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Oxycodone Addiction

Oxycodone is a prescription opioid painkiller designed to relieve moderate to severe pain but is highly addictive. Since its launch as the main ingredient in OxyContin, it has become one of the most abused prescription medications, leading to the addiction and death of millions. Learn how to stay safe if you have an oxycodone prescription and what to look for if you think you or a loved one are misusing the drug.

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What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid analgesic (painkiller) used to treat moderate to severe pain. It can be found in short-acting and long-acting versions and comes in tablets, capsules, or liquid form. It is commonly used as a pain reliever for cancer treatments, post-operative pain, or chronic pain.

Common brand names for oxycodone include:

  • OxyContin®
  • Percocet®
  • Roxicodone®

Like most prescription opioids, oxycodone is a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for abuse, leading to psychological or physical dependence.

Other schedule II prescription opioids include:

Oxycodone Abuse and Addiction

Oxycodone is a highly addictive opiate and can cause a person to quickly develop a dependence, especially if use is not carefully monitored.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for someone with a legitimate prescription to devolve into the early stages of opioid use disorder after just a few weeks of continuous use.

Here are some signs that you or a loved one has become dependent upon or addicted to oxycodone:

  • Cravings for oxycodone
  • Taking oxycodone for the feeling of euphoria or pleasure
  • Early prescription refills
  • Seeking alternative sources for oxycodone
  • Changing your intake method (e.g., injecting or snorting)

Drug 101: The OxyContin Problem

OxyContin is an extended-release medication that contains oxycodone and was initially thought to be difficult to abuse because of its slow-release properties.

Unfortunately, drug users began crushing OxyContin (a.k.a. “oxy”) and snorting it to experience an intense high. Abusing OxyContin in this manner can result in developing a substance use disorder or experiencing an opioid overdose.

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Oxycodone Side Effects

In addition to relieving pain, oxycodone can also cause patients to experience euphoria, leading to oxycodone abuse and, later, addiction.

However, there are several side effects associated with oxycodone, even when taken as prescribed, including:

  • Tolerance
  • Drowsiness and sleepiness
  • Confusion or being dazed
  • Constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Cramping
  • Physical dependence
  • Depression

Oxycodone Overdose

Oxycodone is a powerful pain reliever that interacts with the parts of the brain responsible for regulating breathing, heart rate, digestion, and other vital functions.

Small doses of oxycodone produce euphoria, but larger amounts can slow breathing to dangerous levels—also known as respiratory depression.

Abusing large quantities of oxycodone or mixing it with other sedatives (e.g., alcohol, benzodiazepines, etc.) greatly increases the risk of overdose.

An overdose is almost always accidental, whether it happens when a person takes more than prescribed because of pain or is using oxycodone to get high.

How Do You Know When Someone Has Overdosed on Oxycodone?

Here are signs to look out for if you suspect an oxycodone overdose.

  • Excessive sleepiness or the person is unable to be awoken
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Slow heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shallow breathing, sometimes with a rasping or gurgling noise (i.e., the death rattle)
  • Unconsciousness

What to Do for an Oxycodone Overdose

  1. Call 911 immediately to report the incident.
  2. Check their responsiveness; one way is by rubbing your knuckles over the victim’s chest bone (i.e., sternum rub).
  3. Administer Naloxone (Narcan) to reverse the toxicity of the overdose. It can be in the form of an injection or intranasal spray.
  4. Stay with the victim until help arrives.

Oxycodone Addiction Treatment

There are various stages of oxycodone treatment depending on the severity of a person’s oxycodone addiction.

For example, medical detox helps to flush out the drug from your system, while different types of therapy and medication treatment can help reduce cravings and prevent future opioid abuse.

It is important to familiarize yourself with the different types of treatment for oxycodone addiction so you and your doctor can decide which one will work best for you.

Oxycodone Detoxification

When treating oxycodone addiction, detoxification is the first step towards being able to lead a productive life again.

Medical detox for oxycodone is the safest method of withdrawal. It is designed to make this challenging time easier and help you avoid an oxycodone relapse.

Medical detox is available on both an inpatient and an outpatient basis, depending on your needs.

During medical detox, your doctor or healthcare provider may prescribe medication to assist with the process. These prescription addiction medications help by lessening cravings, reducing withdrawal symptoms, and/or helping you to avoid relapse.

Generally, oxycodone withdrawal symptoms begin anywhere from 6 to 12 hours after the last dose of the drug and subside after one or two days. However, some symptoms may occur for up to a week.

The most common oxycodone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Aches and pains
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • High body temperature or sweating
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors, restless leg syndrome
  • Cottonmouth

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment programs are a proven treatment option for individuals with opioid use disorder and have the added benefit of being more cost-effective than residential care while improving treatment retention rates.

