Medically Reviewed

Oxycodone Side Effects & Dangers of Misuse

3 min read · 4 sections

Oxycodone is a prescription painkiller that has significant misuse potential.1

In this article, we will discuss oxycodone misuse, its dangers, oxycodone addiction, and how to get help if you or someone you love needs it.

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a narcotic, prescription medication that’s used to alleviate pain. This opioid drug is made from a naturally occurring substance derived from the opium poppy plant.2

Oxycodone is the generic name of the drug, which is sold under the brand name OxyContin, RoxyBond, Roxicodone and XTampza ER. 

Oxycodone is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it carries a significant risk of misuse and may lead to severe physiological dependence.1

Misuse of oxycodone can include:3

  • Using someone else’s medication.
  • Taking oxycodone for non-medical reasons (i.e., to get high).
  • Using oxycodone in a way other than prescribed (e.g., snorting or smoking crushed pills, dissolving the powder in liquid and injecting it).

Adverse Side Effects of Oxycodone

Potential adverse side effects of oxycodone may include:3

  • Constipation.
  • Fatigue or tiredness.
  • Nausea.
  • Confusion.
  • Slowed breathing.

Opioid misuse or use at high doses can cause an overdose due to slowed or stopped breathing that leads to hypoxia, a condition where oxygen doesn’t reach the brain.3

Oxycodone Overdose

Oxycodone overdose is an emergency that may be fatal without immediate medical attention. Signs of oxycodone overdose include:4

  • Blue or purple fingernails.
  • Slow, shallow, or stopped breathing.
  • An inability to wake up and speak.
  • Slow or stopped heartbeat.
  • Pale and clammy skin.
  • Body limpness.
  • Gurgling noises or vomiting.

If you notice these signs, follow these steps:5

  1. Call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.
  2. Administer naloxone* if available. Administer additional doses every 2-3 minutes if the person does not become responsive.
  3. Try to keep the person awake and breathing.
  4. If possible, turn the person on their side to prevent choking.
  5. Stay with the person until help arrives.

Oxycodone overdose fatalities usually occur because the brain stops receiving oxygen due to breathing slowing down or stopping, a condition called hypoxia. If breathing is not restored quickly, hypoxia can lead to coma, brain damage, or death.3

*Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids such as oxycodone and restore someone’s breathing long enough for medical help to arrive.6 Intranasal devices containing naloxone (Narcan, Kloxxado) are available in all 50 states without a prescription and is legal for anyone to carry. Naloxone will have no effect on someone that has not taken opioids.5

Oxycodone Addiction

A pattern of chronic misuse can result in oxycodone addiction, which is also called an opioid use disorder (OUD). OUD is characterized as a pattern of opioid use that is uncontrollable and continues despite clinically significant adverse consequences in one’s life.8 

While repeated substance use can influence the development of addiction to oxycodone, genetic, environmental, and psychosocial factors also play important roles.8

Only a medical professional such as a doctor or substance use clinician can diagnose an OUD.8 However, it can be beneficial for anyone who uses oxycodone or is around someone that does to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction.

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Chronic oxycodone use can lead to the development of physiological dependence, meaning someone may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit or cut back their use. Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms may include:9

  • Dilated pupils.
  • Yawning.
  • Perspiration.
  • Dysphoric mood.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Insomnia.
  • Fever.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Oxycodone withdrawal generally begins within hours 6 to 12 hours, peaks in 1-3 days, and subsides over 5-7 days.8

Opioid withdrawal is seldom fatal, but it can be extremely unpleasant, which may lead someone to relapse or return to opioid use. Returning to opioid use following a reduction or stoppage in use increases the risk of overdose.10,11 Treatment for oxycodone dependence and opioid addiction can mitigate these symptoms and cravings and protect against opioid overdose.9,12

Treating Oxycodone Addiction

Taking the first step toward getting addiction treatment is challenging but often necessary. Through evidence-based treatment approaches, many people are able to stop compulsive use of opioids  and remain in recovery.13

For many people, medical detoxification is the first step in addiction treatment. Detox is where a person is stabilized under medical supervision so that they can continue further addiction treatment. Detox programs help manage the acute physiological symptoms that occur when you stop a substance. Detox can be done at an inpatient or outpatient rehab center, and it is often managed with medications administered by a physician.13

Many people benefit from continued treatment after detox, as detox alone is seldom effective in helping someone achieve long-term sobriety. Treatment can be performed in many different settings, such as an inpatient or outpatient rehab program. Treatment at these facilities typically involves various forms of behavioral therapy that helps patients identify and avoid relapse triggers, cope with cravings, build self-esteem, and more. It may also be used to improve interpersonal relationship skills and learn about family dynamics.13

Medications are often a key component of treating an OUD, both during and following medical detox. Some common medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) include:14

  • Buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is  a partial opioid agonist that is used to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Since it is only a partial opioid agonist it does not elicit euphoria in opioid-dependent people like full opioid agonists such as oxycodone.
  • Methadone. Methadone is a synthetic full opioid agonist that also mitigates cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Unlike short-acting opioids (heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl), methadone takes longer to activate opioid receptors in the brain and therefore does not cause euphoria in people that are dependent on opioids.
  • Naltrexone. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it blocks the effects of opioids, discouraging misuse and reducing cravings. Unlike methadone or buprenorphine, naltrexone is not used during detoxification, because it can precipitate withdrawal in someone with an opioid dependence.9

If you or a loved one needs help, please call to start the admissions process or learn more about treatment options with American Addiction Centers (AAC). You can also verify your insurance using the confidential form below.

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