Signs of Addiction to Oxycodone, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Withdrawal, Statistics & Treatment
What is Oxycodone? Signs of Addiction to Oxycodone
Oxycodone is a prescription medication that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is a narcotic analgesic, which means that it works by blocking pain signals from the brain. Oxycodone can be habit-forming, and it is important to use it only as directed by your doctor. Misuse of oxycodone can lead to addiction and other serious health problems. If you or someone you know is addicted to oxycodone, seek help right away. There are many treatment options available, and with support, you can overcome addiction and live a healthy life.
About 52 million Americans older than 12 have used prescription medications nonmedically at some point in their lives. Many become addicted to prescription meds, and that process happens slowly. Some people don’t notice the moment at which they shift from recreational abuse to intense addiction, but when addiction takes hold, it can be serious.
Due to the potential for abuse and addiction with Oxycodone, the drug’s manufacturer, Endo Pharmaceuticals, states in the prescribing information for Percocet that it is normally reserved for those who are tolerant to other opioids or those who haven’t obtained pain relief from other sources.
An individual can overdose on Oxycodone if the drug is taken more often than prescribed, if tablets are crushed or chewed, or if it is combined with other sedatives, such as alcohol or sleeping pills. Overdose is considered a medical emergency. Without prompt treatment, serious health effects and even death can occur.
Long-term oxycodone drug addiction impacts negatively an individual’s long-term health, as well as their psychological and emotional wellbeing. Thankfully, comprehensive addiction treatment can help individuals safely withdraw from this prescription drug and stop the abuse of all substances.
Oxycodone Addiction Symptoms
The misuse of oxycodone, a generic opioid prescription pain reliever, can quickly lead to addiction. There is a host of physical, psychological, and behavioral signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction, such as:
- Diarrhea (during withdrawal)
- Poor grooming or lack of hygiene
- Becoming secretive about one’s whereabouts
- Being in possession of multiple prescription bottles from different doctors and pharmacies
- Drugged driving
- Dry mouth
- Abnormal thoughts
- Dilated pupils (during withdrawal)
One of the most basic aspects of pharmacology is that a generic drug, such as oxycodone, can be a key ingredient in numerous branded drugs, such as OxyContin.
Typically, a generic drug and a branded drug do not have names that are so closely related; hence, there may be confusion between oxycodone and OxyContin. Other branded drugs that include oxycodone are Vicodin, Percodan, and Percocet. This article refers specifically to oxycodone.
Oxycodone is a narcotic pain reliever (an analgesic) that is used to treat moderate to severe pain in people with a host of conditions, episodic and ongoing (for example, post-operation or to help cancer patients). Oxycodone is chemically designed to replicate the structure of morphine (an opiate) and is classified as an opioid (because it is synthetic). Oxycodone, like all narcotics (e.g., heroin, morphine, fentanyl, and all prescription opioid pain relievers) has an acutely high addiction profile. These drugs have psychoactive effects if more than a medically necessary amount is used. No one is immune from developing an addiction to oxycodone.
Physical and Psychological Signs of Addiction to Oxycodone
The term addiction is deeply entrenched in the public domain; however, this term is no longer considered to be clinically accurate. Rather, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, uses the term substance use disorder, and even more specifically opioid use disorder (which is where oxycodone abuse would fall).
For a person to receive a diagnosis of an opioid use disorder, at least a possible 11 symptoms must be present within the same 12-month period of time. The severity of a use disorder is spread across a continuum, from mild to moderate to severe. The more symptoms that are present, the more severe the grade. In a sense, then, what the lay public refers to as addiction is probably in the range of six or more symptoms.
Side effects are essentially symptoms of use. Side effects do not necessarily reflect the addiction experience. When a person has an opioid use disorder, the higher amount of opioids consumed means that the side effects can be more extreme. For example, if a side effect for a prescribed user is nausea, a person who takes too much oxycodone may vomit. Still, it is helpful to understand the side effects reported for OxyContin (which again, includes oxycodone) as they indicate what a person who abuses this drug might experience (but again, possibly in a more severe way).
Signs of Addiction to Oxycodone include but are not limited to:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
Some individuals who abuse oxycodone may risk seizures or respiratory depression. In clinical trials, 1-5 percent of participants experienced psychiatric problems. Although it’s only a small percentage, and the study did not focus on abuse, it is helpful to know the true range of possibilities. Other effects of abuse include:
- Abnormal thoughts
- Abnormal dreams
Individuals who abuse oxycodone face an acute risk of overdose, which can prove fatal. The following is a partial list of possible overdose symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue
- Shallow breathing
- Small pupils
It may seem obvious, but it bears discussing that addiction is always a possible side effect of oxycodone abuse. When a person uses a habit-forming drug, the body responds by building a tolerance. As a result, a person must use an increasing amount of the drug, such as oxycodone, to achieve the familiar, desired high. As steady use continues, a dependence develops.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
When a person stops using oxycodone or significantly reduces the familiar dosage, withdrawal symptoms will emerge. Depending on different factors, including the person’s duration and volume of abuse of oxycodone, withdrawal symptoms can emerge as soon as six hours or as long as 30 hours after last use. Symptoms may change throughout the withdrawal process, but potential withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Dilated pupils
- Abdominal cramping
- Runny nose
It is critical to note that opioid withdrawal can be particularly hazardous due to complications from withdrawal symptoms, such as dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting. For this reason, there is strong advisement that individuals seek the help of a medical detox center or a drug rehab center with a detox program.
