Does Oxycodone Cause Constipation?

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Oxycodone is an addictive prescription opioid medication. It is a semi-synthetic opioid, and it is produced by modifying alkaloids found in opium. (1) Opium is a natural substance found in poppy plants. (2) Oxycodone is used to help treat chronic pain or pain following a surgical procedure. Oxycodone can produce various adverse effects, especially if used chronically or repeatedly. Since the opioid produces side effects such as gastrointestinal issues, individuals often wonder does oxycodone cause constipation? Oxycodone use may cause constipation.

In addition to constipation, psychological and physical dependence can occur with oxycodone use. Approximately 14.3 million individuals reported that they misused a prescription medication in 2021. (3) The same year, approximately 8.7 million people reported that they engaged in the misuse of prescription pain relievers. Approximately 5 million individuals were diagnosed with opioid use disorder in 2021. (4)

Here at Guardian Recovery, we are committed to reducing these statistics through the use of evidence-based treatment. We provide opioidoxycodone, and prescription medication specific detoxification services. With different levels of care available such as residential inpatient and partial hospitalization, we have programs that can help individuals from all walks of life, experiencing varying severities of substance use disorders. Contact us today for more information and to get started on your wellness journey.

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Do All Opioids Cause Constipation?

Constipation occurs when an individual has difficulties passing stool or infrequent bowel movements. (5) Constipation can make it painful to pass stools. Constipation is a common side effect of opioid use. A study found that a large range of opioid-induced incidences occur, with approximately 15 to 81 percent of individuals experiencing constipation due to opioid use. (6) The way that opioids affect the body is what causes an individual to experience constipation. Opioid-induced constipation can happen immediately after oxycodone use is started or it can develop gradually. (7)

Prescription opioids that can cause opioid-induced constipation include: (8)

  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza)
  • Buprenorphine (Belbuca, Probuphine, Buprenex)
  • Hydromorphone
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Meperidine
  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Tapentadol
  • Methadone

How Does Oxycodone Affect Bowel Movement?

Oxycodone, and other opioids are central nervous depressants. (9) Central nervous system depressants slow down the brain and the body. Oxycodone slows down the movement of stools as they travel through the intestines. (10) This causes bowel movements to spend more time in the body, removing water from stool. This makes one’s stool dry, hard, and difficult to pass through the body.

Symptoms & Side Effects of Opioid-Induced Constipation

Constipation caused by opioid use can lead to other unwanted symptoms as well.

Symptoms and side effects associated with opioid-induced constipation include: (11)

  • Cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Experiencing a feeling of fullness
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Rectal fissures
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Constantly feeling as if one needs to use the bathroom
  • Infection
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss

What Medications Or Laxatives Help With Constipation?

Opioid-induced constipation does not remedy itself like regular constipation does if one changes their diet. Increasing fiber intake usually alleviates constipation symptoms, however, this is not the same for opioid-induced constipation. Increasing your fiber intake can actually worsen the symptoms associated with opioid-induced constipation. (12) When prescribed opioids, a doctor may encourage the individual to take laxatives as well in order to help with opioid-induced constipation. Laxatives can be purchased over the counter.

Laxatives for opioid-induced constipation work in 2 ways. (13) The first, stimulant laxatives, help move stools through the body. Sennosides is a type of stimulant laxative that can be taken in pill or liquid form. (14) The second, osmotic laxatives prevent stools from becoming dry by helping liquid stay in the bowels. Laxatives must be taken every day during oxycodone use in order for them to be effective. (15) PEG is a type of osmotic laxative that is especially beneficial for those who have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. (16)

Medications That Should Not Be Taken to Help Treat Opioid-Induced Constipation

There are certain laxative medications that should be taken to help treat constipation caused by opioid use.

Laxative that should not be taken to help with constipation include: (17)

  • Liquid laxatives containing magnesium or mineral oil – These medications may not be safe to take in addition to laxatives. Talk to your doctor before taking one of these.
  • Bulk-forming laxatives – These laxatives are a type of fiber, which is ineffective in treating opioid-induced constipation. They can also worsen constipation if enough fluids are not consumed.
  • Docusate (i.e. Colace) – This medication is a stool softener, however, it has been found to not be helpful in treating opioid-induced constipation.

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Can Constipation Due to Oxycodone Use Be Prevented?

Constipation due to oxycodone use can not necessarily be prevented, though there are some steps that can be taken to help reduce the severity of it. Opioid-induced constipation can be so uncomfortable that many individuals stop opioid use in order to relieve the effects on the gastrointestinal tract. For individuals who have been prescribed opioids, your doctor will discuss your bowel history in order to understand the best course of action to take. When an individual begins opioid use, some non-pharmacological measures may be taken in order to help with the severity of opioid-induced constipation.

Non-pharmacological options that can be used to help with opioid-induced constipation include: (18)

  • Increasing ones fluid intake
  • Engaging In frequent exercise

Exercise has not been found to be a scientifically supported way to prevent opioid-induced constipation. However, a study consisting of chronically constipated individuals, who did not regularly exercise, found that moderate physical activity improved their gastrointestinal health. (19)

Other side effects associated with Oxycodone Use

Constipation is not the only adverse effect associated with oxycodone use. Oxycodone can lead to a number of side effects ranging from

Common side effects associated with oxycodone use include: (20)

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Itchiness
  • Red eyes
  • Flushed skin

More serious oxycodone side effects can occur. It is important to contact your doctor or to seek emergency medical care if you or someone you know experience any serious oxycodone side effects.

Serious side effects associated with oxycodone use include: (21)

  • Changes in heart rate
  • Agitation or aggressiveness
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Hives or rashes
  • Swelling of the hands, feet, or face
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Seizures
  • Lightheadedness when moving

Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

Understanding the signs of oxycodone addiction can help identify if you or a loved one are experiencing a substance use disorder.

Signs of oxycodone addiction include:

  • Difficulties controlling oxycodone use
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop oxycodone use
  • Stealing money or oxycodone from friends and family in order to maintain use
  • Experiencing social, occupational, and relation impairments since oxycodone use
  • Experiencing an increase in risk-taking behavior
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Experiencing changes in sleeping patterns
  • Experiencing a lack of motivation
  • Developing tolerance, or needing more oxycodone in order to reach the desired effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

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Treatment for Oxycodone Misuse

Fortunately, treatment is available for oxycodone addiction. Here at Guardian Recovery, we offer comprehensive treatment options to help you or a loved one experiencing opioid use disorder. With dual diagnosis treatment, we can provide you with treatment for co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. A free, no obligation insurance benefits check can be provided upon your request. Contact us today, and start your road to recovery with Guardian Recovery.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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