Is Oxycodone Addictive?

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Oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin) is an addictive opioid medication used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It achieves this by binding to specific brain and spinal cord receptors responsible for inducing feelings of euphoria and pain relief. Even when taken as prescribed, oxycodone has the potential for physical and psychological dependence. However, taking it in excessive amounts or for non-medical purposes can significantly increase these risks and hasten the development of addiction.

Oxycodone, like other addictive substances, is dangerous when used in ways for which it was not intended. Although it may be challenging to overcome, recovery is possible using effective, evidence-based approaches that provide individuals with the life skills and support they need to identify triggers, alter dysfunctional behaviors, and prevent relapse long-term. Contact Guardian Recovery today if you’ve been struggling with an opioid use disorder and are motivated to begin your recovery journey.

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Oxycodone Can Become Habit-Forming

Due to oxycodone’s effects on the brain and body, such as relieving pain and promoting a sense of well-being, oxycodone can be habit-forming, especially when taken for an extended period or in higher doses than directed by a doctor. This risk also increases when it’s used recreationally or in combination with other psychoactive substances, such as benzodiazepines or alcohol. Using oxycodone in any of these situations can intensify its effects and result in more severe withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation of use. It also increases the risk of overdose and life-threatening complications.

Moreover, it’s vital to take oxycodone exactly as prescribed and use it only for as long as needed to manage pain. If you are concerned about your oxycodone use or suspect you might be becoming dependent, you are urged to speak to your doctor or an addiction specialist.

How Does Prescription Oxycodone Cause Addiction?

Prescription oxycodone can lead to addiction due to its effects on the brain’s reward center. When it binds to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS), dopamine is released, which is a neurochemical associated with feelings of reward and euphoria. (1)(2)

When oxycodone is taken for an extended period, the brain will gradually adjust to its presence and reduce its natural dopamine production. At this time, a person will begin to feel they need to use oxycodone to experience pleasure and avoid unwanted feelings such as stress, anxiety, or depression. With continued use, this will eventually lead to physical dependence, meaning the body has adapted to oxycodone and requires it to function normally. (3)

Psychological dependence tends to develop alongside physical dependence when a person begins to associate oxycodone use with certain people, activities, places, or emotions. (4) For example, a person may begin to associate oxycodone with stress relief or socializing, leading to a desire to use it in these situations.

Risk Factors for Oxycodone & Opioid Misuse

Several risk factors can increase the likelihood that a person will misuse or develop an addiction to oxycodone or other opioids.

Risk Factors That Increase the Risk of Misuse Include:

  • Previous substance misuse or addiction.
  • Mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
  • Family history of substance misuse or addiction.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Social factors, such as poverty, unemployment, or a lack of social support.
  • Young age.
  • History of trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse.

Although these risk factors do not inevitably mean that a person will develop an addiction to opioids, they are believed to significantly increase the likelihood.

Can You Become Addicted to Oxycodone Accidentally?

Opioid addiction can happen by accident when a person is prescribed the drug to treat pain and develops a tolerance to its effects. (5) Tolerance is a physical condition in which an individual requires increasingly higher doses of a substance to achieve the same pain relief and desirable effects as before, increasing the risk of developing dependence. Accidental addiction can also occur when a person uses opioids recreationally or in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol.

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What Are the Effects of a “High” or Oxycodone Dependence?

Oxycodone is a potential painkiller that can produce short-term effects such as euphoria or a “high” when used in doses in excess of those prescribed or for recreational purposes.

Symptoms of an Oxycodone High Include:

  • Euphoria, or feelings of intense happiness or pleasure.
  • Feelings of relaxation and calm.
  • Drowsiness and sleepiness.
  • Headache and dizziness.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Itching or rashes.
  • Impaired balance and coordination.
  • Confusion.

Oxycodone dependence can also result in a variety of adverse physical, psychological, and social effects.

