Updated on April 1, 2024
6 min read

What is Oxycodone Addiction and How Dangerous is It?

Chronic pain, severe pain after accidents or injuries, or even pain from palliative care (like cancer) can be extremely difficult to deal with. Fortunately, there are medications for these ailments—oxycodone is one of them.

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, making it an effective pain relief option.

However, it can be addictive due to its euphoric effects, making some physicians prescribe it only for severe pain. If you take it responsibly, you can properly manage your pain without having to worry about developing an unhealthy dependence.

Is Oxycodone Addictive?

Yes, oxycodone is a potent opioid that carries a significant risk of drug abuse and addiction. This is because oxycodone increases the levels of dopamine in the brain.

This flood of dopamine can feel euphoric, pushing people to replicate that feeling by misusing and abusing the drug. It often leads to an unhealthy dependence and addiction to the drug.

What is the Difference Between Dependence and Addiction?

It’s important to differentiate between dependence and addiction. Dependence can occur without you necessarily becoming addicted to a substance—you may think you need a drug or substance to function, but you don’t necessarily act on that thought.

An addiction occurs when you’re compulsively seeking the substance out, even despite harmful consequences. You often make choices that don’t seem rational or well thought out because you’re solely operating on trying to get your fix.

Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction

The outward symptoms of addiction may be subtle and difficult to pick up on. For many people, addiction may even set in without them knowing.

Those addicted to oxycodone experience a profound change in their behavior. They also find themselves constantly preoccupied with obtaining and using the drug.

Here are some signs of oxycodone addiction:

  • Isolation or withdrawal from social settings, even from friends and loved ones you normally see
  • Prioritizing drug use over everything
  • Doctor shopping or trying to get multiple prescriptions for the drug
  • Trying to convince your doctor to up your dosage
  • Stealing or thinking of stealing other people’s medications or prescriptions
  • Crushing, chewing, or injecting the drug
  • Engaging in risky behavior (driving under the influence, using dirty needles, etc.)
  • Defensiveness or a combative attitude regarding drug use
  • Depression
  • Failing to fulfill responsibilities at work and home
  • Visible fatigue and drifting off
  • Acting seemingly distant or "nodding off"
  • Mood swings
  • Apathy
  • Memory lapses
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss

If you’re taking oxycodone, be honest with your doctor and take it exactly as prescribed. If you’re concerned about addiction, contact your provider immediately.


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What are Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms?


If your body has gotten used to oxycodone and you stop taking it abruptly, you can experience withdrawal symptoms. 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
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Homicidal or suicidal thoughts

If you or a loved one are experiencing severe withdrawal, contact your healthcare provider immediately. They can adjust how slowly you’re weaning off the drug to lessen the intensity of your discomfort.

Intense withdrawal symptoms can lead to relapse or overdose, so you want to make sure you discontinue the drug safely.

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What are the Signs of Oxycodone Overdose?

Oxycodone misuse can lead to an overdose. 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.

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
  • Seizure
  • Very slow breathing

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.

Treatment for 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.


Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) aims to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The most common ones physicians prescribe are buprenorphine and methadone, which also activate opioid receptors in the brain but much less intensely so you can slowly and safely get off the drug.

These medications reduce the cravings addicts typically have because the euphoric effects are less intense.

Behavioral Therapy

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

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.

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How to Support a Loved One with Addiction

Supporting a loved one struggling with addiction can be a challenging and emotional journey. Here are some ways to provide support while also taking care of yourself:

  • Educate yourself: Understand addiction through resources like NIAAA, NIDA, or SAMHSA to better understand their experience.
  • Communicate effectively: Address the issue with concern, not blame. Express your feelings and the impact of their behavior on everyone.
  • Encourage treatment: Research options and be supportive when they're ready. Remember, you can't force them, but you can be there.
  • Set boundaries: Protect yourself and others by refusing to tolerate drug use in your home, not lending money for substances, and not covering up.
  • Practice self-care: Take care of your own physical and emotional health. Consider therapy and support groups like Nar-Anon.

Strategies to Prevent Oxycodone Addiction

Oxycodone addiction is a serious problem, but there's hope. By working together, we can prevent it from impacting individuals and families. Here's how:

  • Public awareness campaigns: Inform schools, healthcare professionals, and the public about the dangers of oxycodone, including addiction and misuse.
  • School programs: Integrate age-appropriate lessons on prescription drug abuse prevention into K-12 curriculums to empower young people with knowledge and awareness.
  • Track prescriptions: Encourage doctors to use systems that track prescriptions (PDMPs) to identify individuals at risk or seeking multiple prescriptions.
  • Reduce risky prescribing: Support the adoption of best practices in pain management and prescribing to reduce unnecessary opioid use.
  • Follow guidelines: Encourage healthcare providers to follow the CDC's guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain, which emphasize non-opioid options and caution with opioids. Ensure you also follow the duration prescribed by your doctor and the CDC.
  • Discourage mixing substances together: Avoid consuming different types of drugs together, especially with alcohol. It can be dangerous to combine potent drugs.

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Updated on April 1, 2024

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