What is Oxycodone Addiction and How Dangerous is It?
In This Article
Oxycodone is a prescription opioid medication derived from the opium poppy plant. As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, it blocks the brain's response to pain stimuli.
Oxycodone belongs to the same drug family as fentanyl, morphine, and heroin. Physicians prescribe it to treat moderate to severe pain in adults.
Brands such as OxyContin, Roxicodone, Roxybond, and Oxaydo are specific formulations of the generic medication Oxycodone. It’s also combined with acetaminophen under the name Percocet.
Is Oxycodone Addictive?
Yes, Oxycodone is a potent opioid that carries a significant risk of drug abuse and addiction.
The outward symptoms of addiction may be subtle and difficult to pick up on. For many users, addiction may even set in without them knowing.
Those addicted to this substance experience a profound change in their behavior. They also find themselves constantly preoccupied with obtaining and using the drug.
Because pain is a legitimate concern for people with a legal prescription, it may be challenging to identify who develops substance use disorder.
What Does Oxycodone Dependence Look Like?
Dependence describes a person’s physical and psychological loss of control. It occurs when they abuse or misuse a drug like Oxycodone.
The abuse or misuse of Oxycodone occurs when a person:
- Takes more of the drug than their doctor prescribed
- Consumes the medicine without a prescription
- Uses it in any way other than intended
Using Oxycodone without medical help or supervision can lead to dependence due to the potential for altered brain chemistry and habit formation. It can also result in addiction and other unintended consequences.
Take Oxycodone as prescribed, and never share your prescription with anyone.
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What are the Signs of Oxycodone Addiction?
Look out for these symptoms of addiction:
- Neglect of personal relationships and isolation
- A decline in fulfilling responsibilities at work and home
- Visible fatigue and drifting off
- Acting seemingly distant or "nodding out"
- Mood swings
- Memory lapses
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Visiting different physicians to obtain Oxycodone prescriptions, also known as doctor shopping
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How Do Users Abuse Oxycodone?
Though prescribed orally, abusers of the drug use other methods to maximize the high. Their ways of doing so include:
- Using crushed tablets and snorting the powdered form
- Rectal use to achieve a longer-lasting high
What are the Risks of Addiction to Oxycodone?
Several risks come with drug abuse of Oxycodone since it’s one of the most commonly abused prescription medications, including:
- Drug interactions
Such risks can arise due to intentional misuse of the drug. They may also occur accidentally.
It’s also worth noting that most addiction cases begin innocently. Pain can be subjective; only those experiencing it truly understand its intensity and nature.
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What are Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms?
Withdrawal symptoms can occur in those dependent on Oxycodone and then stop taking it abruptly. Oxycodone is a powerful medication, and this dependency can lead to severe and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
The most common Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms include:
- An intense craving for the drug
- Profuse sweating and clamminess
- Runny nose
- Chills and goosebumps
- Muscle spasms
- Stomach cramps
- Agitation and irritability
- Homicidal or suicidal thoughts
Can You Overdose on Oxycodone?
Yes, Oxycodone overdose can have serious consequences, including death. As a potent CNS depressant, a high dose of Oxycodone can become toxic and significantly disrupt vital bodily functions. This phenomenon is particularly true regarding respiration.
How Do You Treat Oxycodone Addiction?
Oxycodone addiction is a serious condition that requires medical treatment. Options for treatment include medications, behavioral therapy, and support groups.
The right treatment plan depends on personal circumstances. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment option for you.
Medications in opioid addiction treatment aim to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The most common ones physicians prescribe are buprenorphine and methadone.
Both drugs attach to the same brain receptors as Oxycodone. This helps to reduce the craving and provides a feeling of satisfaction that calms the person’s need for opioids.
Behavioral therapies teach users better ways to cope with stress and triggers without using drugs. They focus on building strong support networks, improving communication skills, and developing healthier habits and hobbies.
Support groups provide an open environment for users to share their experiences. They also promote finding strength in numbers.
Moreover, support groups give valuable tips and advice from others who understand the struggle of addiction. Their points of view can also provide attendees with strong emotional support.
Examples of support groups include Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Smart Recovery.
What are the Signs of Oxycodone Overdose?
The signs of an opioid overdose with Oxycodone can include:
- Vomiting and stomach cramps
- Slurred speech and loss of basic motor functions
- Slow pulse and low blood pressure
- Pin-point-shaped pupils
- Cyanosis (blue lips and fingertips)
- Cold to the touch
- Clammy skin
The most critical sign is when a person's breathing becomes dangerously slow. An incident like this can lead to a lack of oxygen to vital organs, such as the brain. Dangerously slow breathing can result in permanent damage, coma, or even death.
Seek immediate medical attention if you observe these symptoms to ensure a person survives an Oxycodone overdose.
How Does Oxycodone Work?
As an opioid pain reliever, Oxycodone works by binding to specific opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors block pain signals sent to the brain by modulating pain perception and response, causing a decrease in pain sensations.
Oxycodone also stimulates brain areas that release neurotransmitters like dopamine, contributing to feelings of pleasure and contentment. Consequently, it helps reduce emotional distress associated with moderate to severe pain.
