Oxycodone Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Often times the signs of oxycodone addiction can be difficult to identify. One of the most important steps in the recovery journey is understanding the signs, symptoms and side effects of oxycodone addiction.

Understanding Oxycodone

Learn about oxycodone and substance abuse

Oxycodone is a synthetic opioid medication that can be found in many prescription painkillers, including ones such as Percocet and OxyContin. These medications are most commonly prescribed to help alleviate physical pain that stems from injury, surgery, cancer, and other medical issues. When oxycodone is consumed, pain will decrease and certain pleasurable effects, such as increased mood and relaxation, will emerge. When an individual who is prescribed oxycodone limits his or her use to the recommendations provided by his or her clinician, this medication can be extremely effective.

However, oxycodone is a very addictive substance, which makes it easy to abuse by those who are making an effort to self-medicate or for those who simply want to get high. Regardless of the reasons behind one’s use of oxycodone, the end results can be devastating. For example, oxycodone interacts with parts of the brain that are responsible for automatic functions including heart rate and respiration. Therefore, if this medication is abused, individuals can suffer damage and malfunction to their cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Clinically referred to as opioid use disorder, an oxycodone addiction can prevent an individual from being able to control how much and how often he or she uses the drug. It can also cause an individual to put his or her use above all other responsibilities in his or her life, leading to issues such as family conflict, unemployment, divorce, loss of friendships, loss of child custody, and more.

If an individual attempts to end his or her oxycodone abuse on his or her own, he or she can begin to suffer significantly painful withdrawal symptoms. If he or she does not obtain professional treatment to help overcome this painful addiction, these symptoms can become so overwhelming that the user begins using again, thus perpetuating his or her addiction even further.


Oxycodone addiction statistics

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reports that nearly 1.9 million Americans are struggling with substance use disorders, including prescription painkillers such as oxycodone. They have also reported that women are more likely than men to struggle with chronic pain and be prescribed painkillers, and that more than 48,000 women died between 1998 and 2010 as a result of painkiller overdoses. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 81% of all prescriptions for oxycodone are written in the United States. Additionally, between 2001 and 2015, the annual rate of death caused by prescription painkiller overdoses increased by 340% within the United States.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for oxycodone addiction

An individual’s risk for abusing and becoming addicted to oxycodone can be affected by many different factors, including the following:

Genetic: A family history of substance abuse can serve as a factor in one’s likelihood of developing an opioid use disorder. This family risk is increased when an individual’s close family members (such as parents and siblings) have struggled with addiction. Additionally, heritable traits such as impulsivity and novelty-seeking can add to one’s chances of abusing and becoming addicted to a medication like oxycodone.

Environmental: Early exposure to substance abuse within one’s family and/or social life can be an environmental factor in the development of oxycodone addiction, as well as life circumstances such as poverty, trauma, pain due to injury, or disease.

Risk Factors:

  • Mental illness
  • Gender (women are more likely than men to be prescribed oxycodone)
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Receiving a prescription for oxycodone
  • Trauma
  • Prior substance abuse
  • Poverty
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Early exposure to substance abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction

Individuals who have abused or who have developed an addiction to oxycodone can display many different symptoms, including, however not limited to, the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Abusing oxycodone even after experiencing negative outcomes from prior use
  • Habitual absences from school or work
  • Trying to borrow or steal money or goods to exchange for drugs
  • Declining performance in school or at work
  • Attempting but failing to end one’s use of oxycodone
  • Trying to fraudulently obtain a prescription for oxycodone or attempting to acquire this drug via another illicit means
  • Abusing oxycodone when it is obviously risky or reckless to do so, such as when also abusing another substance or when driving a car
  • Lying, secrecy, and deception
  • Trying to borrow or steal oxycodone that has been prescribed to someone else

Physical symptoms:

  • Problems with balance, coordination, and reflexes
  • Itchiness
  • Faint pulse
  • Numbness to pain
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weight loss
  • Shallow, slow, and/or labored breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive yawning

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Difficulty with concentration or focus
  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired judgment
  • Poor spatial relations

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Uncharacteristic anger
  • Panic
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of interest in significant activities
  • Paranoia


Effects of oxycodone addiction

When oxycodone abuse remains untreated, a series of negative consequences can develop, such as:

  • Damaged or ruined interpersonal relationships
  • Academic failure
  • Marital strife, including separation and divorce
  • Loss of child custody
  • Job loss
  • Damage to heart and lungs
  • Social withdrawal or ostracization
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Financial ruin
  • Damage to vision
  • Suicidal actions
  • Unemployment
  • Family discord
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Physical injury due to impaired judgment and coordination

Co-Occurring Disorders

Oxycodone addiction and co-occurring disorders

Those who are addicted to oxycodone might also be at greater risk for suffering from the following co-occurring mental health conditions simultaneously:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Withdrawal and Overdose

Learn about oxycodone withdrawal and overdose

Effects of oxycodone withdrawal: An individual who is addicted to oxycodone might start to display the following symptoms of withdrawal when he or she attempts to end his or her use of the substance:

  • Painful abdominal cramps
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Intense cravings for oxycodone
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle spasms
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tics, tremors, and/or shakiness

Effects of oxycodone overdose: Someone who shows the following symptoms after ingesting oxycodone might be experiencing a medical emergency that requires immediate help:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Bluish tint to skin near lips and/or fingertips
  • Slow, shallow, or labored breathing
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Pupillary constriction or dilation
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