Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects of Oxycodone Abuse

Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects of Oxycodone Abuse

Last Updated: January 17, 2023

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The opioid epidemic in the United States has many consequences — some falling directly on the person abusing opioids as well as indirect consequences on the person’s community. One of the main drivers of the opioid epidemic is oxycodone, the active ingredient in brand name prescriptions such as OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan and Tylox. Oxycodone addiction can happen to anyone though it may be initially hard to recognize in friends, acquaintances or loved ones until a tolerance or dependence is established. Everyone struggling with oxycodone addiction has a unique oxycodone addiction story.

Understanding the signs, symptoms and the side effects of oxycodone addiction is critical. Many individuals that abuse oxycodone may try to keep their addiction a secret from their loved ones and will take even more steps to disguise it than those who openly share their addiction. Nevertheless, there are some tell-tale signs of oxycodone addiction that individuals can learn to recognize.

How Do You Get Addicted to Oxycodone?

People may wonder if they can get addicted to oxycodone the first time they try it. Generally speaking, most people will not become addicted to oxycodone after the first time, but there are always exceptions to the rule. A second question people may wonder is how can they not get addicted to oxycodone, particularly if they are prescribed the drug after surgery. First, it is possible for individuals to become addicted to oxycodone by the time their prescription runs out, even if they use it as prescribed. Second, it is also possible for people who use oxycodone recreationally or obtain it by illegal means to easily become addicted, especially in situations where the drug is unregulated. It has long been known that prescription opioids and especially oxycodone can be dangerous and addictive.

Upon entering the body, opioids bind to receptors in the central nervous system and activate them. After many upstream signaling changes, the downstream effects of opioid binding in the body involve the release of neurotransmitters that are associated with feelings of calmness and euphoria. Over time, individuals may develop a tolerance to oxycodone as they need a higher concentration of the drug to attain the same euphoric feeling as when they first started taking it.

Though the research may be scant, individuals develop oxycodone addictions beyond just physiological changes. Some individuals experience great hardship and struggle in their lives and use drugs to numb the pain. Oxycodone may at first be used to treat physical pain, but individuals can “self-medicate” in a futile attempt to treat their psychological pain. Even more dangerous, a person whose prescription for oxycodone ran out may seek out other stronger and more dangerous opioids like heroin and fentanyl.

Symptoms of Oxycodone Abuse

There are many different symptoms of oxycodone abuse. Some symptoms are physical while some are psychological. Oxycodone addiction symptoms may vary depending on the person, whether a person has developed tolerance or whether a person had developed a physical dependence on the drug and goes through withdrawal if they do not take it.

Physical Symptoms

Oxycodone abuse can lead to many physical changes in the body based on the drug’s mechanism of action. In normal circumstances, some physical symptoms may help mitigate an individual’s pain, yet other symptoms are more undesirable and sometimes dangerous. Physical symptoms of using oxycodone may include:

  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Temporary pain relief
  • Cough suppression
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Skin flushing
  • Dry mouth
  • Slowed breathing

Psychological Symptoms

There are also many potential psychological symptoms associated with using oxycodone. Some psychological symptoms include:

  • Experiencing delusions
  • Feelings of euphoria or calmness
  • Rapidly shifting moods
  • Weird dreams
  • Depression
  • Decreased libido
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Memory problems

How to Tell if Someone is Addicted to Oxycodone

What are the ways that a friend, acquaintance or a loved one can identify oxycodone drug abuse symptoms in another individual or themselves? Further, what are some oxycodone abuse facts that can be used as deterrents for oxycodone abuse? There are certain signs that a person has become addicted to oxycodone. These signs may be more difficult to ascertain in individuals who are purposefully hiding their addiction to oxycodone. Some typical signs of oxycodone addiction include:

  • Changes in behavior — sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle
  • Increasingly moody with periods of happiness while on the drug followed by periods of depression after oxycodone wears off
  • Suspicious behavior
  • Financial hardships on account of spending money on oxycodone (usually illegally)
  • Problems in maintaining relationships
  • Isolation or seclusion
  • Little to no interest in activities that used to bring a person joy

It is important to note that not every person with an addiction to oxycodone will exhibit the same signs.

