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Oxycodone is a prescription painkiller with highly addictive properties.

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a type of opioid pain medication that can be habit-forming and lead to oxycodone addiction. Oxycodone works by altering the way the nervous system and brain react to pain and can come in liquid, tablet, or capsule form. Oxycodone is used for around-the-clock treatment and should not be used for pain that can be treated occasionally.

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Dependence vs. Misuse

To understand the difference between dependency and misuse it is also important to know the distinction between dependency and addiction. Addiction is a result of physical changes to your brain whereas dependency is the natural increase of tolerance to a substance to the extent that if stopped one would enter into withdrawal. Dependence can occur without an addiction but is a stepping stone to addiction.

If a patient develops an oxycodone dependency it may lead to misuse in the form of oxycodone drug addiction, but this is not always the case. The majority of patients who are legally prescribed can stop usage without ever establishing an oxycodone drug addiction. However, it is still likely for patients who have been using prescribed oxycodone for a prolonged period to develop a dependency (high tolerance) which can result in withdrawal if the medication is stopped on short notice. Typically, patients who develop a dependency are eased off the medication through decreased doses avoiding most of the major withdrawal symptoms.

Despite the majority of patients who are prescribed opioids never becoming addicted there are about 15% who do become addicted (1). To learn more about the signs of misuse continue reading below.

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    Signs of Oxycodone Misuse

    Patients or individuals who are misusing and have developed an oxycodone addiction may continually report lost prescriptions and ask for a refill early. Those with an oxycodone addiction may also claim the medication is no longer effective; however, just because a patient has requested a higher dose does not mean it is a direct sign of addiction. The direct sign is if the person requesting a higher dose continues to claim they are getting worse instead of better with a higher dose (1).

    Other signs of oxycodone misuse include:


    • Selling medications
    • Falsifying a prescription
    • Taking other’s prescription
    • Neglecting all responsibilities
    • Lying

    Oxycodone addiction symptoms for those with an oxycodone addiction include physical, psychosocial, and cognitive signs.

    Physical symptoms of oxycodone addiction:

    • Slurred speech
    • Drowsiness
    • Dizziness
    • Itching
    • Headaches
    • Dry mouth
    • Constipation
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Pupil constriction
    • Impaired coordination
    • Disrupted sleep
    • Appetite changes
    • Psychomotor agitation or retardation

    Psychosocial symptoms of oxycodone addiction:

    • Extreme mood swings
    • Outbursts of anger and violence
    • Anxiety
    • Paranoia
    • Depression
    • Euphoria
    • Irritability
    • Social withdrawal

    Cognitive symptoms of oxycodone addiction:

    • Inability to concentrate or focus
    • Memory problems
    • Impaired judgment
    • Hallucinations
    • Paranoia
    • Delusions

    Common Drug Combinations

    Marijuana, benzodiazepines, and other stimulants are commonly combined with the depressant oxycodone to help amplify or mask the effects. Those with an oxycodone addiction may know this combination of a stimulant and an opioid as ‘Speed-balling’.

    Oxycodone is most dangerous when combined with alcohol or benzodiazepines as all three substances are depressants and target the central nervous system resulting in a high risk of a fatal overdose or irreversible brain and organ damage. The problem becomes worse as patients begin describing different symptoms to different doctors to obtain both prescription medicines. According to CBS News, there was a 2.5 million person (or 41 percent) increase from 2002 to 2014 of patients prescribed both opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines (2).

    Withdrawal Effects of Oxycodone

    Whether a patient has developed an oxycodone addiction or not they will experience withdrawal effects if they have developed a physical dependence on oxycodone. Some patients who go through withdrawal will experience opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). Opioid-induced hyperalgesia is when a patient receives opioid treatment and becomes more sensitive to pain (3). OIH typically happens while a patient is weaning off of the opioid. Major withdrawal symptoms can typically be avoided with a gradual reduction of dose over some time (4).


    The physical withdrawal effects of Oxycodone include:

    • Insomnia
    • Runny nose
    • Elevated blood pressure
    • Agitation
    • Anxiety
    • Sweating
    • abdominal cramping
    • Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
    • Muscle aches
    • Dilated pupils
    • Rapid heart rate

    If you or someone you know needs help as they go through withdrawal contact us over the phone or through our website to learn how we can help.

    Statistics of Oxycodone and Misuse

    Whether you have become addicted to oxycodone through prescription abuse or acquired unprescribed oxycodone (also known as Oxy, Percs, Rims, Tires, Greenies, or Hillbilly Heroin) here are some informative statistics for those directly or indirectly affected by oxycodone addiction.

    Oxycodone statistics:

    • In 2018 nearly 50,000 people died from opioid-related death (5).
    • The US roughly accounts for 80% of the world’s total oxycodone prescriptions based on data collected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
    • About 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse use them (6).
    • 8 to 12 percent of people using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder (6).
    • 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin (6).

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    Treatment and Resources for Oxycodone Misuse

    There are several different types of oxycodone addiction treatment options for those who have developed oxycodone addiction. Typically, oxycodone addiction treatment is a combination of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and counseling and behavioral therapies.

    Currently, there are several MAT-approved medications including Buprenorphine, Methadone, Naltrexone, and Naloxone (7).

    • Buprenorphine suppresses and reduces opioid cravings.
    • Methadone reduces opioid cravings while minimizing the effects of withdrawal.
    • Naltrexone prevents the euphoria sensation caused by opioids.
    • Naloxone helps reverse the effects of an overdose in an attempt to prevent overdose.

    Each of the MAT-approved treatment options should be paired with some form of therapy. Effective, evidence-based therapy methods include:

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CDT)
    • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
    • Adventure therapy
    • Family, group, and or individual counseling
    • Motivational interviews

    The best treatment for oxycodone addiction is a combination of medication-assisted treatments (MAT) and counseling and behavioral therapies. If you or someone you know wants to learn more about the treatment options available please give us a call now or contact us through our website.

    Commonly Asked Questions

    Why is oxycodone addictive?+

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