Causes & Effects of Oxycodone Abuse & Addiction

Sierra Tucson offers effective, comprehensive treatment for individuals struggling with addiction and mental health concerns. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction.

Understanding Oxycodone Addiction

Learn about oxycodone addiction

Oxycodone, a synthetic opioid found within a handful of prescription painkillers, such as Tylox, Percocet, OxyContin, and Percodan, is most often prescribed to those who have been suffering moderate to severe pain caused by cancer, injury, surgery, or other conditions. When someone consumes a prescription medication that contains oxycodone, he or she will likely suffer a decrease in his or her pain, along with elevated mood and a sense of relaxation. When the individual only consumes oxycodone in the dosage and for the duration recommended by his or her physician, he or she can obtain many benefits from the use of this drug.

Unfortunately, oxycodone’s potency and prevalence have made it an incredibly abused substance by those who utilize it for self-medication and those who want to obtain a recreational high. Regardless of why an individual begins abusing oxycodone, the results can be just as destructive. Oxycodone interacts with areas of the brain that are responsible for automatic functions including respiration and heart rate, therefore those who go over or ignore the recommended dosage amounts risk damage to the cardiovascular system, which can be deadly.

In addition to the risk of death, oxycodone abuse also places an individual at risk for a number of short-term and long-term dangers, such as the development of addiction. Known clinically as opioid use disorder, oxycodone addiction can take away from one’s ability to control the amount and frequency that he or she abuses this medication. It will also cause an individual to put the acquisition and use of oxycodone over academic, personal, and professional obligations, as well as other responsibilities.


Oxycodone addiction statistics

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), roughly 1.9 million Americans have a substance use disorder that includes prescription painkillers such as oxycodone. ASAM also reports that women are more likely than men to grapple with chronic pain and to be prescribed painkillers, and that 48,000 women died because of prescription painkiller addiction between 1998 and 2010. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 81% of all oxycodone prescriptions worldwide are written in America. NIDA also states that between the years 2001 and 2014, the annual death rate from prescription painkiller overdose in the country jumped by 340%.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for oxycodone addiction

One’s risk for abusing and becoming addicted to oxycodone might be influenced by a number of genetic and environmental factors, including the following:

Genetic: Having a family history of substance abuse can increase one’s chances of developing opioid use disorder. The family risk is increased most in those who have a parent or sibling who have struggled with addiction or another mental health problem. Heritable traits including novelty seeking and impulsivity can also increase one’s likelihood for developing a substance abuse problem that include oxycodone or another opioid.

Environmental: Early exposure to substance abuse through family and/or friends who abuse oxycodone or other opioids can be an environmental risk factor for an individual developing an opioid use disorder. Poverty, trauma, and pain due to injury, surgery, or disease can also increase one’s risk for oxycodone abuse.

Risk Factors:

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

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction

Those who have been abusing or who have become addicted to oxycodone might display many different symptoms, such as the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

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

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

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

Psychosocial symptoms:

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


Effects of oxycodone addiction

The continued, untreated abuse of oxycodone can lead to many different destructive effects and outcomes, such as:

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

Co-Occurring Disorders

Oxycodone addiction and co-occurring disorders

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

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

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of oxycodone withdrawal and overdose

Effects of oxycodone withdrawal: Someone who is addicted to oxycodone might experience the following withdrawal symptoms if he or she attempts to stop his or her abuse of the substance:

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

Effects of oxycodone overdose: An individual who struggles with the symptoms below after consuming too much oxycodone might have overdosed and should seek immediate medical help:

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