Oxycodone Addiction Self-Assessment Quiz

There are many different self-assessments online to determine if a person has an addiction to oxycodone. Self-assessments serve as a first pass to assess a situation from an unbiased perspective and provide feedback to the person about whether they should consult a medical professional or receive treatment for their addiction or addictive behavior.

Some self-assessments for oxycodone addiction include:

Do I have an oxycodone addiction?

Is my loved one addicted to prescription drugs?

Side Effects of Oxycodone Abuse

The list of side effects for the prescribed use of oxycodone is extensive. But what about the side effects associated with oxycodone when it is abused. Some side effects of oxycodone abuse will be short-term and subside quickly while other side effects may last longer or lead to irrevocable physical damage to one’s health. To complicate the matter, formulations of oxycodone and acetaminophen together (e.g., Percocet and Tylox) can produce severe side effects if mixed with alcohol, including liver damage or even liver failure in some cases.

Short-Term Side Effects

Some of the short-term side effects that can occur with oxycodone abuse can include:

  • Irritability
  • Vision changes
  • Balance problems
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Inability to perform normal tasks
  • Itchiness from oxycodone
  • Constipation from oxycodone

Long-Term Side Effects

Some of the long-term or chronic side effects associated with oxycodone abuse may include:

  • Individuals may develop tolerance and later dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using oxycodone
  • Mood disorders or the development of anxiety or depression
  • Liver damage
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart problems
  • Insomnia

Oxycodone Abuse Statistics

Oxycodone is the second-most prescribed opioid in the United States after hydrocodone. In order to understand the gravity of the opioid epidemic, it is best to acknowledge statistics on oxycodone abuse. Recent statistics include:

  • Nearly 4 million people reported misusing oxycodone in the past year when the study was conducted
  • The majority of respondents reported misusing oxycodone to relieve their pain (62.3%) or to simply get high (12.9%), among other reasons
  • 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were introduced to the United States market between 2006 and 2012
  • Prescription opioids are most heavily abused by individuals ages 18 to 25 years old
  • The number of admissions to rehabilitation for opiates including oxycodone rapidly increased from 2003 to 2012

These statistics showcase that oxycodone abuse is widespread, especially among young adults. The rate of opioid addiction has increased proportionally to the number of prescription opioids available on the market.

Oxycodone Overdose

As with other opioids, there is a potential to overdose. Oxycodone overdose is extremely dangerous and the individual almost always requires medical attention. What are the major signs of an oxycodone overdose relative to the symptoms of abuse or regular prescribed use? Additionally, how much oxycodone does it take to overdose? It should be stated that every individual is different, especially when taking substance use into account. A dose that may cause an overdose for some might hardly affect a person who has been addicted to oxycodone for years. Alternatively, if a person has just detoxed from oxycodone, they could overdose with a dose amount that they used to take with no issues. There is no hard-and-fast rule for determining the actual quantity of oxycodone it takes to overdose.

Oxycodone Overdose Symptoms

Some symptoms of an oxycodone overdose may include:

  • Losing consciousness
  • Problems breathing
  • Smaller pupil size
  • Loss of awareness or responsiveness
  • Inability to wake up
  • Decreased heartbeat
  • Clammy skin and hands
  • Death from oxycodone

Interestingly, the rate of accidental opioid overdoses in Ohio has actually decreased in recent years. There may be many underlying reasons why this is the case, but some may be due to the lifesaving opioid reversal drug naloxone. Naloxone directly counteracts the activity of opioids and when administered during an overdose can save a person’s life.

Facing Oxycodone Withdrawal and Detox

One of the next steps after an overdose is to go through the oxycodone withdrawal and detoxification process. Both processes can be challenging. Specifically, oxycodone detoxification requires extensive knowledge of safety precautions, how to develop coping skills and many other techniques for a successful recovery.

Do you or a loved one struggle with an addiction to oxycodone? Contact The Recovery Village Columbus to discuss treatment options for oxycodone addiction and any co-occurring mental health conditions. Speak with a representative today to discuss our rehabilitation programs and how to embark on your road to recovery.


Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.