In the mid-1990s, oxycodone was marketed as a safe and effective pain medication that could help people forget about debilitating pain. While many saw it as a beacon of hope, the overprescription of opioids left hundreds of thousands of Americans struggling with oxycodone addiction.
Today, it’s no longer a secret that oxycodone is extremely addictive.
Still, it remains among the most commonly abused opioids in the United States, and many people suffering from pain fall victim to oxycodone dependence every year. As devastating as this can be, rest assured that recovery is possible.
Keep reading to learn more about oxycodone dependence and addiction, including its causes, treatment, prevention, risks, and more.
What Is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is an opioid pain reliever prescribed to soothe moderate-to-severe pain that cannot be managed with non-opioid painkillers. It is derived by synthesizing thebaine—an alkaloid naturally occurring in the opium poppy plant—and is thus classified as a semi-synthetic opioid.
Oxycodone is sold both as a generic and a brand-name drug, marketed under the names OxyContin®, Oxydose®, and Roxicodone®, among others. It comes in the form of an oral solution as well as extended- and immediate-release tablets and capsules. This drug is also an active ingredient in Percocet® and several other opioid-based combination medications.
Some common street names for oxycodone include:
- Hillbilly Heroin
Oxycodone relieves pain by interacting with the opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS), which prevents the brain from receiving pain signals.
Aside from reducing the perception of pain, oxycodone also releases a surge of dopamine into the system, inducing feelings of euphoria and deep relaxation. This enhances the drug’s potential for abuse and addiction, which is why it’s crucial to take it strictly as prescribed.
Side Effects of Using Oxycodone
Most commonly, oxycodone causes the following side effects:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach ache
- Dry mouth
For your safety, inform your doctor about any side effects you experience after taking oxycodone. If you display signs of an allergic reaction—trouble breathing, throat or face swelling, hives, etc.—seek medical help immediately.
Moreover, using oxycodone for an extended period of time increases the risk of:
- Oxycodone dependence and addiction
- Sleep disturbances
- Hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain)
- Fertility issues
- Liver, kidney, and heart damage
- Opioid overdose
Is Oxycodone Addictive?
Oxycodone is addictive, much like all drugs in the opioid family. Due to its high potential for tolerance, abuse, and addiction, it is treated as a Schedule II controlled substance. Therefore, even though it is approved for certain medical uses, it can only be legally obtained by prescription.
To minimize the risk of developing an OxyContin® addiction, always take it according to your doctor’s instructions. While anyone who takes this drug can become addicted, those who abuse it are at an increased risk of addiction.
This means that you should never:
- Take more oxycodone than prescribed
- Take your medication more frequently than prescribed
- Mix oxycodone with alcohol or other substances
- Use oxycodone if it hasn’t been prescribed to you
- Take this drug for non-medical purposes or in other ways than prescribed (e.g., intravenously, snorting crushed tablets, etc.)
Oxycodone Abuse Statistics
Here are some recent statistics that illustrate the prevalence of oxycodone use, abuse, and addiction in the United States:
- More than 13 million people in the United States abuse oxycodone each year, and around 500,000 emergency room visits are attributed to this drug.
- In 2021, more than 11.5 million oxycodone prescriptions were issued to over 4.1 million Americans. This made oxycodone the 59th most commonly prescribed medication that year.
- With as many as 2.5 million Americans above the age of 12 misusing oxycodone products in 2022, oxycodone was the second most frequently abused prescription painkiller in the United States that year.
- While opioids are involved in nearly 72% of all drug overdose deaths, around 32% of opioid overdose deaths are attributed to prescription opioids like oxycodone.
- The rate of oxycodone-involved drug overdose deaths decreased by 21% between 2016 and 2021.
- The number of oxycodone trafficking offenders decreased by approximately 33% between 2018 and 2022.
Oxycodone Addiction Signs and Symptoms
Oxycodone dependence and addiction can wreak havoc on all areas of your life, from your interpersonal relationships to your career, physical and mental health, and more. Luckily, it can be cured, and the first step to recovery is recognizing that your oxycodone use has become problematic.
On that note, let’s go over the physical and behavioral signs and symptoms that may indicate that you or someone you love is struggling with an oxycodone addiction.
Oxycodone Addiction Physical Symptoms
Experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, muscle aches, etc., after discontinuing medication use is an unmistakable sign of oxycodone dependence.
