Signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction

Specific signs indicate a person is addicted to oxycodone. Increased tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and obsessive thinking about oxycodone are a few. More signs of oxycodone addiction here.

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

ARTICLE OVERVIEW: If you are worried that someone close to you is addicted to oxycodone, there are a few easy ways to tell.  The amount of time a person spends talking about or using oxycodone is one indicator.  Mixing alcohol and oxycodone or other drug combinations are also a red flag.  Here, we review the most telltale signs of oxycodone addiction…and what you can do about it.


What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a narcotic painkiller available in the United States only by prescription. Is legitimately prescribed for relief of moderate to severe pain resulting from injuries, bursitis, neuralgia, arthritis, and cancer. But people abuse oxycodone for the euphoric effect it produces, an effect similar to that associated with heroin use. [1]

Oxycodone is marketed either alone as controlled release (OxyContin) and immediate release formulations (OxyIR, OxyFast, RoxyBond), or in combination with other nonnarcotic analgesics such as aspirin (Percodan) or acetaminophen (Percocet). In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved generic forms of controlled release oxycodone products for marketing. The introduction in 1996 of OxyContin, commonly known on the street as OC, OX, Oxy, Oxycotton, Hillbilly heroin, and kicker, led to a marked escalation of its abuse as reported by drug abuse treatment centers, law enforcement personnel, and health care professionals. [2] [3]

How Oxycodone Works

The endogenous opioids inside oxycodone bind to special receptors, called opioid receptors, in the central nervous system to activate several effects in the body. When an endogenous opioid attaches to this receptor, it can lead to several effects in the body including:

  • Analgesia to relieve pain.
  • Constipation.
  • Slowing down of breathing.
  • Tiredness.

Oxycodone manipulates this natural process by activating the same receptors that the endogenous opioids do. It mimics the effect of natural opioids in the body.  It can also decrease the transmission of pain impulses in the body by interrupting the pain messages in the spinal cord and interfering with the messages coming from the brain in the central nervous system. [4]

Here’s a diagram from NIDA for Teens of the main brain regions activated by opioids and opiates like oxycodone in the brain. [5]

Onset of Effects

Onset of effects depends upon mode of administration. The effects of oxycodone starts in only 20 to 30 minutes after taking a dose orally. Oxycodone reaches maximum concentrations in the bloodstream in about 1 or 2 hours after ingestion. This FDA drug label outlines onset and duration of oxycodone doses over time.

The prolonged and controlled release formulations can take from 3 to 4 hours to reach the maximum concentration in the bloodstream.

Effects on the Body

Oxycodone affects everyone differently, but main effects usually include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating.
  • Constipation.
  • Deep vein thrombosis and clots causing loss of limbs, damage to organs, stroke and possibly death.
  • Difficulty urinating.
  • Dizziness or faintness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Euphoria or negative mood.
  • Excess sweating, flushing and itching.
  • Infection including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS (when it is injected).
  • Mild allergic rash or hives.
  • Pain relief.
  • Restlessness.
  • Slow pulse.
  • Stiff muscles.
  • Stomach ache and nausea.
  • Tiredness.
  • Vein damage and scarring.

Regular use of oxycodone may cause:

  • Dental problems.
  • Financial, work or social problems.
  • Mood swings.
  • Needing to use more to get the same effect.
  • Reduced sex drive and decreased level of testosterone (in males) and menstrual problems (in females).
  • Swelling in the arms and legs.

Addictive Potential

Q: Is Oxycodone addictive?
A: Yes, oxycodone is highly addictive.

In fact, oxycodone abuse has been a continuing problem since the early 1960s. Oxycodone is abused for its euphoric effects. Its effects are similar to that of heroin. This recent Washington Post article looks at the relationship between oxy and heroin. [6]

The large amount of oxycodone present in controlled release formulations (OxyContin) renders these products highly attractive to opioid abusers and doctor-shoppers. They are abused either as intact tablets or by crushing or chewing the tablet and then swallowing, snorting or injecting. Products containing oxycodone in combination with acetaminophen or aspirin are abused orally. Abusing oxycodone can easily lead to addiction.