What is Oxycodone Prescribed For?
Doctors prescribe Oxycodone for the following:
- Chronic pain
- Paroxysmal pain (severe pain disorder that affects various parts of the body)
- Post-surgery pain
- Pain from injury
- Pain management for some cancer patients, particularly those in advanced stages
- Allodynia, where people have a pain response to something that wouldn't usually cause pain
- Hyperalgesia or high sensitivity to pain
What are Oxycodone Forms?
Oxycodone comes in five oral forms:
- Immediate-release tablets
- Immediate-release capsules
- Extended-release tablets
- Extended-release capsules
- Liquid solutions
Oxycodone is also available in injectable form. Doctors administer it when people need rapid pain relief and the oral route isn't feasible.
Oxycodone suppository is also a good alternative for those who can’t take oral medications.
How Long Does it Take Oxycodone to Work?
The onset of Oxycodone's effects varies based on the administered form. If you're taking the standard one, you can expect relief within 30 to 60 minutes. However, this relief will wear off after 4 to 6 hours.
For longer-lasting relief, slow-release Oxycodone might be the answer. While it may take 1 to 2 days to kick in fully, the pain relief will last much longer.
How Long Does Oxycodone Stay in Your System?
Opioids exit the body rapidly due to their short half-life. Oxycodone, for instance, has a half-life of approximately four hours. It takes 19 hours for your body to remove Oxycodone from its system completely.
Urine tests typically detect Oxycodone for 2 to 3 days and sometimes up to 4 days.
What are the Side Effects of Oxycodone?
As with all opioid pain relievers, there are side effects associated with Oxycodone use. However, the severity of side effects varies from person to person.
The common side effects include:
Severe Side Effects of Oxycodone Use
There are serious side effects of oxycodone that you need to watch out for. Seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you know experiences these medical emergencies:
- Chest pain
- Cyanosis (a bluish tinge to the skin)
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Extreme drowsiness
- Hoarseness of voice
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of coordination
- Muscle twitching or severe muscle stiffness
- Physical dependence
- Respiratory problems, such as slow breathing and shallow breathing
- Swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue, throat, hands, lower legs, feet, or ankles
- Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
- Generalized weakness
What Drugs Can Interact with Oxycodone?
Some drugs and substances can affect Oxycodone’s effectiveness or cause harm. Informing your doctor about all the medications you’re currently taking is crucial.
Here are some drugs that may interact with Oxycodone:
- Anesthetics, such as nalbuphine, butorphanol, and pentazocine
- Antidepressants, such as duloxetine, doxepin, fluvoxamine, and venlafaxine
- Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, and lorazepam
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as isocarboxazid, phenelzine, and selegiline
- Muscle relaxants, such as methocarbamol, cyclobenzaprine, and baclofen
If you need to take any of these medications with Oxycodone, speak with your doctor about the potential interactions. They may need to adjust the dosages and timing of each medication to ensure that they work together safely.
Common Questions on Oxycodone and Addiction
Can You Take Painkillers With Alcohol?
Avoid consuming alcohol while taking a prescription painkiller. Otherwise, you'll maximize the risk of experiencing intensified and severe side effects like extreme drowsiness.
How Long After Drinking Can I Take Painkillers?
You should wait a minimum of 24 hours post-alcohol consumption before taking painkillers. This precaution is necessary as alcohol can remain in your system for approximately 25 hours.
Is It Safe to Take Oxycodone Long-Term?
Oxycodone is safe for short-term relief of moderate to severe pain. However, its long-term use poses an increased risk of dependence and addiction. The side effects of long-term use can also be dangerous. Talk to your doctor before taking it for extended periods.
How Often Can You Take Oxycodone?
You can take the tablet, concentrated solution, capsule, and solution tablet every 4 to 6 hours, with or without food.
You can use them on a fixed schedule or for pain relief. If you're using the extended-release tablets, take them every 12 hours, with or without food.
Discuss with your medical provider when best to take your prescription painkillers for safe ingestion and to potentially avoid any severe or common side effects.
Is It Safe to Take Oxycodone While Pregnant?
No, it's not safe to take Oxycodone while pregnant. Notify your healthcare provider of your pregnancy status or intention to conceive. Consistent use of Oxycodone throughout pregnancy can potentially lead to serious withdrawal symptoms in your infant after delivery.
Oxycodone is a powerful opioid painkiller. Unfortunately, it can result in severe addiction and other serious health risks if misused.
It’s essential to speak with your healthcare provider before taking the drug. They’ll assess your condition and ensure you take it correctly.
If you or a loved one is addicted to Oxycodone, seek help immediately. Many treatment options are available to help people battle opioid addiction and focus on sobriety.
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- “Opioid Medications.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2021.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Oxycodone (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names.” Mayo Clinic, 2023.
- “Straight Talk - Oxycodone” Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
- Moradi et al. "Use of Oxycodone in Pain Management," Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, 2012.
- “Common questions about oxycodone.” U.K. National Health Service, 2022.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Oxycodone.” MedlinePlus, 2023.