Besides that, some other physical symptoms indicating oxycodone abuse and addiction include:
- Weight loss
- Impaired coordination
- Difficulty breathing
- Enlarged pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Slurred speech
Moreover, you may also recognize an addiction to oxycodone from various psychological and cognitive signs and symptoms. Some examples of these include depression, anxiety, mood swings, an inability to focus, memory problems, and the like.
Oxycodone Addiction Behavioral Symptoms
Here are some behavioral symptoms that may indicate an addiction to oxycodone:
- Having trouble controlling oxycodone use
- Becoming withdrawn from family and friends
- Taking increasingly larger doses of oxycodone
- Showing less interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Experiencing decreased work or academic performance
- Struggling to keep up with personal and professional responsibilities
- Continuing to take the medication when it’s no longer medically needed
- Spending a lot of time and effort on obtaining, using, and recovering from oxycodone
- Forging prescriptions, lying, stealing, doctor shopping, etc. in an attempt to obtain oxycodone
Oxycodone Addiction vs. Oxycodone Dependence
Oxycodone addiction and oxycodone dependence are closely related, but they aren’t the same. While oxycodone addiction is characterized by physical and psychological symptoms, oxycodone dependence refers to the physical dependence on the medication.
People dependent on oxycodone will have a higher tolerance to the drug, which means they’ll need to take larger amounts of it to feel its effects.
If they quit taking oxycodone—and especially if they do so suddenly—they’ll experience nausea, muscle aches, cravings, and other withdrawal symptoms, as their bodies can no longer function normally without the drug.
Getting professional treatment for oxycodone dependence is key to ensuring it doesn’t develop into an addiction.
Oxycodone Addiction Causes and Risk Factors
The underlying cause of oxycodone addiction is the chemical imbalance that occurs in the brain due to opioid use, which is why anyone who takes it is exposed to the risk of addiction.
Opioids like oxycodone decrease the production of endorphins while also stimulating the production of opioid receptors. As a result, people who take this medication eventually build up tolerance to it, which means they have to take larger doses of the drug to achieve the same effects as before.
Tolerance is a sign of oxycodone dependence, which can develop into an addiction if left untreated. Once you become dependent on this painkiller, your body no longer functions normally without it, as the absence of the drug triggers withdrawal symptoms.
Since withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and even painful, it’s not unusual for people to continue taking oxycodone just to avoid them. Unfortunately, many such individuals end up becoming addicted, and some even resort to using illicit drugs like heroin if they can no longer obtain oxycodone legally.
Although anyone taking oxycodone can fall prey to opioid addiction, some people may be more susceptible to it than others.
The main risk factors for developing oxycodone dependence include:
- Having a personal or family history of opioid or other substance abuse
- Taking oxycodone for a prolonged period
- Being exposed to oxycodone or other opioids early in life
- Having easy access to oxycodone
Now that you know why oxycodone is addictive, let’s discuss one of the main signs of oxycodone dependence—its withdrawal symptoms—in greater detail.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
If you take oxycodone long enough to become dependent on it and then stop taking it or cut back on it, you’ll experience physical and psychological oxycodone withdrawal symptoms. The severity of these symptoms largely depends on the extent of your oxycodone use and addiction.
The onset and duration of withdrawal symptoms vary based on the type of oxycodone you take, your metabolism, liver health, and other individual factors. Withdrawal symptoms from extended-release oxycodone typically start later and last longer than those of the immediate-release formulation.
Some of the most common oxycodone withdrawal symptoms are:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Oxycodone cravings
- Excessive yawning
- Body aches
- Reduced appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Stomach ache
If you’re planning to quit taking oxycodone, it’s in your best interest to do so under medical supervision. Otherwise, you may be at an increased risk of relapse, oxycodone overdose, and death.
Risks of Oxycodone Overdose
Oxycodone overdose occurs when people take an excessive amount of the drug. Since it can be fatal if not treated on time, you should never take more oxycodone than prescribed by a doctor. It is also crucial to carefully track your drug intake, as an extra dose of oxycodone taken by accident can be strong enough to cause an overdose.
Moreover, those who relapse after quitting oxycodone are at an increased risk of a painkiller overdose due to their lowered tolerance to opioids. Likewise, you may be exposed to the risk of an overdose if you buy oxycodone illegally, as it may be cut with more potent drugs such as fentanyl.
