Is oxycodone addictive?

YES. Oxycodone is addictive. In fact, oxycodone addiction potential is high, even for people who start taking oxycodone as prescribed. We review what oxycodone is made of and how you get addicted to oxycodone here.

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YES. Oxycodone is addictive.

But what makes oxycodone addictive (oxycodone high effects of euphoria, for one)? And how do you know that you’ve become addicted to oxycodone or not? We review these questions here and invite your questions about the addictive potential of oxycodone at the end.

What is oxycodone used for?

Oxycodone hydrochloride is indicated for the management of moderate to severe pain. The prescription pain pill comes in immediate release or controlled release formulas, and is also available in combination with other analgesics such as ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen. When taken as prescribed, oxycodone can offer analgesic effects as needed or around-the-clock pain relief.  How much oxycodone is safe depends on your exposure t opiates or opioids.  Likewise, oxycodone overdose amount varies by individual opiate tolerance.  But when taken for euphoric effect or to get high on oxycodone, this prescription medicine can become addictive.

What is oxycodone made of?

Oxycodone is derived from the opium alkaloid, thebaine. It is synthetically created in laboratories and is made into a white, odorless crystalline powder that become a tablet. Because oxycodone is synthetically produced, it is technically called an “opioid” rather than an “opiate”.

How addictive is oxycodone?

Oxycodone is very addictive (pharmacologically, or chemically speaking). The drug shares potent mu opioid agonist properties and has an abuse liability similar to morphine. Oxycodone produces a significant central nervous system effect, which has been correlated with addiction. This is one of the main reasons that oxycodone is classified as a Schedule II narcotic by the Controlled Substances Act, the highest level of control for an FDA approved drug.

Nonetheless, addiction liability of any drug includes many factors and not just the pharmacological properties of the drug. Social and cultural trends can play a major role on the availability distribution of oxycodone. Some factors that influence the addictive-ness of oxycodone can include:

  • ease of synthesis
  • extractability
  • illegal diversion history
  • knowledge of oxycodone action
  • oxycodone availability
  • oxycodone prescribing attitudes
  • state laws or local controls on oxycodone

Oxycodone dependence vs. addiction

Still, just because you become dependent on oxycodone does not mean that you are addicted to it. In other words, there is a difference between physical dependence and addiction. This distinction can be difficult to understand, particularly with prescribed pain medications like oxycodone. So, to simplify you can think of it like this:

Physical dependence on oxycodone = Tolerance to a oxycodone (needing more frequent or high doses in order to achieve the same pain relief effect) + withdrawal symptoms when you lower dosage or quit.

Addiction to oxycodone = Compulsive oxycodone use, despite negative consequences.

How do you get addicted to oxycodone?

Let’s first consider that you are taking oxycodone legitimately for pain. How do you know if you are taking oxycodone and not getting addicted to it? The main line between using oxycodone responsibly and abusing oxycodone is if you self-administer oxycodone doses, regardless of the original pain condition it was prescribed to treat. So if you start to enjoy the effect of oxycodone, and take it for effect rather than pain…you have crossed the line. You may become addicted to oxycodone.

In general, you can get addicted to oxycodone if you are taking oxycodone any way other than prescribed. There is a potential for drug addiction to develop following exposure to oxycodone, even during appropriate medical use. Although you are at higher risk of becoming addicted to oxycodone if you have been addicted to or abused other drugs or alcohol, or if you have a history of mental problems…if you make a conscious decision to take oxycodone to get high, you can become addicted to it. Your risk of getting addicted to oxycodone is higher when you:

  1. Chew oxycodone to prevent controlled release
  2. Crush oxycodone into a powder and either inject or snort oxycodone
  3. Take oxycodone in higher doses than prescribed
  4. Take oxycodone more frequently than prescribed

Signs of oxycodone addiction

Although doctors know that all oxycodone users can become physically dependent on oxycodone (developing clinical signs of tolerance and withdrawal), oxycodone addiction is characterized by psychological craving for oxycodone. In other words, if you need oxycodone in order to cope with the normal stresses of life, you may be addicted to oxys. Other signs of oxycodone addiction include:

  • continued oxycodone abuse despite negative consequences
  • craving oxycodone and using it compulsively
  • seeking oxycodone in order to quickly affect the “reward center” of their brains

Oxycodone addiction potential questions

Do you still have questions about oxycodone addiction potential? Please leave them here. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. If we do not know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to someone who does.

Reference sources: DailyMed: Oxycodone hydrochloride
FDA: Abuse Liability Analysis
FDA: OxyContin risk evaluation and mitigation strategy
PubMed: Abuse liability of oxycodone as a function of pain and drug use history
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.
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