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Oxycodone Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

3 min read · 8 sections

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2.6 million Americans 12 years old or older misused oxycodone products in the past year, making it the 2nd-most misused pain reliever behind hydrocodone.1

In this article, we will explore the risks of misusing oxycodone, how to respond in the event of an oxycodone overdose, oxycodone addiction, and treatment options for opioid use disorder.

What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a Schedule II opioid analgesic and is commonly used in medicine as a pain reliever.2

The drug typically comes in tablet, capsule, or liquid forms, and is meant to be taken orally.2

Some common brand names for oxycodone include:3

  • OxyContin.
  • Oxycet.
  • Xtampa.
  • Percodan or Percocet (discontinued).

What Is Oxycodone Misuse?

Oxycodone misuse can mean:4

  • Taking someone else’s prescription oxycodone.
  • Taking oxycodone to get high.
  • Taking oxycodone in a different way than how it is prescribed. For example, crushing or opening oxycodone capsules and snorting the powder, or dissolving it into water and injecting it into a vein.

Risks & Effects of Oxycodone Misuse

Oxycodone can cause euphoria and reduce the perception of pain. In addition, it carries the risk of adverse oxycodone side effects such as:4

  • Drowsiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Nausea.
  • Constipation.
  • Slowed breathing.

Mixing alcohol, other opioids, or CNS depressants (e.g., benzodiazepines) with oxycodone can compound these effects and can increase the risk of fatal overdose.5

Additionally, when oxycodone is sold on the street, there is a risk that it may be mixed or laced with other substances, even if the pills appear identical to those dispensed at pharmacies. This makes its effects less predictable and much more deadly. One common adulterant in counterfeit oxycodone pills—illicit fentanyl—poses a very high risk of causing a fatal opioid overdose.6

Signs of Oxycodone Overdose

Oxycodone overdose occurs when a person takes a large enough amount of the drug to produce life-threatening symptoms or even death.4 Some of the signs and symptoms of oxycodone overdose include:4

  • Loss of consciousness or inability to wake up.
  • Choking or gargling sounds, which indicate slow or shallow breathing.
  • Pale, blue, or cold skin.
  • Constricted or pinpoint pupils.

Typically, a fatal overdose is caused by hypoxia, the medical term for slowed or stopped breathing that limits oxygen to the brain.4

If you believe that you or someone you love is experiencing an overdose, follow these steps to ensure you respond quickly and appropriately:8

  • Call 911. Treat an overdose as a medical emergency and respond accordingly.
  • Administer naloxone (Narcan, Kloxxado) if it is available. Additional doses spaced 2 to 3 minutes apart may be needed if there is no response.
  • Check their breathing. If their breaths are slow, far apart, or uneven, ensure their airway is clear and provide rescue breathing.
  • Turn the person on their side in the recovery position. This helps to keep their airway clear, and if they throw up, it will keep them from choking on their vomit.
  • Stay with them until help arrives. Naloxone can help to reverse the effects of an overdose; however, the effects of naloxone often wear off in 30-90 minutes (faster than opioids), so they will likely still need emergency medical assistance.

Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a treatable condition that is characterized by the continued use of opioids despite them causing a clinically significant impact on one’s life. Medical professionals diagnose OUD utilizing the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: 5th Edition (DSM-5):9

  1. Taking higher doses of opioids or using them for a longer period than intended.
  2. Expressing a desire or trying unsuccessfully to cut down or quit opioid use.
  3. Spending a lot of time trying to get opioids, use them, or recover from their effects.
  4. Experiencing cravings or urges to use opioids.
  5. Having problems keeping up with responsibilities at work, school, or home because of opioid use.
  6. Experiencing social problems that are caused or worsened by opioid use.
  7. Giving up or cutting back on important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of opioid use.
  8. Continuing to use opioids in situations that are physically dangerous (e.g., while driving).
  9. Using opioids despite having a persistent or recurrent physical or mental health problem that may have been caused or worsened by them.
  10. Developing a tolerance for opioids, meaning that larger amounts of the drug are needed to achieve the same effect or taking the same dose results in diminished effects. This criterion does not apply when someone is taking oxycodone as prescribed.
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if opioid use stops or taking opioids to avoid the onset of withdrawal symptoms. This criterion does not apply when someone is taking oxycodone as prescribed.

The person must exhibit 2 or more criteria from this list within a 12-month period for a medical professional to diagnose them with OUD.9

Risk Factors for Oxycodone Addiction

Several risk factors increase one’s likelihood of experiencing oxycodone addiction. Some of these include:10

  • Biology. Researchers believe that genetic makeup and how the environment affects someone’s gene expression accounts for around 50% of someone’s propensity for addiction.
  • Environment and upbringing. Being around family members or peers who use drugs during one’s childhood or teen years raises the risk of developing addiction.
  • Substance use at a young age.
  • How oxycodone is misused. Smoking or injecting a drug increases its addictive potential.

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms occur when someone who is physically dependent on a drug stops using or cuts back abruptly, and the body produces symptoms as it adjusts to the absence of that substance.4 Opioid withdrawal symptoms are seldom fatal, but it can be very uncomfortable.11

Some of the symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal include:4

  • Opioid cravings.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Uncontrollable leg movements.
  • Aches in muscles and bones.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.

Medical detox can make the opioid withdrawal process safer and easier, with interventions designed to help you stay comfortable as the body clears the substance. Detox enables medical staff to monitor the patient and safely administer medication to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms if necessary.11

How Long Does Oxycodone Withdrawal Last?

Opioid withdrawal timelines can vary from person to person. Symptoms often: 9

  • Begin within 6-12 hours after the last dose.
  • Peak in 1-3 days.
  • Subside after 5-7 days.

Oxycodone Addiction Treatment

Many people need treatment to safely get sober and stay in recovery. This process often begins with medical detox; however, detox alone is seldom enough to help someone maintain long-term sobriety.11

An evidence-based treatment plan typically consists of behavioral therapy, medications for substance use disorder, and peer support. American Addiction Centers (AAC) can provide these interventions and more in multiple treatment settings like:

Contact AAC’s helpful admissions navigators at for more information, or begin by verifying your insurance coverage online. Help is available today. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

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