Due to the risk of coma, brain injury, and death, oxycodone overdose is considered a life-threatening medical emergency and should be treated as such.
Contact emergency services immediately if you or someone else displays any of the following signs of an oxycodone overdose after taking this drug:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Discolored lips and fingernails
- Difficulty breathing
- Cold and clammy skin
- Weak pulse
- Slowed heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Extreme drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness
How to Prevent Oxycodone Addiction
The only way to prevent oxycodone addiction is to avoid taking this drug. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to explore other, non-opioid treatment options if you’re suffering from pain before initiating oxycodone use.
If you have no other option but to take this medication, here’s what you can do to minimize the risk of developing an addiction to oxycodone:
- Follow your doctor’s instructions and recommendations while taking your medication.
- Store oxycodone away from children and pets.
- Do not increase your opioid dosage without your doctor’s permission.
- Stay in touch with your doctor and tell them about any side effects you experience.
- Inform your doctor about any medications, supplements, etc. you’re taking to ensure these won’t interact with oxycodone.
Since the risk of becoming addicted to opioids increases with prolonged use, you should ideally only use oxycodone for short-term pain management.
ANR Treatment for Oxycodone Dependence
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation is a revolutionary oxycodone dependence treatment that has helped over 24,000 people worldwide break free from opioid dependence safely, quickly, and effectively.
Developed by Dr. Andre Waismann, ANR is the only opioid dependence treatment that addresses the root cause of the issue by re-regulating the endorphin-receptor system. In doing so, it brings the brain to its pre-dependence state, eliminating withdrawal symptoms and the risk of relapse.
With an average hospital stay of just 36 hours, the ANR treatment can help you overcome opioid dependence within days—even if you’ve been struggling to break the chains of dependence for years.
Most importantly, ANR can be safely performed on virtually anyone, including those with complex medical conditions. Not only is the treatment tailored to each patient individually, but it is also carried out by board-certified medical professionals in an ICU setting of accredited hospitals.
At ANR Clinic, we believe everyone deserves access to safe and modern medical care, regardless of location. For this reason, you can find our centers at:
- Arcadia, Florida (DeSoto Memorial Hospital)
- Thun, Switzerland (ANR Europe)
- Tbilisi, Georgia (New Vision University Hospital)
- Goiânia, Brazil (Innovate Intelligent Place)
To learn more about the ANR treatment, contact us today for a free, 100% confidential consultation.
No matter how long you’ve been using oxycodone, know that you can make a lasting recovery from oxycodone dependence by seeking professional help.
Before you leave, let’s go over the key points we covered today:
- Oxycodone is a highly addictive opioid prescribed for patients suffering from moderate-to-severe pain.
- Some signs of oxycodone addiction include loss of appetite, slurred speech, decreased performance at work or in school, and failure to control oxycodone use.
- Since oxycodone addiction stems from the changes occurring in the brain due to opioid use, anyone taking this medication can get addicted to it.
Oxycodone Addiction FAQ
Oxycodone can help with sleep, especially if constant pain is keeping you awake. However, it can also have the opposite effect and severely impact sleeping habits—especially in the withdrawal phase. Although people who use oxycodone may experience feelings of relaxation and drowsiness, many struggle with insomnia after quitting this drug.
The difference between oxycodone and OxyContin® is that OxyContin® is a brand name for the extended-release version of oxycodone. In other words, extended-release oxycodone and OxyContin® are the same medication, though generic oxycodone is also available as an immediate-release drug.
How long it takes for oxycodone to relieve pain depends largely on your physical makeup and the method used to take it. However, oxycodone is generally a fast-acting pain medication and takes approximately 15–30 minutes to take effect.
Oxycodone is completely legal if it is prescribed by a doctor. However, it is illegal to distribute or acquire it through illegitimate means, such as the black market or sharing with friends or family. This is because it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for abuse and addiction.
You should never mix oxycodone with other drugs or substances without your doctor’s approval. Mixing alcohol and oxycodone can be particularly dangerous and cause severe liver damage. If you are unsure about how to take oxycodone, ask your doctor for more information.
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is an excellent treatment option for opioid use disorder (OUD), as it brings the nervous system back to health and balance. By decreasing receptor production in the brain, while allowing the body to resume proper levels of endorphin production, ANR tackles opioid dependence at its core, negating the risk of relapse.