In addition to the immediate health hazards, the severity of withdrawal symptoms can motivate a person to relapse. Oftentimes, individuals will relapse during withdrawal to make the discomfort of the symptoms go away.
Behavioral Symptoms and Sings of Addiction to Oxycodone
The behavioral signs of addiction depend on a range of factors, such as a person’s living arrangements, finances, assets, and the severity of the addiction. CBS News, in an effort to educate the American public during an opioid pill epidemic, provides the following five signs of painkiller abuse:
- Fatigue: The affected individual appears tired or drowsy as part of an ongoing pattern and outside of normal sleep or nap times.
- Inability to perform to familiar standards: Drug abuse disrupts a person’s cognitive functioning and makes it more difficult to concentrate. As a result, the individual may not be able to meet the requirements of home life, work, or school. The individual may miss work, not show up, leave early, or demonstrate a real drop in performance level.
- Lifestyle and personality changes: As a result of the drug abuse, the individual may have a difficult time maintaining family relationships and friendships. The individual may withdraw from once enjoyable activities, such as sports and other social activities. Social isolation can ensue, but at the same time, the individual may hang out with new people to do drugs.
- Appearance changes: In addition to showing signs like drowsiness, the individual may become lax in personal care routines. As a result, a person may look uncharacteristically disheveled, wear dirty clothes, and stop buying or using grooming products.
- Being secretive: Individuals who abuse oxycodone often end up living a double life of sorts. Since it’s an illegal activity, individuals who abuse oxycodone may strictly guard their use, and use code names or unfamiliar sounding terms to reference drug use. Street names for oxycodone include oxy, oxycottons, oxy 80s, kickers, blue, killers, and hillbilly heroin.
There are different methods of abuse of oxycodone that can bear on the type of paraphernalia that may be hidden in the individual’s living environment.
How do People Abuse Oxycodone?
If an individual abuses oxycodone pills by swallowing them, one tipoff would be that there is no paraphernalia around. There may, however, be prescription pill bottles from different doctors and pharmacies, with dates within an overlapping period. Individuals who abuse oxycodone can get it on the street, or from people who sell their prescriptions, but they may also doctor shop (i.e., going from doctor to doctor to obtain more than one prescription for oxycodone, all the while trying to avoid detection).
If a person is injecting oxycodone, accompanying paraphernalia would include a syringe, an instrument of some sort to cook the oxycodone in, a heat source, and a rope or belt (to tie to the arm and make it easier to find a vein). For rectal administration, the individual will need an enema or suppository, or something of that nature. The high from rectal administration is reportedly no greater than taking pills orally, but this method can help individuals to avoid unwanted gastrointestinal side effects.
Oxycodone Addiction Statistics
- According to the United States Department of Justice, more than 13 million Americans abuse Oxycodone, including some children as young as 12 years old.
- As of 2020, 2.4% of 12th graders had used OxyContin within the past year.
- Approximately 100,000 people are admitted to hospitals for the misuse of Painkillers each year.
Why is Oxycodone so Addictive?
The best way to determine how people get addicted to oxycodone is by answering this question: why is oxycodone so addictive? Opioids are most addictive when they’re taken in ways they’re not meant to be taken. For instance, a person increases their risk of addiction if they take higher doses of their prescribed opioids than recommended or if they mix them with other drugs or alcohol. These drug-taking behaviors are designed to intensify the side effects of the drug, contributing to a euphoric high.
Let’s get into the science behind oxy addiction. Addiction is the compulsive, uncontrollable use of drugs despite the negative consequences that may occur. Oxycodone is addictive because of its effects on neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly dopamine. Generally, opioids work by attaching themselves to opioid receptors located on the surface of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) and other areas like the gut.
These receptors are associated with pain and pleasure, and by attaching themselves to these receptors, opioids can block pain signals from the body. However, addiction mostly occurs from the effects of oxycontin use.
Opioids trigger the excess flow of dopamine from one neuron to another, contributing not only to pain relief but also to a sense of well-being. When used little by little, as prescribed, oxycodone can produce pain relief. However, when crushed and snorted, chewed, or taken with other drugs or alcohol, oxycodone produces a sudden rush of dopamine, flooding the central nervous system and producing a euphoric high. In addition to oxycodone’s effect on dopamine, addiction can also occur as a result of physical dependence.
Oxycodone Addiction Treatment
Countless individuals have overcome addiction to oxycodone and other prescription opioids. There are special treatments, particularly medication-assisted treatments, that are designed to address opioid addiction. Compared to other drugs of abuse, there have been particularly significant strides made in the field of narcotics addiction treatment. Pharmacological treatment is not enough on its own; it must be combined with therapy and support to ensure lifelong recovery.
Reclaim Your Life From Oxycodone Addiction
Some individuals who abuse oxycodone may risk seizures or respiratory depression. In clinical trials, 1-5 percent of participants experienced psychiatric problems. We Level Up rehab & detox center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Oxycodone addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Prescription Opioid and Benzodiazepine Medications and Occupational Safety and health information for Employers and Healthcare Providers.
 Food and Drug Administration – OxyContin (oxycodone hydrochloride)