Does Oxycodone Make You Itchy?

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Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid, used to help treat chronic pain, or pain following a surgical procedure. Opioids are naturally found in various poppy plants. Oxycodone is classified as a Schedule II substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration. (1) Schedule II substances are only legal for specific medical purposes. Oxycodone can be prescribed by a doctor, however, even prescription Oxycodone can lead to addiction or dependence. Approximately 14.3 million individuals reported engaging in the misuse of a prescription medication in 2021. (2) Approximately 8.7 million individuals reportedly misused prescription pain relievers, such as Oxycodone, in 2021. (3) Many individuals may become physically or psychologically dependent upon Oxycodone with understanding how it may impact the brain or body.

Here at Guardian Recovery, we offer comprehensive and evidence-based treatment to help individuals experiencing substance and alcohol use disorders. With Oxycodone and other prescription medication specific detoxification services, you or someone you love can begin the initial steps of sobriety in a safe and medically supervised environment. Our trained clinicians and physicians will work with you to aid you in reaching your treatment goals. Contact us today in order to learn more about our specific treatment options.

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How Does Oxycodone Interact With the Body to Cause Itchiness?

Prescription opioids, like Oxycodone, bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the body. (4) Oxycodone specifically binds to the parts of the brain and body responsible for feelings of pain and pleasure. Once Oxycodone enters the body, pain is blocked, and the brain is flooded with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in feelings of pleasure, and the brain’s reward system. (5)

Since Oxycodone is a substance that interacts with the brain and body, it elicits various side effects. One popular question regarding Oxycodone use is does Oxycodone make you itchy? Itchiness, or pruritus, is a side effect of Oxycodone use. Opioid-induced itching is one of the most common side effects associated with prescription pain medications. (6) It is theorized that the way that opioids react with certain cells, and the skin, may be the cause of the side effect of itchiness. (7) Opioids may cause itching due to them triggering an immune system response that affects receptors in cells that contain substances such as histamines. (8) The way that opioids interact with the nervous system may also contribute to the itchiness that they cause. (9) More research is needed in order to determine the exact cause of Oxycodone-induced itchiness.

Do All Opioids Cause Itchiness?

Itchiness has been found to be a side effect of most prescription opioids. (10) Approximately 60 to 90 percent of individuals, in a 2021 study, experienced itchiness after taking an opioid medication. (11)

Other prescription opioids that may cause opioid-induced itchiness include: (12)

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydromorphone
  • Tapentadol
  • Methadone
  • Sufentanil (Dsuvia, Sufenta)

Is Itching an Allergic Reaction to Oxycodone?

The release of histamines often causes an allergic reaction. When an individual ingests Oxycodone, or other opioids, the body releases histamines as if it is an allergic reaction. (13) Although the itchiness caused by Oxycodone is not an allergic reaction, the body responds similarly. If you are experiencing itchiness after taking an opioid, it is important to speak with your doctor in order to determine if it is a side-effect of the drug, or an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions can be fatal and lead to anaphylactic shock.

Factors That Affect Oxycodone-Induced Itchiness

Oxycodone, and other substances, can affect individuals differently. Some people may experience more physical reactions to Oxycodone than others. (14) Itchiness may vary depending on the route, type, and dosage of Oxycodone used. (15) Itchiness caused by opioids, such as sufentanil or fentanyl, may cause itchiness for shorter periods of time. (16) Itchiness caused by morphine or Oxycodone often lasts for longer periods of time and is more difficult to treat.  Pregnant women were found to experience opioid-induced itching more when compared to other individuals. (17) The increase in itchiness in pregnant women, after being prescribed opioids, may be due to how estrogen interacts with opioid receptors. (18)

How to Manage Itchiness Caused by Oxycodone

Treating and managing itchiness caused by Oxycodone is challenging. Research from Washington University has found that nalfurafine hydrochloride, brand name Remitch, can provide relief from Oxycodone-induced itching. (19)

Other medications that can be used instead of opioids to combat Oxycodone-induced itchiness include: (20)

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Anesthetics
  • Antihistamines
  • Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (Ibuprofen, Aspirin, etc.)

Other alternatives to opioids to help reduce Oxycodone-induced itchiness include: (21)

  • Acupuncture
  • Cold and heat therapy
  • Exercise or movement
  • Massages
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy

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Other Side Effects of Oxycodone Use

In addition to itchiness, there are other common side effects associated with Oxycodone use.

Common side effects associated with Oxycodone use include: (22)

  • General feelings of sickness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Sleepiness or tiredness
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Confusion
  • Headaches

There are more serious side effects that can occur with Oxycodone use. It is important that you seek emergency medical care if you or someone you know are experiencing serious side effects of Oxycodone.

Serious side effects associated with Oxycodone use include: (23)

  • Muscle stiffness
  • Extreme or worsening dizziness
  • Extreme or worsening tiredness
  • Serious allergic reaction

Signs of Oxycodone Addiction or Opioid Use Disorder

Understanding the signs and symptoms associated with Oxycodone addiction, prescription medication dependence, or opioid use disorder can help determine if you or someone you know are experiencing it.

Signs and symptoms of Oxycodone addiction or opioid use disorder include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Weight loss
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Decreased libido
  • Neglecting hygiene
  • Difficulties controlling Oxycodone use
  • Having unsuccessful attempts of cutting back or quitting Oxycodone use
  • Social isolation since Oxycodone use
  • Stealing from friends or family in order to maintain Oxycodone use
  • Experiencing financial or legal issues since Oxycodone use
  • Developing tolerance or the need to increase Oxycodone intake in order to reach the desired effects
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms

Luckily, treatment for Oxycodone dependence and opioid use disorder is available.

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If you or someone you know is finding it difficult to control Oxycodone use, or other prescription medication use, professional treatment may be necessary. Here at Guardian Recovery, we offer various levels of care, such as residential inpatient or intensive outpatient, to help meet your treatment needs. With psychoeducation and dual diagnosis treatment options, we offer programs for those experiencing co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. One of our Treatment Advisors can speak with you and help you get started. With services such as interventions and virtual treatment options available, we are dedicated to aiding you or a loved one through this wellness journey. A free, no obligation insurance benefits check can be provided upon your request. Contact Guardian Recovery today to start your road to recovery.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling
  2. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-scope-prescription-drug-misuse
  3. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-scope-prescription-drug-misuse
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
  5. https://www.britannica.com/science/dopamine
  6. https://patient.practicalpainmanagement.com/conditions/what-pain-patients-can-do-relieve-their-itching
  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/opioid-itch
  8. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/opioid-itch
  9. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/opioid-itch
  10. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/opioid-itch
  11. https://pubs.asahq.org/anesthesiology/article/135/2/350/115939/Evaluation-of-Therapies-for-Peripheral-and
  12. https://www.cdc.gov/rxawareness/information/index.html
  13. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264419
  14. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/opioid-itch
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3788225/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3788225/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3788225/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3788225/
  19. https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/new-clues-point-to-relief-for-chronic-itching/
  20. https://www.asahq.org/madeforthismoment/pain-management/non-opioid-treatment/
  21. https://www.asahq.org/madeforthismoment/pain-management/non-opioid-treatment/
  22. https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/oxycodone/side-effects-of-oxycodone/
  23. https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/oxycodone/side-effects-of-oxycodone/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

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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