Oxycodone Abuse

Oxycodone is a particularly popular opioid drug that is often combined with other medications to treat pain. While the drug can be an effective painkiller, it can also be a dangerous, especially when abused. This is why seeking treatment for oxycodone addiction is so important.

Understanding Oxycodone Abuse

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic analgesic and historically has been a popular drug of abuse among the narcotic abusing population.” This is due to the fact that, for several years, oxycodone in its many forms has been one of the most highly prescribed opioid drugs on the market.

The drug can be taken safely to treat moderate to severe pain, but doctors must always make sure that their patients are taking the medication properly. Those who begin taking oxycodone

  • In larger doses than prescribed
  • More often than prescribed
  • In a different way than prescribed
  • Without a prescription

put themselves at serious risk of a number of different dangerous outcomes, chief among them being addiction. Unfortunately, many people still abuse oxycodone in spite of this fact because of its ability to produce significant euphoria when taken in large doses.

Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Abuse

Some of the most common side effects of oxycodone use, even in regularly prescribed doses, are drowsiness, confusion, and relaxation. This is why doctors suggest that patients do not take the drug and try to drive or participate in other activities requiring concentration and quick reflexes (National Library of Medicine).

Still, when someone is actually abusing oxycodone, these symptoms will be more intense, and others will also occur be more likely to occur. Other common signs and symptoms of oxycodone abuse include

  • Severe itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Decreased feeling of pain
  • Release of tension

Mood swings are also common among oxycodone abusers where a person can feel euphoric at first and then depressed or irritable. It is common for individuals who abuse this particular drug to experience a number of clear signs and symptoms, so if you believe someone you know is abusing their or someone else’s medication, look for these.

Dangers of Oxycodone Abuse

Unfortunately, as with every medication, oxycodone use can potentially lead to a number of dangerous side effects, which are often made more dangerous and more likely to occur when one abuses the drug. These can include

Increased pressure of cerebral and spinal fluid

Many narcotics can elevate the pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid, leading to severe physical issues for the user in certain cases (Center for Substance Abuse Research).


Oxycodone is can potentially cause seizures in a small population of users, but the likelihood of this occurring becomes much higher if someone is abusing the drug consistently and in large doses.

Respiratory depression and overdose

Using drugs like oxycodone slows down the functions of the body, including one’s respiration. When a person takes higher doses than prescribed, however, respiration and heart rate can both become so slow that the individual passes out and is unable to receive enough oxygen. This can be deadly.

Dependence and withdrawal

Though the withdrawal syndrome associated with opioids isn’t usually life threatening, it can be incredibly painful and uncomfortable with symptoms akin to those caused by the flu. They include

  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Muscle, bone, and joint pain
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Anxiety
  • Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

An individual can become dependent on opioids without abusing them, but the withdrawal symptoms can often lead to abuse.

Brain damage

If a person experiences severe respiratory depression (usually in an overdose situation), they may be able to be taken to the hospital and the effects reversed in time to save their life. However, it is common for individuals in this situation to also sustain severe and permanent brain damage, as the brain is often unable to receive enough oxygen leading to dangerous outcomes.

Those who abuse oxycodone––and other drugs of this type––are putting themselves especially in danger of experiencing these consequences. Those particularly in danger are the individuals who crush and snort oxycodone tablets, as the medication is meant to slowly release its effects in the person’s system over time, and this method of abuse causes them all to be released at once.

Who Abuses Oxycodone?

Unfortunately, a large number of individuals, all from different age groups and backgrounds, abuse oxycodone and drugs like it. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3.3 percent of 12th graders stated that they participated in past year abuse of OxyContin, a brand name drug containing oxycodone. This was more than those who had abused cocaine, inhalants, and Ritalin.

  • As stated by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, “3 out of 10 teens believe that getting high on prescription medications is not dangerous.” This is extremely problematic because an individual can still die from large doses of oxycodone and many other types of prescription drugs.
  • Nearly one million individuals in the United States aged 12 or older admitted to abusing OxyContin at least once in their lifetimes (National Drug Intelligence Center).
  • High school students are at a particular risk for oxycodone and other types of prescription narcotic abuse because they can obtain these drugs anywhere, including
    • A friend’s house
    • A relative or neighbor’s medicine cabinet
    • On the Internet
    • Altered or fake prescriptions
  • Oxycodone is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act, particularly because of the high levels of abuse it has been associated with in recent years.

Oxycodone Addiction

Oxycodone abuse and addiction rose to a peak in recent years, and though other prescription opioids like hydrocodone are now being abused more, there is still a high level of misuse of this particular medication. Unfortunately, this means many people are still addicted to it.

When a person starts abusing a drug like oxycodone frequently, the way their brain works will change, causing them to no longer have the ability to stop using the drug, even if they want to. Their abuse becomes compulsive, and they will do whatever they must to obtain more of the drug. This is why crime, financial issues, and risky behavior are so high among addicts.

Am I an Oxycodone Addict?

If you have been abusing oxycodone, it may be time to consider whether or not you have become addicted. Ask yourself the questions below to find out if you should seek help.

  • Do I abuse oxycodone every day?
  • Do I believe I cannot get through a stressful day, fall asleep at night, or live my life without the drug?
  • Have I ever done anything dangerous, illegal, or problematic in order to obtain more of the drug?
  • Have my loved ones expressed concern about my substance abuse?
  • Have I ever considered switching to a stronger opioid in order to combat tolerance?
  • Have I ever experienced severe withdrawal effects when I wasn’t able to obtain more of the drug?
  • Have I begun to lose interest in the things that used to matter to me?
  • Am I noticing that my performance in work or school has suffered as a result of my substance abuse?
  • Do I feel I won’t be able to stop or cut back on my own?

Especially if you answered yes to the last question, it is time to seek treatment. Those who become addicted to oxycodone put themselves in danger when they try to quit on their own because of the difficulty of doing so and the strong likelihood of relapse. Seeking help is the safest way to recover.

Oxycodone Addiction Treatment

Oxycodone addiction is usually treated with a combination of medications and behavioral therapies. Two of the most popular medications used to treat this disorder include methadone and buprenorphine, which can

  • Minimize withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduce cravings for opioids
  • Block the opioid receptors in the brain so it will be harder for a person to relapse
  • Maintain the individual so they can live their lives without constantly experiencing the severe consequences of oxycodone abuse

According to the NIDA, behavioral therapies are also an essential part of the recovery process. These can help teach patients how to avoid relapse, recognize their triggers, and cope with cravings. They will also allow an individual to consider why they started abusing drugs in the first place in order to better understand their recovery needs, and they can simultaneously treat addiction and co-occurring mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.