Signs of Oxycodone Abuse

Author: NP Addiction Clinic
Published: June 7, 2022

Oxycodone is a prescription painkiller used to treat moderate to severe pain. However, it also holds a high risk of abuse and can be a gateway to heroin abuse.

Oxycodone can be dangerous when abused, especially when mixed with other substances. Alcohol and benzodiazepines are especially dangerous when combined since they also depress the central nervous system. A combination of them can slow breathing and heart rate and even cause death.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of abuse can be very important for seeking help. It is better to seek professional treatment as soon as possible, as quitting can become harder with time. However, it is never too late.

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone, prescribed under the brand names OxyContin and Roxicodone, is a semi-synthetic opioid drug. It is made by modifying Thebaine, an organic chemical that is found in opium poppies. Street names for oxycodone include Oxy, hillbilly heroin, and blue.

When used as prescribed oxycodone is generally safe and helps with post-op and cancer pain relief. However, like other prescription opioids, oxycodone has a high risk for abuse and addiction when not used as prescribed. This is why it is classed as a Schedule II controlled substance.

This risk comes from the positive feelings which oxycodone causes, making you seek it out to reproduce the high. It causes strong psychoactive effects and euphoric feelings, reduces anxiety, and increases confidence.

Oxycodone Addiction

Abusing oxycodone can lead to addiction. Abuse of a drug is when you take more than you are prescribed. If you start to use a higher dose of oxycodone or take it more frequently than prescribed, this is oxycodone abuse.

In 2016, the United States Department of Justice reported that more than 13m Americans abuse oxycodone every year, which results in 500,000 emergency room visits per year.

Abuse can quickly lead to addiction with potent drugs such as oxycodone. Addiction occurs once you develop dependence and the drug starts to affect your personal life and behavior as you prioritize seeking and taking it above other activities and responsibilities.

Risk Factors for Drug Abuse

There are risk factors for developing any substance use disorder; these include both genetic and environmental factors.

Risk Factors Include

  • family history of addiction
  • previous personal history of substance abuse
  • drug use by people in your environment
  • mental health illnesses including severe depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder
  • criminal or risk-taking behavior
  • childhood neglect or trauma

Substance abuse can be a way of self-medication. It is therefore important to understand how oxycodone can affect you and what you can do to find support.

Side-Effects of Oxycodone Use

Like all prescription painkillers, the normal use of oxycodone has side effects. It is necessary to understand these to distinguish between prescribed use and abuse of oxycodone.

Side-Effects Include

  • constipation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach problems
  • itchiness
  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • dizziness and vertigo
  • confusion

In rare cases, you might also have serious side effects such as muscle stiffness and hypotension. If these occur, you should contact a doctor.

Oxycodone Addiction Signs

Oxycodone addiction will result in more symptoms than those expected when taking oxycodone as prescribed. These symptoms can be physical, psychological, and behavioral.

Understanding these additional signs and symptoms might help you to recognize if you or a loved one has an oxycodone abuse problem.

Physical Symptoms

  • respiratory depression
  • low blood pressure
  • poor coordination
  • psychomotor agitation

With long-term use, you might also experience swelling of limbs, increased pressure of spinal fluid, and even coma.

Psychological and Cognitive Symptoms

  • hallucinations
  • abnormal thoughts
  • memory problems
  • impaired judgment
  • outbursts of violence or anger
  • anxiety and paranoia

Behavioral Symptoms

It can be difficult to spot physical and psychological symptoms as people who abuse oxycodone might try to hide them, perhaps even denying signs to themselves. Behavioral signs and symptoms might be easier to spot.

If you suspect that a loved one is abusing oxycodone, you might expect to see the following signs:

  • secretiveness
  • poor hygiene and self-care
  • failing to meet work and home responsibilities
  • withdrawing from friends and family members
  • poor performance at school or work
  • risk-taking behavior e.g., drug driving, taking oxycodone with alcohol, unprotected sex

The following signs are harder to know as a loved one, but something you might recognize if you have an oxycodone addiction yourself:

  • stealing oxycodone
  • stealing money to buy oxycodone
  • going to multiple doctors to get prescriptions
  • obsession with getting the next dose
  • attempting to quit but not managing

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a manual that gives the criteria for diagnosing opioid use disorders among other things. To confirm an opioid use disorder, it is necessary for a trained medical professional to carry out the analysis; however, it might help give you an idea if you or a loved one has an oxycodone addiction.

Oxycodone Overdose

Abusing oxycodone carries the risk of overdose. Symptoms of an overdose might be a more severe expression of oxycodone abuse symptoms, but might also include those below.

Possible Overdose Effects

  • stomach spasms
  • weak pulse
  • coma
  • difficulty breathing, shallow breathing, or no breathing
  • blue fingernails and lips

These effects can be dangerous and even fatal. Understanding oxycodone withdrawal and how you can go through withdrawal as comfortably as possible might help you to seek treatment.

Oxycodone Withdrawal


Addiction treatment always starts with detox which involves the removing of drug toxins from the body. There are two main methods used to detox: tapering and cold turkey.

  • Tapering - slowly reduce the amount of drug until you are clean
  • Cold Turkey - stop taking the drug entirely after the last dose

Cold turkey is generally not recommended as withdrawal symptoms are not managed.

During detox, you will experience withdrawal symptoms as the drug leaves your body. At this point, there is a high risk of relapse so medical support is advised.

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms Include

  • sweating
  • muscle aches
  • runny nose
  • dilated pupils
  • diarrhea
  • headaches
  • shakes or seizures
  • high blood pressure
  • insomnia
  • anxiety, depression, agitation
  • cravings

Withdrawal Timeline

Oxycodone withdrawal generally takes between five and seven days but can take up to ten days if you have a heavier addiction or have previously attempted to quit.

Six to thirty hours - withdrawal symptoms can start as early as six hours after the last dose or as late as thirty hours after

Seventy-two hours - the peak of symptoms is normally reached within seventy-two hours

Five to seven days - symptoms will start to reduce by around one week

Psychological symptoms and cravings for oxycodone can last longer. It is therefore important to receive continued support even after detox.

Addiction Treatment

If you have a substance abuse problem, it is recommended to get professional treatment at a dedicated addiction treatment center. This is because quitting can be very difficult and there is a high risk of relapse.

At a treatment center, you will get twenty-four-hour support. Staff can make sure that you are receiving both medical and psychological support to make sure that withdrawal symptoms are as manageable as possible.

Treatment centers also provide ongoing support. Detoxing is generally not enough by itself to prevent relapse so this support is important for long-term recovery.

Ongoing support includes support groups and therapy, including family therapy if that is suitable for your situation. Therapy and support groups can help deal with the initial causes of addiction as well as provide support to prevent relapse.

How We Can Help

At NP Addiction Clinic we provide compassionate and comprehensive care that gives you the highest chance of long-term recovery. We recognize that every person has a different experience of recovery and therefore tailor your recovery to suit you.

We work using the principles of Narcotics Anonymous and provide a variety of support methods which include:

  • individual and group therapy
  • education
  • art, music, and recreational therapy
  • family counseling
  • transitional support
  • alumni activities

If you are ready to seek support or would like more information, please visit our website to find out more or call us at (772) 281-5433.

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