will support long-term abstinence from oxycodone abuse.


Oxycodone addiction statistics

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the United States is by far the global leader in the use of oxycodone, accounting for 80% of the world’s total prescriptions for oxycodone. Data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) indicates that more than 650,000 prescriptions for medications that contain opioids such as oxycodone are filled every day in the United States. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has reported that, in 2015 alone, the abuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 20,000 deaths in the United States. ASAM also reports that in the same year, 2 million Americans over the age of 11 struggled with a substance use disorder that was related to the abuse of prescription pain medication.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for oxycodone addiction

An individual’s risk for abusing and becoming addicted to oxycodone or other opioids can be influenced by several factors, including the following:

Genetic: According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), opioid use disorder has a strong genetic component. Individuals whose parents or siblings have struggled with opioid abuse and addiction have an increased risk of experiencing similar struggles. People who demonstrate certain heritable personality traits, including novelty seeking and impulsivity, may also have a higher than normal likelihood of abusing and becoming depending upon oxycodone or another opioid.

Environmental: Many people who abuse and become addicted to oxycodone are first exposed to the drug when seeking medical treatment. Thus, accidents and other injuries that cause significant pain and require medical care are among the environmental factors that can influence the development of oxycodone addiction.

Risk Factors:

  • Being female (ASAM reports that women are more likely to be prescribed painkillers, be given the medications in larger doses, and remain on these drugs longer than men)
  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Personal history of substance abuse
  • Medical conditions that are treated with opioids
  • Novelty-seeking personality
  • Impulsivity

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction

A person’s abuse of or addiction to oxycodone may reveal itself via a variety of signs and symptoms, including but not limited to the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Trying to borrow or steal oxycodone that has been prescribed to someone else
  • Visiting multiple doctors in an attempt to fraudulently acquire a prescription for oxycodone
  • Sacrificing personal and/or professional obligations due to a focus on acquiring and using oxycodone
  • Using oxycodone even when it is obviously hazardous to do so, such as when driving or when drinking alcohol
  • Trying to end one’s use of oxycodone, but being incapable of stopping
  • Attempting to borrow or steal money in order to purchase oxycodone
  • Lying or otherwise being deceptive about activities and whereabouts

Physical symptoms:

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Pupil constriction
  • Impaired coordination
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Appetite changes
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Memory problems
  • Impaired judgment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Outbursts of anger and violence
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Social withdrawal


Effects of oxycodone addiction

When a person develops an addiction to oxycodone, but does not receive effective treatment for this problem, he or she may be at risk for myriad negative outcomes, including but by no means limited to the following:

  • Discord within the family
  • Problems within friendships and other interpersonal relationships
  • Kidney and liver failure
  • Heart problems
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Onset or exacerbation of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Job loss and chronic unemployment
  • Academic failure
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Financial instability
  • Social isolation
  • Homelessness
  • Pervasive sense of hopelessness and despair
  • Suicidal ideation

Co-Occurring Disorders

Oxycodone addiction and co-occurring disorders

A person who struggles with an addiction to oxycodone or another type of opioid use disorder may also have a heightened risk of developing the following co-occurring disorders:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of oxycodone withdrawal and overdose

Effects of oxycodone withdrawal: When a person becomes addicted to oxycodone, attempting to stop or significantly reduce his or her oxycodone use can precipitate the onset of several distressing physical and psychological symptoms, including the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain in muscles and bone
  • Severe cramping
  • High body temperature

Effects of oxycodone overdose: When a person takes oxycodone in an amount that overwhelms his or her body’s ability to safely process it, he or she may be in extreme danger. Anyone who exhibits the following signs after ingesting oxycodone should be brought to the immediate attention of a qualified healthcare professional:

  • Slurred speech patterns
  • Extreme confusion and disorientation
  • Problems breathing
  • Cold and/or clammy skin
  • Bluish coloration near lips and fingertips
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizure

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