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Oxycodone Abuse

  1. Table of ContentsPrint
  2. About Oxycodone Abuse
  3. Teen Oxycodone Abuse
  4. Signs and Symptoms
  5. Effects of Oxycodone Abuse
  6. Oxycodone Abuse Treatment
  7. Resources, Articles and More Information


About Oxycodone Abuse

What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a pain-relieving drug that is prescribed frequently to address moderate to severe pain.

What Drugs Contain Oxycodone?

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The substance is found alone and in combination with other pain relievers in a tablet form under several brand names including:

  • OxyContin – oxycodone controlled release.
  • OxyIR and OxyFast – oxycodone immediate release.
  • Percodan – oxycodone and aspirin.
  • Percocet – oxycodone and acetaminophen.

Is Oxycodone Addictive?

Oxycodone is a product derived indirectly from opium, which means it impacts the user in ways similar to other legal and illegal opioids. This also means that oxycodone is a potential drug of abuse for its sought-after effects.

Additionally, oxycodone use will put someone at risk of tolerance, dependence, and addiction even when the medication is taken as prescribed.

Those addicted to prescription opiates like oxycodone are 40 times likely to develop a heroin abuse problem.

Statistics on Use

Oxycodone has been a dangerous substance growing in popularity over the last 20 years. Consider these statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration:

  • Nearly 60 million prescriptions for oxycodone-containing drugs were written in 2013.
  • In 2012, 16 million people reported abusing oxycodone in their lifetime, which is an increase of over a million from the previous year.
  • In 2011, oxycodone was responsible for more than 150,000 ER visits.
  • In 2009, law enforcement encountered oxycodone more than any other prescription drug.

To learn more, visit our page Oxycodone History and Statistics.

Teen Oxycodone Abuse

Adults are not the only ones abusing forms of oxycodone like OxyContin. Since the prescription drug is found in many home medicine cabinets, it is easily accessible for teens. Teens are also often introduced to the drug by friends at school.

Because it is a legal prescription drug, many teens may view oxycodone as a harmless high. As mentioned above, however, many abusers, including teens, end up becoming addicted and ultimately switching to heroin to feel a similar high at a cheaper cost.

It’s extremely important to talk to your teen about the dangers of prescription opiate abuse.


The following video shows interviews with several people struggling with oxycodone addiction. The video illustrates the powerfully addictive nature of this drug.

Warning: this video contains some explicit language.

Credit: Vocativ

Signs and Symptoms

When someone uses oxycodone, sometimes referred to as "oxy," they will experience a range of signs and symptoms related to depressing the body’s functions that are consistent with other opioid substances.

The signs will vary somewhat depending on the specific medication. OxyContin will provide signs that may be of lower intensity that last for an extended period, as long as 12 hours, whereas drugs like OxyIR can trigger stronger symptoms for a shorter duration. The milligrams and the method used to consume the substance will influence the signs, as well, since some versions can be smoked to snorted.

Desirable Effects

  • Perceptions of less physical pain.
  • Feelings of joy and happiness referred to as euphoria.
  • Feelings of physical relaxation.
  • Psychological relaxation with fewer worries and concerns.

Unwanted Signs and Symptoms

  • Slowed breathing.
  • Constipation.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Confusion.

Someone that has consumed too much of the substance or is actively abusing oxycodone will have some visible signs like constricted/pinpoint pupils and periods of extreme sedation. The person will be difficult to arouse or will fade between being awake and asleep.

Opiate Overdose

Overdose is a risk when the substance is used in large amounts or consumed with alcohol. Symptoms of overdose include:

  • Severe breathing issues.
  • Slowed heart rate with reduced blood pressure.
  • Lack of physical response.

If someone you know has displayed these symptoms or you have been experiencing these for yourself, it could be a sign of oxycodone abuse.

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Effects of Oxycodone Abuse

Oxycodone is considered an opioid receptor agonist. This means that the substance connect to receptors in the brain and throughout the body to trigger a release of dopamine. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter responsible for the effects of the drug. Also, dopamine is associated with reward structures in the body, meaning that people experiencing an increase in dopamine will value the sensation and try to repeat it in the future. This leads to abuse of the drug.


As the body continues to experience the effects of oxycodone, it begins to adjust to the levels so that the same amount will have a decreased effect. This process is called tolerance.

With tolerance in place, the user will seek out more of the substance to extend the desired feelings.

People that begin using more of the drug than prescribed more often than prescribed, using it for reasons other than prescribed, and using oxycodone that is not prescribed to them are displaying indicators of addiction.


Addiction occurs when people will continue using a substance that they know is having an unwanted influence in their life. People addicted to oxycodone may:

  • Lie and steal to obtain more of the drug.
  • Display changed interests and personality characteristics.
  • Neglect other aspects of life while devoting more attention to oxycodone.
  • Try to acquire more of the substance by forging prescriptions or visiting multiple doctors to receive multiple prescriptions.
  • Continue use even when confronted by legal or financial hardships.

Dependence and Withdrawal

Oxycodone addiction is related to dependence. Dependence is when the brain becomes so accustomed to the extra dopamine that it cannot function normally without it. Once dependence is established, the user will need to maintain a supply of "oxy" or face withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Increased pain.
  • Restlessness and agitation.
  • Inability to sleep.
  • Gastrointestinal problems including no appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Feeling cold and shivering.

Interestingly, people using other opioids will sometimes use drugs containing oxycodone to reduce or eliminate their own withdrawal symptoms.

Oxycodone Abuse Treatment


The withdrawal symptoms of oxycodone can be quite uncomfortable and long lasting. Because of this, someone trying to quit oxycodone would benefit from seeking professional treatment.

Depending on the amount, frequency, and duration of time using oxycodone, detox may be recommended. Detoxification is the purposeful reduction of oxycodone in the body. This is completed in an inpatient setting so that medical professionals can tend to the patient ensuring safety and comfort.

During this process, other medications may be prescribed to reduce symptoms.

When detox is complete, patients can be referred to a number of treatment options such as:

Residential rehab programs entail the person in recover to live at the treatment center for a period of time ranging from several weeks to several months where they focus on recovery throughout the day. Outpatient programs involve as little as one weekly hour-long session to discuss recovery and learn methods to maintain abstinence.

Resources, Articles and More Information

For more information, please see the following articles:

You can also hear from others by visiting our Forum today.



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