How to Treat Oxycodone Addiction

To treat oxycodone addiction, you’ll need to address physical dependence and go through withdrawal. But once you’re off oxycodone … how do you stay off it? We review the most common treatments for oxycodone addiction here. Then, we invite your questions at the end.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D. Dr. Juan Goecke, M.D.

ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Oxycodone is a strong opioid medicine used to treat pain. While physical dependence on oxycodone is an expected outcome of daily use, addiction is characterized by psychological symptoms. This article reviews common symptoms of a problem and their treatment. Your questions are welcomed at the end.


How Do People Get Addicted?

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid analgesic. It is synthesized from thebaine, a constituent of the poppy plants. Physiological effects of oxycodone include:

  • Pain relief.
  • Sedation.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Constipation.
  • Papillary constriction.
  • Cough suppression.

Oxycodone is generally safe when is take for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because it produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, it can be misused (taken in a different way or in a larger quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription). Regular use, even as prescribed by a doctor, can lead to dependence and, when misused, can lead to addiction, overdose incidents, and deaths.

Basically, people get addicted like this:

  1. Use oxycodone.
  2. Feel great!
  3. Repeat.

Over time, the high becomes less intense due to the phenomenon of drug tolerance. Tolerance will eventually develop over time which means that users will require progressively higher doses to obtain the same effects. So, people take more … and risk overdose. Taking large doses of oxycodone is dangerous, sometimes fatal, because it can cause severe respiratory depression.

Addictive Potential

Q: How addictive is oxycodone?
A: Very!

Oxycodone products are in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, which means that this drug has a high potential for abuse and may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.


Physical dependence on oxycodone is not the same as addiction. Physical dependence occurs when a person, who takes it for any reason, uses it every four hours or even more for a period of one week to 10 days. The brain adapts to the depressant effects of oxycodone by “speeding up” some functions. These functions are manifested during withdrawal, when dependence can be diagnosed.

Addiction, on the other hand, is more of a psychological dependence. Addiction occurs after the drug was abused for a long time. This can be determined if people show an inability to control their cravings for oxycodone and its relentless use despite the obvious negative consequences.

Effects In The Brain

Oxycodone acts by attaching to specific proteins called “opioid receptors”, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When this drug attaches to these receptors, it can reduce the perception of pain and can produce a sense of well-being; however, effects can also produce:

  • Drowsiness
  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea
  • Constipation

Specific subtypes of opioid receptors (mu, delta, and kappa) that are activated by the body’s own (endogenous) opioid chemicals (endorphins, encephalins) typically mediate the effects of oxycodone. With repeated administration of oxycodone, the production of endogenous opioids is inhibited, which accounts in part for the discomfort that ensues when the drugs are discontinued (i.e., withdrawal). Adaptations of the opioid receptors’ signaling mechanism have also been shown to contribute to withdrawal symptoms.

Am I Addicted?

It is important to recognize when you or someone you care about is fighting an addiction to oxycodone.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are 11 criteria to diagnose an addiction to oxycodone. The more symptoms are present (more than two), within a period of 12 months, the more serious the problem will be. The criteria include [1]:

  1. Opioids are often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control opioid use.
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the opioid, use the opioid, or recover from its effects.
  4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use opioids.
  5. Recurrent opioid use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  6. Continued opioid use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of opioids.
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of opioid use.
  8. Recurrent opioid use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
  9. Continued opioid use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
  10. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
    A. A need for markedly increased amounts of opioids to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
    B. A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of an opioid.
  11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
    A. The characteristic opioid withdrawal syndrome (refer to Criteria A and B of the criteria set for opioid withdrawal).
    B. Opioids (or a closely related substance) are taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

If you, or someone you love, have two or more of these symptoms, you may be facing a problem of addiction to oxycodone. If it is the case, you must take into account that this is not the end; the next step to follow is to seek help to end the abuse of this drug, before it is too late.

Main Treatments

The main treatment for substance use disorders is comprised of multiple service components, including the following:

  • Case or care management.
  • Individual and group counseling.
  • Inpatient and residential treatment.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment.
  • Medication.
  • Partial hospital programs.
  • Peer supports.
  • Recovery support services.

A person accessing treatment may not need to access every one of these components, but each plays an important role. These systems are embedded in a broader community and the support provided by various parts of that community also play an important role in supporting the recovery of people with substance use disorders.

Treatment With Medications

The most effective treatment for opioid addiction includes the use of medications in combination with talk therapy These medications are prescribed by a health care provider and taken daily. They are most successful when taken for an open-ended time period, possibly for months, years or sometimes even lifelong, depending on the person. In fact, medications are often combined with counseling or supportive care for best results. [2]

Medication-assisted treatment with methadone, buprenorphine, or extended-release injectable naltrexone plays a critical role in the treatment of oxycodone addiction.
Opioid agonist therapies with methadone or buprenorphine reduce the effects of oxycodone withdrawal and reduce cravings. They have been shown to increase retention in treatment and reduce risk behaviors that lead to transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis such as using opioids by injection.

Medication-assisted treatment with extended-release injectable naltrexone reduces the risk of relapse to oxycodone use and helps control cravings. Extended-release injectable naltrexone is particularly useful for people exiting a controlled setting where abstinence has been enforced such as jail or residential rehabilitation or in situations where maintenance with an opioid agonist is not available or appropriate.

Treatment With Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a type of treatment that can include family or group counseling, or it can be directed only to the person.

Counseling can be provided at the individual or group level. Individual counseling often focuses on reducing or stopping substance use, skill building, adherence to a recovery plan, and social, family, and professional/educational outcomes. Group counseling is often used in addition to individual counseling to provide social reinforcement for pursuit of recovery.