The medications commonly used to treat oxycodone addiction include:

MAT prescription can reduce withdrawal symptoms, suppress cravings, and even help patients safely taper off their oxycodone usage.

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Oxycodone Rehab Programs

Opioid rehab programs are one of the best ways to fight oxycodone addiction and may even help you develop stronger relationships with family members or friends if you choose to keep them involved in your recovery.

Most oxycodone rehab programs involve therapy and counseling to assist patients with tackling their overall mental health alongside their addiction concerns. Counseling is usually offered in individual and group sessions.

There are several types of oxycodone treatment programs in the US, but here are the basics:

  • Inpatient Rehab Program: Inpatient rehab provides the most involved oxycodone rehab experience. They offer 24-hour attention and monitoring, usually lasting 30 to 90 days and requiring a residential stay.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): A PHP is a good choice for those in oxycodone addiction recovery who need the structure and support of an inpatient program but might not be able to commit to the residential aspect. PHPs offer much of the same care as an inpatient program, including health monitoring, MAT, therapy, and counseling.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): An IOP is for individuals struggling with a mild oxycodone addiction or those who have recently completed a different treatment program. IOPs help patients avoid relapsing by providing extended substance abuse counseling which lasts between 3 to 12 months.

Oxycodone Addiction Statistics

Oxycodone is one of the most abused prescription drugs in the U.S. Overall, opioid abuse and overdose deaths (including oxycodone) have become such a public health crisis in America that it was officially declared an epidemic in 2017.

Oxycodone statistics are typically included with overall prescription opioid data:

  • In 2016, over 11.5 million Americans misused prescription opioids.
  • As of 2019, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that about 136 people die daily from opioid-related overdoses.
  • In 2021, more than 100,000 deaths occurred due to opioid misuse.

There has been a recent meteoric rise in opioid-related deaths, partly due to the isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Freedom From the Burden of Oxycodone Addiction

Speak with your doctor or a similar healthcare provider if you are concerned that you may have a problem with oxycodone misuse.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also offers a free, confidential online treatment locator and referral service through their website and hotline at 1-800-662-4357 (HELP).

Don’t keep suffering in silence. Reach out today for the help you need to get back on track.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Oxycodone

How addictive is OxyContin (oxycodone)?

As an opioid medication, OxyContin (i.e., oxycodone) carries a high risk of causing addiction. However, taking OxyContin or another prescription opioid as directed by your doctor is considered safe overall.

In addition, certain risk factors for developing addiction depend on the individual. Some common addiction risk factors include a family history of alcohol or drug addiction and co-occurring issues (such as mental illness or health problems).

How long does it take for oxycodone to become addictive?

Developing a dependence and addiction to oxycodone depends on the individual. Some people may use prescription oxycodone for weeks without experiencing an issue, while others become addicted after just a week.

Therefore, it is critical to only use oxycodone as directed by your doctor or healthcare provider.

What percentage of users get addicted to oxycodone (OxyContin)?

An estimated 25% of patients receiving chronic pain treatment from a prescription opioid become addicted to their medication.

What are oxycodone withdrawal symptoms?

Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Aches and pains
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Insomnia
  • High body temperature or sweating
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Cottonmouth

What is the difference between OxyContin and oxycodone?

OxyContin is a brand name for an extended-release version of oxycodone. Oxycodone is used to manage moderate to severe pain and can be effective when other drugs have not worked or are inappropriate for the patient.

 

Can an oxycodone overdose be treated?

Yes. An oxycodone overdose can be treated using Naloxone (Narcan), which pauses the toxic effects of an overdose.

It is critical to note that naloxone does not stop an overdose completely, and the victim can go back into overdose symptoms once the naloxone wears off.

In the event of an overdose, you should always call 911 and wait for help to arrive, as medical intervention can make the difference between life and death.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of AddictionHelp.com and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 25). Data Overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/data/index.html
  3. (DCD), D. C. D. (2023, June 20). National opioids crisis: Help and resources. HHS.gov. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/index.html
  4. Drug scheduling. DEA. (n.d.). https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling
  5. Mat medications, counseling, and related conditions. SAMHSA. (n.d.). https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, July 1). Opioid overdose crisis. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
  7. Rosen, S. (2016, December 27). Pain Pills/opioids frequently asked questions. Connecticut Poison Control Center. https://health.uconn.edu/poison-control/about-poisons/medications/information-for-people-using-pain-pills-or-other-opioids/pain-pillsopioids-frequently-asked-questions/
  8. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Hydrocodone/oxycodone overdose: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007285.htm

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