Oxycodone Misuse: Effects, Withdrawal, and Treatment

Oxycodone is a powerful and highly addictive opioid painkiller that can have several dangerous side effects, especially when misused. People who misuse oxycodone may be more likely to develop opioid dependence and addiction, and at increased risk of overdose.

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone (sold under the brandname OxyContin) is a semi-synthetic narcotic widely prescribed for pain. While it is an important medication for certain types of pain management, it is also frequently diverted for nonmedical misuse because of its potent opioid effects.1,2

Street names reportedly include: 1,2

  • Hillbilly Heroin.
  • OC.
  • Oxy.
  • Oxy Cotton.
  • Kicker.
  • Killer.

Oxycodone Effects

When a person uses oxycodone or similar opioids, they may experience numerous side effects, including:1,3,4

  • Euphoria.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Sedation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Sweating.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Constipation.

Oxycodone Addiction

Oxycodone is Schedule II controlled substance, which means that while it has recognized medical uses for pain management, it is also a drug with a high potential for misuse, dependence, and addiction.1

Because oxycodone is capable of producing a rewarding, heroin-like euphoria, it is a common target for nonmedical misuse.1,5 Even those with no original intention of misusing the drug may ultimately find themselves using it outside of prescribed guidelines. While most people prescribed oxycodone use it correctly, in some cases what begins as prescription use can turn into misuse.7

Oxycodone pills crushed

You are misusing oxycodone when you:3

  • Take more oxycodone than you were prescribed.
  • Take it for longer than prescribed.
  • Taking oxycodone for the purpose of getting high.
  • Use it in ways that the drug was not meant to be used, such as by snorting or injecting it.
  • Take oxycodone that is not prescribed to you.

The most recent statistics show that more than 3 million Americans age 12 and older misused oxycodone products in 2019 alone.6 Opioid misuse can have devastating consequences; in the span of 19 years between 1999 and 2018, close to half a million people died from overdoses involving opioids (prescription and illicit).7

Risks of Oxycodone Misuse

When a person misuses oxycodone (OxyContin), they face several health risks. A person who abuses oxycodone can suffer from:8

  • Severe constipation and bowel obstruction.
  • Severe respiratory depression or respiratory arrest.
  • Adrenal insufficiency (the adrenal glands produce insufficient amounts of hormones).
  • Significantly low blood pressure.
  • Decreased seizure threshold in those with seizure disorders.
  • Endocrine abnormalities and associated sexual dysfunction and impaired fertility.
  • Overdose (see below).

Those who misuse oxycodone are also at risk of becoming dependent on or addicted to opioids.8

When a person uses (or misuses) oxycodone, it is not uncommon for them to develop some degree of tolerance to the medication. As their tolerance to oxycodone grows, they will need to take more to feel the effects.1,3Any increase in dose of a medication like oxycodone should only happen under a doctor’s supervision. Someone who uses a medication like oxycodone who increases their dosage on their own may suffer a fatal overdose.3,9 Increasing doses are also associated with increased opioid use disorder (addiction) risk.9

As oxycodone misuse continues, the person may become increasingly opioid-dependent and experience withdrawal symptoms when they cut back or quit.

Oxycodone Overdose

Arguably the biggest risk of misusing oxycodone is overdosing and suffering from severe respiratory depression. This can result in hypoxia, a condition where the brain lacks adequate oxygen.3

Hypoxia can lead to:3

  • Coma.
  • Brain damage.
  • Death.

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

These symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal may include:3

  • Bone and muscle pain.
  • Insomnia.
  • Sweating.
  • Strong cravings for opioids.
  • Cold flashes.
  • Goosebumps.
  • Nausea, vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be intensely uncomfortable. Those who’ve developed a significant physiological dependence on the drug may find themselves unable to quit using opioids despite wanting to do so because they are unable to cope with the withdrawal symptoms, which mimic a terrible flu.3,10

Oxycodone Addiction Treatment in Hollywood, FL

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to oxycodone, or other drugs or alcohol, know that there is effective help that can get you on the road to recovery and back to living the life you deserve.

Contact our helpful and knowledgeable admissions navigators at to learn more about the levels of care at our South Florida drug and alcohol rehab. They can guide you through starting admissions, answer your questions about what to expect in treatment, and help you learn more about using insurance coverage for rehab.

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