Counselors provide a variety of services to people in treatment for oxycodone addiction, including assessment, treatment planning, and counseling. These professionals provide a variety of therapies. Some common therapies include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches to recognize and stop negative patterns of thinking and behavior. For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapy might help to be aware of the stressors, situations, and feelings that lead to substance use so that can avoid them or act differently when they occur.
  • Contingency management is designed to provide incentives to reinforce positive behaviors, such as remaining abstinent from substance use.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy helps with substance use disorders to build motivation and commit to specific plans to engage in treatment and seek recovery.


Treatment can be provided in inpatient or residential settings called ”rehabs”. Some of the basic principles of good addiction treatment include:

  • Longer-term residential treatment has lengths of stay that can be as long as six to twelve months and is relatively uncommon. These programs focus on helping persons change their behaviors in a highly structured setting.
  • Shorter-term residential treatment is much more common, and typically has a focus on detoxification (also known as medically managed withdrawal) as well as providing initial intensive treatment, and preparation for a return to community-based settings.

An alternative to inpatient or residential treatment is partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient treatment. These programs have people attend very intensive and regular treatment sessions multiple times a week early in their treatment for an initial period. After completing partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient treatment, persons often step down into regular outpatient treatment, which meets less frequently, and for fewer hours per week to help sustain their recovery.


Many people who are in oxycodone addiction rehab worry about the cost. The price of rehab will depend on your choice of type of treatment and:

  • The city or state in which you seek treatment.
  • Detox services for oxycodone ($300 to $500 per day).
  • Outpatient rehab ($100 to $300 per day).
  • Inpatient rehab ($300 to $1,000 per day).
  • The length of time spent in the rehab program.

However, many facilities offer payment plans to persons and may accept certain forms of health insurance. Certain government grants can also provide additional funding for a stay at an oxycodone rehab center.

Help is never out of reach when you are fighting against oxycodone addiction. And there are other costs associated with addiction, as well.

Substance abuse costs our nation over $600 billion annually and treatment can help reduce these costs. Drug addiction treatment has been shown to reduce associated health and social costs by far more than the cost of the treatment itself. Treatment is also much less expensive than its alternatives, such as incarcerating addicted persons. Drug addiction treatment reduces drug use and its associated health and social costs. [3]

According to several conservative estimates, every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of between $4 and $7 in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and theft. When savings related to healthcare are included, total savings can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1. Major savings to the person and to society also stem from fewer interpersonal conflicts; greater workplace productivity; and fewer drug-related accidents, including overdoses and deaths.

Who to Ask for Help?

Getting treatment for oxycodone addiction is extremely important, and thankfully, there are a multitude of sources of help. Resources and techniques vary, so people who are addicted to oxycodone can find the one they are most comfortable with.

Licensed clinical social workers, trusted religious leaders, or community centers can help you access treatment for oxycodone addiction in your town or city. These community leaders are well networked and can refer you to specific programs given your needs. The can also serve as much needed support during or after treatment.
Sometimes you may be more comfortable seeing your own physician. Although they may not be able to give the most comprehensive service, general or family doctors provide a good first step in helping you feel more comfortable and secure in seeking treatment. Some physicians will also be able to provide prescriptions that will help an person wean themselves off oxycodone.

Psychiatrists and psychologists are also a good option in seeking treatment for oxycodone addiction. Emotional issues need to be addressed to maximize the chances of successful abstinence. Therefore, to get help, you can seek out local psychiatrists/psychologists who specialize in addiction, or try to be referred by a local mental health clinic for more help.

The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment helps addicts with initiatives and programs from experts and research findings that a community-based approached that offers comprehensive services is the best method for most addicts. [4]

Inpatient residential addiction treatment centers specialize in treating addiction. Call a local treatment center to speak with the admissions officer or seek out more information about treatment facilities online.


From 1999 to 2016, more than 200,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Deaths from this cause were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999.

More than 40% of all deaths from opioid overdoses in 2016 involved a prescription opioid, with more than 46 people dying every day.
One of the most common drugs involved in deaths from prescription opioid overdoses includes oxycodone. [5]

Among those who died from an opiate overdose prescribed in 2016 [6]:

  • Rates of prescription opioid overdoses were highest among people aged 25 to 54 years.
  • The rate of deaths from prescription opioid overdoses among men was 6.2 and the rate among women was 4.3 in 2016.

For this reason, it is important to seek help as soon as possible when an oxycodone addiction is detected. The deaths from overdose of this prescription opiate are high; the important thing is that they can be avoided if people with this addiction problem receive the appropriate help at the right time.

Your Questions

We hope to have covered the topic on treatment 100%. But if you still have questions about oxycodone addiction, or want to share your experience of overcoming your addiction, please leave a comment below. We will try to reply to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: [1] APA: Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
[2] NIDA: Effective Treatments For Opioid Addiction
[3] NIDA: Principles Of Drug Addiction Treatment
[4] SAMHSA: Center For Substance Abuse Treatment
[5] CDC: Prescription Opioid Overdose Data
[6] CDC: Understanding The Epidemic Of Opioid Overdose
DEA: Drugs Of Abuse
MEDLINE PLUS: Opiate And Opioid Withdrawal
NIH: America’s Addiction To Opioids: Heroin And Prescription Drug Abuse
SAMHSA: Alcohol And Drug Services Study (ADSS) Cost Study
SAMHSA: Results From The 2016 National Survey On Drug Use And Health
SAMHSA: Treatments For Substance Use Disorders
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D. is a general surgeon practicing women's focused medici...
Dr. Goecke is a medical doctor and general surgeon with personal experience of...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.

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