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Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Oxycodone, commonly available as Percocet and OxyContin, is a potent painkiller medication and one of the most commonly abused prescription medications in the United States. Many who abuse it start by taking it in prescribed amounts, but as their bodies develop tolerance, they require a progressively higher dose to maintain the same high or relief. This transition from use to abuse to addiction is mostly quick and equally dangerous. While oxycodone does carry the benefit to provide much-needed relief to many with painful terminal conditions, it can be particularly hard to keep it in control.

Recognizing someone struggling with an oxycodone addiction is necessary as it can potentially save their life. This is because apart from being debilitating and extremely expensive, this type of addiction is too dangerous and can potentially lead to death, especially if overdosed.

Oxycodone Addiction

As an opioid medication, oxycodone is highly effective in alleviating pain while eliciting a sense of mild euphoria simultaneously. When used as directed and under the supervision of a healthcare provider, it carries a significantly beneficial impact. However, the pleasurable effects of this drug can easily tempt people to abuse it, either for self-medication purposes beyond the doctor’s orders or for recreation.

Regardless of the reason why an individual begins oxycodone abuse, this behavior can easily lead to negative outcomes, like an addiction. Clinically known as opioid use disorder, an addiction to oxycodone puts them in ongoing danger with immediate and long-term damage.

Oxycodone is capable of interacting with certain brain areas that control respiration and heart rate, meaning that its overdose can potentially be dangerous. Moreover, when someone becomes addicted to this drug, attempting to stop or reduce its dose can trigger a lot of painful psychological and physical symptoms. This intense experience of withdrawal can easily push someone back into oxycodone abuse and may complicate all future effects to break free from this dangerous compulsion.

Several factors determine an individual’s risk of abusing oxycodone and developing an addiction. Some of these factors include:


As per the American Psychiatric Association, opioid use disorder usually has a strong genetic component. People whose siblings or parents have struggled with an addiction have a higher risk of experiencing similar issues. Similarly, certain genetically determined traits like novelty-seeking also make them prone to acquiring oxycodone dependency much more than those without these traits.

Environmental Factors

A lot of people who use and abuse oxycodone have been exposed to this drug while seeking treatment. Hence, injuries and accidents often serve as the most important environmental factors that increase the risk of oxycodone addiction. Moreover, exposure to illicit drugs at an early age due to factors like living in a criminal neighborhood also contributes to the problem.

Apart from the causes mentioned above, the following factors increase the risk of acquiring oxycodone addiction:

  • Being female (women are more likely to take prescribed painkillers in higher doses and keep using them longer than men)
  • Impulsivity
  • Medical conditions that require management with opioids
  • Family history of mental illness, substance abuse, or addiction

Before you learn how to beat oxycodone addiction, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the common signs and symptoms of this addiction. A person’s addiction or abuse to this medication may manifest through a variety of symptoms, such as the following.

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Attempting to steal or borrow oxycodone prescribed to someone else
  • Using oxycodone even when it is risky, such as while drinking alcohol or driving
  • Going to multiple doctors to fraudulently acquire more prescriptions for oxycodone
  • Lying or being secretive about daily activities and whereabouts
  • Trying to stop the use of oxycodone but failing to do so
  • Sacrificing professional and personal obligations to focus more on acquiring and using oxycodone
  • Borrowing or stealing money to buy more oxycodone

Physical Symptoms

  • Slurry speech
  • Constricted pupils
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Poor concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Poor or impaired judgment

Psychosocial Symptoms

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Frequent anger outbursts
  • Paranoia

Individuals who experience opioid use disorders usually have an underlying mental health condition that requires professional intervention. To assess the level and severity of their addiction as well as screen them for any co-existing issues, it is imperative to get an in-depth evaluation before seeking any kind of treatment. Such evaluations typically occur in addiction treatment centers where addiction medical experts and clinicians perform a full psychological, physical, and emotional exam. Additionally, they may assess an individual’s living and social situation and go ahead with a cognitive evaluation to assess their ability to engage in different aspects of treatment. The purpose of these evaluations is to help treatment providers design a targeted plan that specifically addresses the weak areas of every individual while treating any co-occurring disorder simultaneously.

Addressing Physical Dependence with Detox

Enrolling in a detox program is usually the first step of oxycodone treatment in most treatment centers. The purpose of these programs is to help clients get rid of all drug residues from their bodies before entering behavioral treatment. As a part of detox, some individuals may develop unconformable signs of oxycodone withdrawal, such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Strong cravings for oxycodone
  • Stomach cramps and/or diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sleep disturbances
  • High blood pressure

To make this withdrawal process easier, most medical detox programs include the use of a replacement medication, such as buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist which means that it binds with the same receptors in the brain as oxycodone but produces less significant results. With this medication, the individual is less likely to experience any significant withdrawal symptoms and safely detox in the due time.

Once a detox expert ascertains an initial dose of buprenorphine where recovering individuals do not experience any withdrawal symptoms, they will start tapering down the dose at period intervals until the patients completely wean off opiates. While this tapering process might seem lengthy, it provides a better experience to patients with a higher degree of safety and comfort. Apart from replacement drugs, a detox expert may prescribe other medications as needed to address additional symptoms.

Because the detox process requires constant supervision and 24/7 monitoring and support, most rehabs prefer that patients remain in an inpatient setting. However, a handful of them may seek it on an outpatient basis, especially if their addiction is mild.

Addiction Therapy

While medications can certainly support and speed up the process of recovery for an oxycontin addict, they cannot treat addiction. Hence, to reverse oxycodone addiction, most recovery programs include addiction therapy as a major component. Different types of therapies have been designed to address oxycodone addiction, one of which is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. CBR allows clients and therapists to work together to identify the reasons behind oxycodone addiction and recognize how this addiction impacts the client’s behaviors and attitudes. Then, both develop a plan to help clients work on these issues and manage them in such a way that promotes positive recovery. In addition to this, CBT also helps individuals work on long-term relapse prevention strategies while managing other co-occurring disorders, like depression, anxiety, or personality issues.

Therapy for oxycodone addiction takes place in individual and group sessions. Sometimes, family members may attend these sessions alongside their recovering loved one to strengthen their bond and establish a stronger support system for the future.

Treatment for Co-occurring Conditions

A lot of people fighting oxycontin addiction usually have another underlying mental health disorder at the same time. Some examples of these co-occurring disorders include bipolar disorder, anxiety, and major depressive disorder. For all such people, it is imperative to treat the psychiatric issue along with the substance abuse issue. Treating any one of the conditions is usually counterproductive and is not likely to lead to significant recovery. Concurrent treatment, on the other hand, offers higher success rates.

Social Support

Another vital component of an Oxycodone addiction recovery program is support from friends, family, and others. One of the best ways for fostering this support is by inviting family members to participate in the individual’s recovery. Most rehabs also offer clients a chance to participate in various support groups, such as 12-step groups, Narcotics Anonymous, and more.

Attending support groups often provide recovering individuals to engage in ongoing recovery-focused activities, even after their formal treatment ends at a rehab. Keep in mind that these support groups are different from formal therapy groups as they do not involve any trained therapists. However, some of them, such as the SMART Recovery support group, may work on the principles of CBT.



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