Oxycodone Addiction

Oxycodone is one of the strongest drugs used for pain relief. In addition to pain relief, oxycodone causes sedation, feelings of euphoria and depression of the respiratory drive. The drug has been FDA-approved in the U.S. since 1976.

What is Oxycodone Addiction?

Oxycodone is one of the strongest pain relieving drugs. Brand names of drugs containing oxycodone include OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan and Roxicodone.

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid drug derived from the opium poppy plant. Like all opioid drugs, it has a high potential for addiction. This is because it produces a euphoric high that is difficult to resist. The potential for physical dependence and tolerance is also high for this drug.

Oxycodone addiction can happen to anyone. It is common for people using it medicinally to increase their doses over time. Other people will seek it out illegally.

Common street names of oxycodone include “blue,” “hillbilly heroin,” “oxy,” “oxy 80s” and “kickers.”

Health Risks of Oxycodone

Oxycodone is believed to stimulate the opioid receptors in the brain. This leads to a decrease in pain and an increase in pain tolerance. However, even in normal doses, oxycodone can result in life-threatening complications.

Most complications caused by oxycodone relate to respiratory depression. This occurs within the first 24 to 73 hours of starting the drug or increasing the dose. Therefore, the drug is not recommended for people with lung diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Older adults and people who are sick or malnourished are more susceptible to the adverse effects of oxycodone. People with head injuries should also avoid oxycodone.

Taking certain drugs with oxycodone increases the risk of life-threatening breathing complications.

Drugs that increase the dangers of oxycodone include:

  • Alcohol
  • Sedative or tranquilizer drugs
  • Certain antibiotics like clarithromycin and erythromycin
  • Antifungal drugs like itraconazole, voriconazole and ketoconazole
  • Benzodiazepine drugs like alprazolam, clonazepam, chlordiazepoxide, lorazepam, temazepam, triazolam and diazepam
  • The anti-seizure drug carbamazepine

Common side effects from taking these types of drugs with oxycodone include sleepiness, lightheadedness or dizziness, respiratory depression and decreased level of consciousness.

Oxycodone Addiction Signs & Symptoms

In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the phrase “oxycodone addiction” has been renamed “opioid use disorder.”

According to the DSM-5, a person must have at least two symptoms of oxycodone use within the past 12 months to qualify as having opioid use disorder. The more symptoms present, the more severe the disease.

A person is addicted to oxycodone if they have at least six of the following symptoms:

  • You took oxycodone in larger amounts and for a longer period of time than intended
  • You want to stop taking oxycodone but cannot do so
  • A large portion of your life is spent using oxycodone, recovering from its use and obtaining the drug
  • You have strong desires and cravings to use oxycodone
  • Your social life, relationships, work-related activities or finances are suffering due to the drug
  • Your drug use causes risky behaviors that do not convince you to stop using the drug
  • You experience negative physical and psychological effects from oxycodone, but do not decrease your drug use
  • You are physically tolerant to the drug
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms from decreasing or stopping the drug

There are specific behavioral signs of oxycodone addiction, including:

  • Chronic fatigue (even when sleeping enough)
  • Inability to perform complex cognitive tasks that affect daily activities
  • Appearing disheveled and lacking in good personal hygiene
  • Withdrawing from your social life and relationships
  • Being secretive about oxycodone use
  • Having drug paraphernalia

Oxycodone can be taken orally as an immediate-release or extended-release pill. It can also be crushed and inhaled, dissolved and injected through an IV, taken rectally as a drug enema or smoked.

Drug paraphernalia is common if the drug is smoked or injected. Those struggling with oxycodone addiction may have many bottles of the drug. Sometimes, their drug bottles will have different people’s names or be prescribed by different doctors.

Injection paraphernalia includes needles, a spoon or container to heat the drug and a heat source. A person may have pipes or aluminum foil if they are smoking the drug.

Author:Kent Hoffman
Kent Hoffman

Kent Hoffman, D.O. has been practicing medicine for nearly 30 years. He is board-certified to practice addiction medicine and family medicine. Dr. Hoffman gets to know his patients on a first-name basis to provide compassionate and professional health care.

Last modified: 01/14/2019