Oxycodone Addiction & Treatment
Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Regular oxycodone use, even with a prescription, can lead to physical dependence. Oxycodone abuse can cause an addiction.
Oxycodone is a prescription medication doctors use for moderate-to-severe pain that can’t be addressed with other medications.
Doctors are told they should only provide this drug to people who need pain relief around the clock for an extended time. People with cancer and other chronic conditions could benefit from therapy with oxycodone.
Unfortunately, this drug does more than relieve pain. It can also boost feel-good chemicals within the brain and cause a spike in euphoria. Oxycodone and its name-brand counterparts OxyContin and Xtampza ER are popular targets for abuse.
Oxycodone Abuse Statistics Everyone Should Know
Recreational oxycodone abuse may seem harmless. A friend passes you a pill on a bad day, and it might seem like an ideal solution. But as thousands of Americans have discovered, prescription painkillers are dangerous, and abuse can lead to death.
Oxycodone Abuse Is Common
Of the people who used OxyContin in 2015, 15.2 percent abused it.
From 50 to 90 percent of patients newly enrolled in methadone programs in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia say that OxyContin is their primary drug of abuse.
Oxycodone Abuse Is Deadly
In 2000, 19 deaths in one Kentucky county were directly attributed to OxyContin.
Oxycodone Abuse Often Leads to Other Forms of Drug Abuse
People with addictions may buy their oxycodone from street dealers. Sometimes, the pills they buy are contaminated. Between 2000 and 2017, the total number of people who overdosed on fentanyl (a very powerful drug often substituted for oxycodone in street drugs) increased 22-fold.
Oxycodone also stops working effectively as people become tolerant to it. Up to 6 percent of people who abuse prescription painkillers move on to heroin in time.
Signs of Oxycodone Addiction
Long-term use of oxycodone can change your brain and body. Maintaining that use can change your habits and views. An addiction will manifest with both physical and behavioral symptoms.
Physical Oxycodone Addiction Symptoms
Common symptoms of oxy abuse include the following:
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
Behavioral Oxycodone Addiction Symptoms
Common changes seen in people with a substance abuse issue include the following:
- Continual need for money
- New friends
- Unkempt appearance
- Lack of interest in things once enjoyed
Oxycodone Addiction Progression
|Recreational user||Physically dependent user||Person with an addiction|
|How much oxy do I take?||More than prescribed||More every day||As much as I can get|
|Where do I use oxy?||With friends or at parties||Anywhere, including in dangerous places||Anywhere, including in dangerous places and in front of others|
|Why do I use oxy?||For fun or to make a bad day better||To avoid withdrawal symptoms||To avoid withdrawal symptoms, which seem to happen anyway|
|How does oxy make me feel?||Euphoric or relaxed||Normal, unless I take more and can get high||Normal|
|How important is oxy to me?||Not very; I use other medications too||Moderately, but I am worried about my use||Extremely, and I don’t know how to stop|
Side Effects of Oxycodone Abuse
People take oxycodone for the mental changes it delivers. But the drug works on systems throughout the body, and the changes can be dangerous.
Common health problems associated with oxycodone use include the following:
- Constipation: The drug slows digestion, which can result in life-threatening constipation or bowel obstruction.
- Nausea: Use of oxycodone on an empty stomach can leave you feeling sick. Feelings of withdrawal between doses can worsen the issue.
- Confusion: A high dose can leave you wondering what is really happening, and you may not remember what you did or said the day before.
Long-term use can cause dependence. The doses you once took aren’t enough to stave off feelings of withdrawal. You might transition to a stronger drug like heroin, which increases your risk of contaminated doses, overdose, and more.
How long you’ll need to develop a physical dependence on oxycodone varies. Some people develop problems in weeks, and some need more time. Similarly, how long you’ll feel sick when you try to quit can vary from a few days to a few weeks.
A typical oxycodone withdrawal follows this timeline:
|Digestion||Normal||Normal||Cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting|
|Mental state||Normal or high||Anxious or agitated||Severe drug cravings|
|Eye health||Normal||Watery eyes||Dilated pupils|
|Ability to sleep||Increased||Insomnia||Insomnia|
Withdrawal is considered a life-threatening condition. Some people grow so dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea that their organs can’t function properly. Others relapse to drugs and overdose.
Oxycodone Addiction Treatment
It’s difficult to stop an oxycodone habit without help. Withdrawal symptoms can leave you feeling so uncomfortable and weak that returning to drugs seems reasonable. Treatment can help.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs combine these two factors:
- Medications: Buprenorphine, methadone, and other medications can block cravings, ease withdrawal symptoms, and help you stay focused.
- Therapy: Talking with a counselor can help you understand how your addiction began and what you should do next to get control of your life back.
When used properly, MAT can help sustain your recovery over the long term. And you could reduce your risk of overdosing too. MAT could be a good choice if you’ve tried to quit on your own and couldn’t make the changes stick.
Oxycodone. (February 2021). National Library of Medicine.
Oxycodone. (March 2020). Drug Enforcement Administration.
Opioid Overdose Crisis. (March 2021). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
OxyContin Diversion and Abuse. (January 2001). National Drug Intelligence Center.
Adolescent OxyContin Abuse. (February 2004). Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Opioid Use Disorder. (November 2018). American Psychiatric Association.
Oxycodone. (October 2019). National Health Service.
Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal. (March 2020). National Library of Medicine.
Opioid Withdrawal. (October 2011). National Library of Medicine.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). (March 2020). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.