Common Side Effects of Oxycodone Dependence Include:

  • Drug tolerance. (6)
  • Drug cravings.
  • Constipation.
  • Chronic pain due to increased pain sensitivity (hyperalgesia).
  • Liver or kidney damage.
  • Difficult breathing and profound respiratory depression.
  • Mood changes, such as the development of depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings.
  • Hormonal imbalances, leading to reproductive problems, sexual dysfunction, and other health problems.
  • Social problems, such as relationship conflicts, financial difficulties, and legal issues.
  • Cognitive impairments, including problems with memory, attention, and decision-making.
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, chills, tremors, anxiety, and insomnia
  • Compromised immunity, increasing susceptibility to viruses and infections.
  • Short- and long-term memory problems.

Can You Overdose From Taking Oxycodone?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on oxycodone. Oxycodone can slow down the respiratory system and lead to dangerous breathing problems. Overdosing on oxycodone can result in severe health consequences, including coma, brain damage, and death. The risk of overdose increases when oxycodone is used excessively, in combination with interacting substances, or altered and administered in ways other than as prescribed, such as by crushing pills and snorting them. (7)

Oxycodone Overdose Signs Include:

  • Extremely slow, labored breathing.
  • Blue or purple colored lips and fingernails (cyanosis).
  • Extreme drowsiness or the inability to stay awake.
  • Cold, clammy skin.
  • Slow heartbeat.
  • Unresponsiveness.
  • Loss of consciousness or coma.

If you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing an oxycodone overdose, call 911 and seek emergency medical attention immediately. Administer naloxone (Narcan) if available. An overdose can be life-threatening, and prompt medical intervention is typically necessary to prevent severe complications or death.

Preventing Oxycodone Dependence

Preventing oxycodone dependence involves several strategies, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Limiting the use of oxycodone in amount and duration and taking it only as directed by a medical professional.
  • Look for possible signs of dependence, such as increased tolerance, severe drug cravings, or withdrawal symptoms.
  • Seeking professional help for engaging in misuse, if applicable, or if dependence is suspected.
  • Using alternative pain management strategies, such as physical therapy, acupuncture, and non-opioid pain medications.

If you’ve been prescribed oxycodone, preventing dependence may require vigilance and awareness. If you’ve been misusing the drug, you are urged to seek professional treatment. By following these strategies and seeking professional help if needed, it is possible to reduce the risk of dependence and the potentially serious consequences of oxycodone addiction.

How Is Oxycodone Addiction Treated?

Oxycodone addiction is typically treated using a combination of medications and behavioral therapy. The goal of treatment is to help individuals stop using oxycodone, manage withdrawal symptoms, and prevent relapse. Medications commonly used in the treatment of oxycodone addiction include methadone, naltrexone, and Suboxone, which contains buprenorphine and naloxone. (8) These drugs are FDA approved and can reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral therapy is also an essential component of oxycodone addiction treatment. Behavioral therapies help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that may contribute to addiction. Some commonly used behavioral therapies for oxycodone addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and family therapy.

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Oxycodone misuse and dependence have the potential to hijack a person’s life and leave them battling triggers and cravings on a daily basis. Sometimes these feelings are surmountable, but often, an individual’s control is compromised and drug use becomes their top priority. The longer this pattern of thinking and behaving is allowed to continue, the more challenging it can become to resist. Fortunately, comprehensive, intensive treatment is available to help individuals break the cycle of addiction and possibly save their lives.

At Guardian Recovery, our medical and mental health professionals who specialize in addiction are committed to helping people struggling with active addiction get sober, prevent relapse, and reclaim the healthy, happy lives they deserve. Contact us today to learn more about our streamlined admissions process, comprehensive programs, and full continuum of care. We invite you to speak with a skilled Treatment Advisor today and take the first step in your journey.

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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.pbs.org/newshour/science/brain-gets-hooked-opioids
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22581-dopamine
  3. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/physical-dependence
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/psychological-dependence
  5. https://www.mana.md/accidental-addiction-and-the-opioid-epidemic/
  6. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/drugs/factors-affecting-response-to-drugs/tolerance-and-resistance-to-drugs
  7. https://www.goodrx.com/oxycodone/interactions
  8. https://www.suboxone.com/

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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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