In the United States, oxycodone is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. [7] Schedule II is the second most dangerous classification of drugs. Drugs in this classification have limited medicinal value and pose a serious risk of abuse and addiction; this means that oxycodone:

  • Has a currently accepted medical use.
  • Has a high potential for abuse.
  • May lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Signs and Symptoms

Addiction to oxycodone can cause induced mood disorders. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states these can be characterized by a persistent disturbance in mood, such as being depressed or irritable. Further, the following criteria are a general guide for substance addiction, including oxycodone:

  • Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships.
  • Continuing to use, even when it puts you in danger.
  • Continuing to use, even when physical or psychological problems may be made worse by use.
  • Craving.
  • Giving up important activities because of use.
  • Inability to manage commitments due to use.
  • Increasing tolerance.
  • Spending a lot of time to get, use, or recover from use.
  • Using in larger amounts or for longer than intended.
  • Wanting to cut down or stop using, but not managing to.
  • Withdrawal symptoms.

Persons exhibiting fewer than two of the symptoms are not considered to have a substance use disorder, or addiction to methadone. However, those people exhibiting two or three symptoms are considered to have a “mild” addiction, four or five symptoms constitutes a “moderate” disorder, and six or more symptoms is considered a “severe” substance use disorder. [8]

Physical symptoms of oxycodone addiction can also be present, which are the result of use and withdrawal, such as:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Muscle and bone pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Nodding off.
  • Sweating.


Thankfully, oxycodone addiction can be treated medically. Main treatments include a combination of medicines and psychotherapy. [9]

Something to remember is that oxycodone addiction symptoms manifest because of chemical dependency and psychological processes. Once the physical addiction is disrupted, the mental symptoms need to be addressed. Behavioral therapy is a commonly used treatment, as many addicts have underlying emotional issues that require attention. Help can be sought from clinics and even local practitioners, who can provide referrals.

Pharmaceutical treatments can be used to stop the effects of oxycodone, such as opiate blockers. This type of opioid addiction can be treated with medicines like buprenorphine and methadone, both of which address cravings. Buprenorphine and naloxone are also prescribed to address oxycodone withdrawal and dependency. [10]

Finally, there is a range of addiction treatments modalities out there based in psychotherapy. These behavioral treatments are listed in the National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices and include inpatient and outpatient options. Usually, you can either visit a clinic but go home afterwards, or stay for a period of time to receive treatment in a residential setting. This option is typically for those with stronger oxycodone addictions, or who can benefit from avoiding temptation at home. [11]

How To Get Help

If your use of oxycodone is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situations, you can seek help and support. Where? Seek an initial assessment from your family doctor or general physician…or look into these clinical assessments for addiction online or in downloadable form. Then, seek a referral to a specialist. The medical and behavioral healthcare professionals who diagnose addiction include:

  • Clinical social workers
  • Licensed psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Medical doctors who specialize in addiction medicine (ASAM) [12]

Otherwise, you might try an intervention on a loved one, which come in two forms: informal, and formal. The goal is to get the addict into oxycodone addiction treatment. An informal intervention typically involves close family or friends sitting down with the oxycodone addict and discussing the problem. During this talk, you discuss how the drug use is affecting other people close to the oxycodone addict.

A formal intervention involves professionals, such as counsellors, psychiatrists, or certified interventionists. You can find a professional interventionist on the Association of Intervention Specialists website online. Or call, our hotline number above for more information about treatment options. [13] Oxycodone addiction is a huge problem, but you are not alone. We can help you to face it.

Your Questions

If you have any questions or comments regarding the signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction, please leave a comment below. We will respond to you personally!

Reference Sources: [1] PUBCHEM: Oxycodone
[2] FDA: OxyContin
[3] FDA: Timeline Of Selected FDA Activities And Significant Events Addressing Opioid Misuse And Abuse
[4] DEA: Drugs Of Abuse
[6] THE WASHINTON POST: Despite Decline In Prescriptions, Opioid Deaths Skyrocketing Due To Heroin And Synthetic Drugs
[7] FEDERAL REGISTER: Single-Ingredient, Immediate-Release Drug Products Containing Oxycodone For Oral Administration And Labeled For Human Use; Enforcement Action Dates
[8] APA: Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM–5)
[9] SAMHSA: Behavioral Health Treatments And Services
[10] NYC.GOV: Opioid Addiction Treatment With Buprenorphine And Methadone
[11] SAMHSA: National Registry Of Evidence-Based Programs And Practices (NREPP)
[12] ASAM: American Society Of Addiction Medicine
[13] AIS: About The Association Of Intervention Specialists
CESAR: Oxycodone
DEA: Oxycodone
FDA: OxyContin Label
NDIC: OxyContin Fast Facts
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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