Oxycodone Effects & Warning Signs

Oxycodone is a synthetic opioid that is present in a number of prescription painkillers, including OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet, and Tylox. Oxycodone’s potency and prevalence have made it a commonly abused substance, both by individuals who seek to self-medicate, as well as those who desire a recreational high.

Understanding Oxycodone

Learn about oxycodone and substance abuse

When a person takes a prescription medication that contains oxycodone, he or she will likely experience a reduction in pain, along with an elevated mood and a sense of relaxation. When the individual limits his or her oxycodone use to the dosage and duration directed by his or her prescribing physician, he or she can safely benefit from the drug’s positive effects.

Regardless of why a person begins to abuse oxycodone, the results can be equally catastrophic. Oxycodone interacts with areas of the brain that also control automatic functions such as respiration and heart rate; thus, individuals who exceed or ignore recommended dosage amounts risk cardiovascular damage, which can be fatal.

In addition to the risk of death, oxycodone abuse also exposes an individual to a host of short and long-term dangers, including the development of an addiction. Known clinically as opioid use disorder, oxycodone addiction can rob a person of the ability to control the amount and frequency with which he or she abuses this substance. It will also cause a person to prioritize the acquisition and use of oxycodone over personal, academic, and professional obligations, as well as other important responsibilities.

When a person attempts to overcome his or her oxycodone addiction by stopping his or her abuse of this dangerous drug, he or she may quickly begin to experience a variety of painful withdrawal symptoms. If the individual does not have effective professional support, these symptoms can be overwhelming and can drive the person even deeper into the downward spiral of oxycodone addiction. Fortunately, there is treatment available for those who seek it, and it is possible to end one’s addiction to oxycodone once and for all.


Oxycodone addiction statistics

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reports that about 1.9 million Americans have a substance use disorder involving prescription painkillers, a category that includes oxycodone addiction. ASAM also reports that women are more likely than men to suffer from chronic pain and to be prescribed pain relievers, and that 48,000 women died from prescription painkiller overdoses between 1998 and 2010.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 81 percent of all prescriptions for oxycodone in the world are written in the United States. NIDA has also reported that between 2001 and 2014, the annual death rate from prescription painkiller overdose in the United States increased by about 340 percent.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for oxycodone addiction

A person’s risk for abusing and becoming addicted to oxycodone may be influenced by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, including, but not limited to, the following:

Genetic: Having a family history of substance abuse can significantly increase a person’s risk for developing an opioid use disorder. The family risk is greatest among individuals who have a parent or sibling who has struggled with addiction or another mental health disorder. Heritable traits such as impulsivity and novelty seeking can also increase a person’s risk for a substance abuse problem involving oxycodone or another opioid.

Environmental: Early exposure to substance abuse through parents, siblings, or friends who abuse oxycodone or another opioid can also be an environmental influence on a person’s susceptibility to developing opioid use disorder. Poverty, trauma, and pain due to injury, surgery, or disease can also raise a person’s risk for oxycodone abuse.

Risk Factors:

  • Gender (women are more likely than men to be prescribed oxycodone)
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Prior substance abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Early exposure to substance abuse
  • Receiving a prescription for oxycodone
  • Trauma
  • Poverty

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction

People who have been abusing or have become addicted to oxycodone may demonstrate a range of symptoms, including, but not limited to, the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Lying, secrecy, and deception
  • Trying to borrow or steal money or goods to exchange for drugs
  • Trying to borrow or steal oxycodone that has been prescribed to someone else
  • Trying to fraudulently obtain a prescription for oxycodone or attempting to acquire this drug via another illicit means
  • Habitual absences from school or work
  • Declining performance in school or at work
  • Attempting but failing to end one’s use of oxycodone
  • Abusing oxycodone when it is obviously risky or reckless to do so, such as when also abusing another substance or when driving a car
  • Abusing oxycodone even after experiencing negative outcomes from prior use

Physical symptoms:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Weight loss
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive yawning
  • Itchiness
  • Faint pulse
  • Shallow, slow, and/or labored breathing
  • Problems with balance, coordination, and reflexes
  • Numbness to pain

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired judgment
  • Difficulty with concentration or focus
  • Poor spatial relations

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Uncharacteristic anger
  • Loss of interest in significant activities

Co-Occurring Disorders

Oxycodone addiction and co-occurring disorders

People who become addicted to oxycodone may also be at risk for the following co-occurring mental health disorders:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


Effects of oxycodone addiction

The continued untreated abuse of oxycodone can lead to several negative effects and outcomes, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Damage to vision
  • Damage to heart and lungs
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Physical injury due to impaired judgment and coordination
  • Family discord
  • Marital strife, including separation and divorce
  • Loss of child custody
  • Damaged or ruined interpersonal relationships
  • Academic failure
  • Job loss
  • Unemployment
  • Financial ruin
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Social withdrawal or ostracization
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicidal actions

Withdrawl & Overdose

Effects of oxycodone withdrawal and overdose

Effects of oxycodone withdrawal: A person who has become addicted to oxycodone may experience the following withdrawal symptoms when he or she attempts to stop his or her abuse of this drug:

  • Intense cravings for oxycodone
  • Loss of appetite
  • Profuse sweating
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Painful abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tics, tremors, and shakiness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Insomnia

Effects of oxycodone overdose: A person who experiences the following symptoms after ingesting oxycodone may have overdosed and is in need of immediate medical attention:

  • Slow or shallow heartbeat
  • Slow, shallow, or labored breathing
  • Pupillary constriction or dilation
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Bluish tint to skin near lips and/or fingertips
  • Cold, clammy skin
Take an Assessment

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