oxycodone addiction and abuse

oxycodone addiction and abuse

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a prescription pain medication used to treat moderate to severe pain, with addictive properties and physiological side effects.1 This opioid belongs to the group of pain medicines called Narcotic Analgesics. It directly impacts the Central Nervous System (CNS) to relieve pain.

Oxycodone comes in two forms: Immediate-release or Extended-Release. The extended-release tablet slowly delivers the medication throughout the body throughout the day, whereas the immediate-release tablet begins relieving pain within 15 to 30 minutes after consumption.

Common Brand Names for Oxycodone

Although oxycodone is the generic name, familiarizing oneself with the several branded names would help prevent overusing the same medication that would lead to an overdose.2


Percocet is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen. This pharmaceutical is an opioid. Oxycodone Acetaminophen or Percocet are usually prescribed post-surgery to relieve pain and to enhance recovery. For example, Percocet is a common pharmaceutical medication for post-cesarian births.3

Side Effects

Some of the possible side effects include:

  • Slowed breathing or low blood pressure: This usually only occurs when the medication dose is too high or increased too quickly.
  • Sleepiness: Feeling sleepy, tired, or lightheaded may accompany the use of opioid pain medication.
  • Addiction, Tolerance, and Dependence: Opioid medications have addictive properties and are more likely to develop into an addiction when used by people who are not in pain. Even in cases of a prescription, as a person takes regular doses of opioids, their bodies will begin to adapt to the medications in as little as a week. This adaptation causes tolerance, but it can also cause dependence.
  • Liver Toxicity: This medication can cause liver toxicity.
  • Constipation: Constipation is a widespread side effect of pain medications.
  • Nausea or Vomiting: Nausea, with or without vomiting, can be a side effect of opioid pain medications.
  • Serotonin Syndrome: This medication can cause a high serotonin level in your body, which in rare cases can lead to serotonin syndrome. Symptoms can include shivering, agitation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, fever, seizures, and muscle function changes.
  • Adrenal Insufficiency: Adrenal insufficiency, or impaired function of the adrenal gland, is a rare but severe side effect of taking this medication. It most often occurs after taking the medication for one month or longer.
  • Allergic Reaction: Some people experience allergic reactions to certain opioid preparations.”


OxyNeo is the new oxycodone hydrochloride controlled-release tablets formulated to reduce misuse. The idea behind the OxyNeo tablet is the delayed process of consumption due to its chemical properties.4 When the OxyNeo tablet is mixed with water, it becomes a thick, gel-like substance, which is difficult to inject.4

Despite the hopes of the new Oxycodone formula, the OxyNeo, reducing substance misuse – Health Canada continues to warn that OxyNeo is not exempt from misusage and can still result in an overdose. An overdose can occur either through ingesting the tablet or administering the prescription in doses higher than the recommended amount.

Common Street Names for Oxycodone

  • O.C.
  • Oxycet
  • Oxycotton
  • Oxy
  • Hillbilly Heroin
  • Percs

What is the Difference Between Oxycodone-IR and Oxycodone-CR?

The difference is in the Oxycodone dosage. The Controlled-release formula, also known as Oxycodone-CR, contains more Oxycodone dosage (5 mg to 80 mg) than the immediate-release formula Oxycodone-IR (5 mg to 20 mg). This difference minimizes the dosing frequency. 4 When the controlled-release tablet is swallowed whole, some oxycodone is released immediately; the rest is released into the body slowly due to a protective coating. However, if the tablet is chewed, crushed, or dissolved, the medication is released all at once. This chewing may happen accidentally or deliberately to achieve a high.

The Difference between Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone

Hydrocodone and Oxycodone are both classified as opioids prescribed to treat symptoms of moderate-to-severe pain. Both medications are available in extended-release forms for ongoing treatment over a week.

The differences between Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone are that they vary slightly in side effects. Due to the addictive properties of both medications – neither Hydrocodone nor Oxycodone are fitting for everyone. Anyone with a history of substance use disorder should avoid taking them.

Opioid analgesics work by impacting pain processing within the brain and central nervous system. Hydrocodone and Oxycodone are both labeled Schedule II drugs, equivalent to a high potential for abuse.

How Does a Drug Addiction Develop?

The concept of addiction often carries several misconceptions, either due to misleading information or the lack of familiarity with the cycle of addiction. Understand the cycle of addiction is one of the most important ways of preventing its continuation.

Prescription Use

Although this medication requires a prescription from a licensed doctor, prescribed medication can quickly start an addiction cycle. This cycle can begin from left-over prescribed substances, accessing prescribed substances from others, or becoming dependent on the prescribed substance. This cycle does not favor any age group and can affect people as younger than teenagers.

The most common prescription drugs abused include:5

  • Opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Norco
  • Anti-anxiety medication and sedatives such as Xanax, Valium, Ambien
  • Stimulants such as Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall XR, Mydayis, Dexedrine


According to John Hopkins Medicine, Substance dependence is the medical term used to describe the abuse of drugs or alcohol that continues even when significant problems related to their use have developed.6

Signs of dependence include:

  • Tolerance; needing an increase in the substance for effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms at the decrease of the substance
  • When recovering from the substance effects takes much time
  • Withdrawing oneself from recreational or social opportunities
  • Continues use of the substance despite the division it brings between family and loved ones


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “[a]ddiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.”

The problem with addiction stems from the initial purpose of consuming a substance once

“but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge self-control and interfere with the ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.”7

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction?

Opioids are powerful pain-relieving medications. Oxycodone is a good recovery option for someone in short-term pain. However, this does not take away from the fact that opioids, like Oxycodone, are highly associated with substance abuse at high rates, addiction, and overdose. There are ways to identify when an addiction to Oxycodone is taking place.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the following are signs of addiction:

Physical Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shallow or slowed breathing

Behavioral Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Poor judgment or decision-making
  • Shirking responsibilities
  • Sleep trouble and change to sleep patterns

Signs of Oxycodone Overdose

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse,

“[a]n opioid overdose occurs when a person uses enough of the drug to produce life-threatening symptoms or death. When people overdose on opioid medication, their breathing often slows or stops. The slowed breathing can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, which can result in coma, permanent brain damage, or death.”

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction?

As with any medication, the wanted effects should occur – yet unwanted side effects may also occur. Oxycodone side effects vary between short- and long-term effects.8

Oxycodone Short-Term Effects

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Euphoria
  • Slowed breathing

Oxycodone Long-Term Effects

Hypoxia is a long-term Oxycodone side effect.8 This being a condition in which little oxygen reaches the brain, resulting in psychological and neurological effects. These effects include coma, permanent brain damage, or even death.

Signs of Oxycodone Withdrawal

Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as a few hours after the last dosage.8


The symptoms are uncomfortable in many cases of opioid use disorders. The symptoms include:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cold flashes and goosebumps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Severe cravings

Oxycodone Treatment Options

Oxycodone treatments include both medicine and behavioral therapy to help address the substance use disorder.


Detox centers are an effective way to detox from prescription medicine. With trained medical and clinical professionals, detox centers are a safe and supportive way to evaluate and address your needs.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatments target the brain’s receptors. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse,

“Two medicines, buprenorphine, and methadone, work by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain as the opioid medicines, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Another medicine, naltrexone, blocks opioid receptors and prevents opioid drugs from having an effect.”8

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab includes behavioral therapy that focuses on changing how individuals with a substance use disorder behave and perceive their relationship to the substances. 10 Some examples include cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps modify drug use expectations and behaviors while also effectively managing triggers and stress.9


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