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Oxycodone Dependence

Oxycodone dependence is a physical need to use the medication in order to function normally. The body can easily deve

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Are You Oxycodone Dependent?

How can you know if you are dependent on oxycodone? See if the following statements are true for you:

  • Oxycodone at my current dosage seems to be losing its effectiveness.
  • My oxycodone dose has increased since I started therapy.
  • I feel sick when I attempt to decrease the amount of Oxy I use.
  • I experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation which are resolved when I take oxycodone again.

If you recognize yourself or a loved one in these scenarios that indicate physical dependence…don’t worry!

In this article, we’ll cover more details about the nature and symptoms of oxycodone dependence. We’ll compare dependence with addiction, and share with you some effective methods on how to safely address dependence. Finally, we welcome your questions and feedback in the comments section at the end, In fact, we do our best to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries.

What Is Oxycodone Dependence?

Physical dependence on a psychoactive drug is a common and expected side effect. This is true of oxycodone, even when you completely adhere to treatment guidelines. But, every individual reacts differently to oxycodone. Some users may develop dependence within a few weeks of use, while others may take longer to become dependent.

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Q: Why does dependence occur in the first place?

A: Mainly, it’s an adaptation required for survival.

In the brain, oxycodone binds to the mu, kappa and delta receptors and decreases their excitability. Over time and with continued oxycodone use, your body begins to adapt to the presence of the drug in order to continue to function. In this case, the body creates some stimulant effects to counteract the depressant effects of the opioid pain killer. Dependence usually gets to the point where the drug basically becomes a part of the normal body/brain functions and processing.

So, when you stop taking oxy, the body needs time to re-regulate its chemistry and return to homeostasis, which is why it triggers withdrawal symptoms. The set of predictable withdrawal symptoms are actually the “stimulant effects” that manifest when you take away the drug.

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Make sense?

Does Oxy Dependence = Addiction?

NO. There is a difference between physical dependence on oxycodone and addiction to oxycodone.

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DEPENDENCE is natural and expected outcome of regular use of oxycodone. It occurs in all individuals who use oxycodone, but is also easily treatable. Those who are physically dependent can become drug-free through a gradual decrease in dosage and may need some medical management of withdrawal symptoms. But most importantly, they will not experience a continued need to use oxycodone after quitting.

ADDICTION can be accompanied or precipitated by physical dependence, but it doesn’t always have to be. The main difference between physical dependence and addiction are cravings. Those who have become addicted to oxy will experience an uncontrollable need (cravings) to feel the pleasurable and euphoric rush from another dose. This craving can lead to obsessive-compulsive drug seeking and drug use behavior and an inability to stay off of oxycodone, even if you want to, even if you are aware of the harm it’s causing.

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The two main symptoms that indicate drug dependence are: tolerance and withdrawal.

TOLERANCE causes the body to need a higher dosage to receive the same effect. It occurs with regular, chronic, and longer use of oxycodone. You may notice that your initial, lower doses of oxycodone have become less effective over time. As your tolerance grows, many feel compelled to use higher doses more frequently.

WITHDRAWAL occurs when your body develops physical dependence to oxycodone and you try to take less, skip a dose, or try to quit. Withdrawal symptoms usually occur about 4-6 hours after the last oxycodone intake, peak at around 72 hours later, and start to diminish anywhere from 7 to 10 days after cessation of use. In some cases symptoms may persist for several weeks, even months due to many factors.

Some of the most frequent oxycodone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Breathing problems
  • Chills
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the bones and muscles
  • Poor appetite
  • Sleeping problems
  • Vomiting


Experiencing an increase in tolerance and withdrawal symptoms are the two main symptoms of dependence. But there are a few more signs to be aware of when identifying dependence in yourself or a loved one. Below is a list of some of the more subjective, behavioral signs that can signal a problem.

  1. Being defensive when inquired about your oxycodone use.
  2. Buying oxycodone off illegal sources (off the street, internet pharmacies, off other people who are prescribed).
  3. Going doctor shopping (visiting multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions).
  4. Losing the ability to control or stop use.
  5. Running out of oxycodone before it’s time for a prescription refill.
  6. Spending a lot of time and effort acquiring and using oxycodone.
  7. Taking oxycodone to stop the effects of withdrawal.
  8. Using oxycodone longer, more frequently, or in higher amounts than intended.
  9. Using oxycodone secretively.

If you find 2 or more of these scenarios to be true for yourself or someone close to you, it might be a good idea to speak with your doctor about possible assessment of oxycodone dependence and even addiction.

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How To End Dependence

The best way to end physical dependence on any drug is by seeking help from a medical specialist such as your physician, psychiatrist, or in a specialized medical detox clinic. Then, once a treatment plan is set in place, here are some of your treatment options:

Tapered oxycodone withdrawal: Tapering includes 2-3 weeks of slow and gradual lowering of oxycodone doses. It is the most recommended and effective therapy for coming off of oxy. This therapy is specially designed and controlled by a medical professional because they can determine the tapering rate that is right just for you.

Medical detoxification: You may also be required to undergo oxycodone detox at a clinic to remove all traces of oxycodone from your system in a safe, supportive environment. If there is a possibility for any complications, your doctor may advise you to taper oxycodone while being monitored 24/7 by detox staff. This way withdrawal symptoms can be managed as they occur using medications.

Supportive withdrawal: Sharing your experiences through supportive family, individual, and/or group therapy is a great way to gain helpful advices and to navigate the period of stopping oxycodone and withdrawal.

Home treatment: Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can be treated at home. Some over-the-counter medications are excellent for overcoming severe symptoms of withdrawal. However, this is not the safest way to end a case of dependence. You should always consult your doctor before attempting to quit or lower doses of oxycodone.

Got More Questions?

If you have any further questions about oxycodone dependence, please do not hesitate to send them to us via the comments section below. We try to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries.

Reference Sources: NIH: Drug abuse and addiction
FDA: Abuse-deterrent Opiod Analgesics
Pub Chem: Oxycodone
NCBI: The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment
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