Physical addiction to oxycodone

An explanation of the difference between physical dependence and addiction to oxycodone. Learn how to identify and treat both. More here.

minute read

A mental or physical problem?

When you start needing oxycodone to function normally, there is a problem. However, the problem could be physical, psychological, or both. How do you know the difference?

When you become physically dependent on oxycodone, a sudden decrease in regular dosing can lead to abrupt and harsh withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, medical professionals diagnose oxycodone addiction when a person feels a strong urge for the drug, obsesses over obtaining and using it, and is unable to stop. One set of symptoms is physical (drug dependence), while the other is characterized as mental (addiction).

Are you or someone you know physically dependent on oxycodone? Help is readily available. In this article, we review the signs of oxycodone addiction and offer alternatives for getting help. At the end, we welcome your questions in the comments section.  In fact, we try to answer all real life questions as quickly as possible.

Physical dependence on oxycodone

Physical dependence and addiction to oxycodone describe two different conditions with different manifestations. One thing they have in common is that both physical dependence and addiction come as a result of chronic oxycodone use.

Physical dependence to oxycodone is a state of adaptation. Drug dependence is an adaptive state in the brain that develops from repeated drug administration; it results in withdrawal upon cessation of drug use. This is why you can only really know that you are dependent on a drug like oxycodone by abruptly discontinuing or rapidly reducing dosage.

How does dependence occur?

Dependence develops when the neurons of the central nervous system adapt to repeated drug exposure. What’s truly happening in the nervous system? The brain and body are constantly seeking a state of balance called “homeostasis”.  So to account for the depressant effects of oxycodone, the brain “speed ups” certain functions.  In a way, the body adapts to oxycodone for its own survival.

When you become drug-dependent, the chemistry in your brain has changed. Over time, the body can only function normally in the presence of the drug. So when the drug is taken away, several physiologic reactions occur. (These symptoms are actually the suppressed “sped up” functions that “rebound” once oxycodone is no longer present to balance them out.) Symptoms can range from mild to very serious. Often, a person will use the drug again to avoid the withdrawal syndrome.

Physical signs oxycodone dependence

There are several symptoms which may signal the start of physical oxycodone dependence. If you recognize your behavior among these symptoms, you probably need to question your oxycodone dependence. Signs of oxycodone dependence include:

  1. Increased tolerance to oxycodone – This means that the user needs more oxycodone in order to feel therapeutic effects. As tolerance increases, the regular doses don’t provide the same effects anymore, so the amount of oxycodone needs to increase.
  2. Using oxycodone to prevent withdrawal symptoms – When you quit or lower doses, withdrawal symptoms occur. If you are taking oxycodone just to stop the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that appear as the drug is eliminated from your system, you are physically dependent on it.
  3. Occurrence of withdrawal symptoms – As mentioned above, these symptoms occur when the user stops taking oxycodone. They signal that your body has gotten accustomed to the presence of oxycodone and cannot maintain it’s balance without it.

Physically dependent oxycodone users may manifest visible changes in it’s appearance and behavior due to oxycodone withdrawal. These oxycodone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • constipation
  • depression
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • euphoria
  • headache
  • irritability
  • itching
  • mood swings
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sweating

TIP: Tolerance and dependence do not equal addiction! However, this should be the first red flag that continued use and ever increasing amounts can lead problems. If dependence does not result in physical problems, it can progress and trigger the development of an addiction.

Treating addiction to oxycodone

Oxycodone addiction is a chronic disease, caused by genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors . Oxycodone addiction is also characterized by drastic behavioral changes. One quick way to evaluate whether or not you are addicted is to evaluate the Three C’s. If you are displaying any of the following signs, it can help to seek a professional assessment for addiction:

  1. CRAVINGS for oxycodone.
  2. Loss of CONTROL of oxycodone use.
  3. CONTINUED use of oxycodone despite harm.

Every episode of addiction treatment begins with a consensus that there is a present problem and willingness to work towards resolution. So, the first step to treating oxycodone addiction involves the need to accept that there is a problem. If you acknowledge the harm addictive behavior is causing, you’re already on the path to getting better!

During treatment, oxycodone is either slowly withdrawn or stopped abruptly during medical detoxification. Detox is a process of withdrawal from oxycodone done in an safe environment with the support, supervision, and round-the-clock medical care of experienced professionals. Detox is performed mainly in an inpatient setting. Sometimes doctors will prescribe another drug with a similar action or effect (buprenorphine or methadone) to reduce the unwanted side effects and the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.

After detox, addiction treatment aims to get to the root of drug use…this is why talk therapy is such an important tool. When combined with medication assisted treatments, talk therapy can help people unearth old trauma or emotional pain. Talk therapy is individual, group, or family-based. Residential treatment programs in particular have the capacity to monitor and address internal issues. These programs use techniques to get users to recognize their behaviors and learn how to stay oxycodone-free.

Another helpful treatment for oxycodone addiction includes attendance at support group meetings. Most of these groups follow the 12-Step model, however, some like S.O.S. Sobriety or SMART Recovery are psychotherapeutic in nature. It is important to explore every available option that can be helpful. Alternative treatments such as art therapy, music therapy, acupuncture, yoga or mindfulness practices, or even regular exercise can really help!

Physically addicted questions

We hope to have cleared up the distinction between dependence and addiction. But we’re sure that this subject will bring up  questions. Do you still have questions about physical dependence and oxycodone addiction? We invite you to leave your questions below. We try to answer each one personally and promptly, or we’ll refer you to professionals who can help.

Reference sources: University of Wisconsin – School of Medicine and Public: Regulatory Issues & Addiction
Healthdirect: What is addiction?
NIH: Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction
NIDA: Neurobiology of Drug Addiction: Definition of Dependence
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.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?