Prescribed as a painkiller, oxycodone is a synthetic product of the opium poppy, similar to heroin, morphine and other addictive opioids. When taken, oxycodone creates a euphoric high, leading even an innocent user with a legal prescriptions to end up potentially craving the narcotic. Over time, this use can turn into an oxycodone addiction.
Oxycodone addiction is a medical disorder and can be treated with the proper support and medical resources.
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Is Oxycodone Addictive?
Oxycodone is a narcotic analgesic, or painkiller, that’s been around in America since the mid-1900s. It is a semi-synthetic opioid, meaning it is chemically manufactured from opium, a highly addictive drug derived from the sap of the opium poppy plant. Opioids are notoriously addictive substances because they trigger a rush of dopamine in the brain, which causes a euphoric high.
Pharmaceutical-grade oxycodone is most well-known under the following brand-names:
- OxyContin (oxycodone only)
- Percodan (oxycodone and aspirin)
- Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen)
- Tylox (oxycodone and acetaminophen)
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime classified oxycodone as a dangerous drug and included it in The Dangerous Drugs Ordinance in 1960. In the United States, oxycodone is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II is the second most dangerous classification of drug. Drugs in this classification have limited medicinal value and pose a serious risk of abuse and addiction.
Abusing oxycodone can easily lead to addiction. There are many physical and psychological consequences of oxycodone addiction, including the potential to fatally overdose. Oxycodone overdose can result in:
- Cold and clammy skin
- Low blood pressure
- Low heart rate
- Respiratory depression
- Respiratory arrest
Oxycodone is mainly used in oral medications. It comes in a variety of pill, tablet and capsule formats. OxyContin pills range from 10 – 80 mg of oxycodone. Other medications, such as Percocet, Tylox and Percodan, include 2.5 – 10 mg of oxycodone per dose, as those medications mix the drug with other ingredients. These oral medications typically come in different colors and shapes to denote a variety of formulation strengths.
- 10 mg OxyContin is a white, round pill with 10 debossed on the surface
- 15 mg OxyContin is a gray, round pill with 15 debossed on the surface
- 20 mg OxyContin is a pink, round pill with 20 debossed on the surface
- 40 mg OxyContin is a yellow, round pill with 40 debossed on the surface
- 60 mg OxyContin is a red, round pill with 60 debossed on the surface
- 80 mg OxyContin is a green, round pill with 80 debossed on the surface
- 160 mg OxyContin is a blue, oval pill with 160 debossed on the surface
- 2.5 mg Percocet is a pink, oval pill with 2.5 debossed on the surface
- 5 mg Percocet is a blue, round pill with Percocet 5 debossed on the surface
- 7.5 mg Percocet is an orange, oval pill with 7.5/325 debossed on the surface
- 10 mg Percocet is a yellow, oval pill with 10/325 debossed on the surface
- 4.85 mg Percodan is a yellow, round pill with Percodan debossed on the surface
- 5 mg Tylox is a red capsule with Tylox printed on the surface
Oxycodone is highly addictive and many who use the drug, even as prescribed by their doctor, still end up abusing the substance. After their prescription runs out, some people decide to illegally acquire more oxycodone. In these situations, people who are addicted to oxycodone and their drug dealers don’t use the term oxycodone, in order to avoid police attention. Instead, they may use street names for oxycodone, such as:
- Oxy 80s
- Blue dynamite
- Hillbilly heroin
Oxycodone addicts can also buy pills on the internet. The dark web utilizes an online black market where users can shop for OxyContin, Percocet and other pills, without risking meeting a stranger or getting caught in-person by police. If you suspect that a loved one is misusing oxycodone, you may consider searching their internet browser history for search terms including oxycodone and its popular street names.
Doctors prescribe oxycodone medications to patients facing moderate or severe short-term pain. For those facing long-term, chronic, moderate or severe pain, doctors may prescribe slow release formulations. Some patients who receive oxycodone may face terminal illnesses such as cancer that involve a significant amount of chronic pain. Additionally , a doctor may prescribe oxycodone following surgery or accident. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, American doctors dispensed 58.8 million oxycodone prescriptions in 2013. Since oxycodone is a controlled substance, you must have a prescription for it from a doctor in order to legally obtain the drug.
Oxycodone is typically misused in three ways — orally, intranasally and intravenously. If someone who is addicted to oxy is looking for a faster high, they may also chew oxycodone pills so the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream quicker. Some individuals crush oxycodone pills into a powder and snort it intranasally so the drugs reach the bloodstream quicker. Other individuals dissolve this crushed oxycodone powder in water before putting it in a syringe and injecting themselves with the substance.
Drug paraphernalia that are associated with oxycodone misuse includes pill bottles or pill packaging, straws or rolled-up dollar bills, razor blades, mirrors or CD cases, syringes, spoons with tarnished bottoms, and belts or long, thin pieces of rubber that can be used as tourniquets. If you suspect that a loved one misuses oxycodone, they may be hiding their pills in plain sight, such as in a medicine cabinet, orange pill bottles, mint tins, candy jars and other similar places.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, individuals have been misusing oxycodone since the early 1960s. It has the same potency as morphine, so not only do oxycodone addicts use the drug, but many heroin or methadone addicts also use the drug to help them stave off withdrawal.
Is Oxycodone Addictive the First Time?
Oxycodone is a highly addictive drug because it affects a person’s brain chemistry. When someone with an oxycodone addiction takes the medication, the drug reaches the brain through the blood and causes a flood of artificial dopamine and endorphins that produce feelings of happiness, pleasure, reward and satisfaction. When the drug wears off, this euphoria goes away, leaving users feeling depressed and low.
To regain the euphoric feeling, all a user has to do is consume oxycodone again. Over time, it will take more and more of the drug to experience the same high. This process is called tolerance. With continual use, tolerance can turn into dependence — when the body feels physically dependent on oxycodone, and when it doesn’t receive it, will go into withdrawal. Once a person experiences cravings for oxycodone, in addition to their dependence to the drug, they have reached oxycodone addiction. It’s difficult to say how long it takes to develop an oxycodone addiction. For some, under the right circumstances, all it may take is one use. For others, the process can take months.
Considering the fact that each person has their own individualized chemical makeup, the amount it takes to become addicted will ultimately vary. The same goes for the length of time it will take to fight an addiction. Depending on the amount of time the drug has been used for, the dosages taken, the type of oxycodone drug used and the chemical makeup in the brain can determine the kind of addiction and withdrawal someone will experience.
Oxycodone addiction has been a source of opioid addiction in America since the 1960s, with a spike in popularity in the mid 1990s. Throughout this time, the United States government and researchers studied oxycodone addiction and misuse. Their research revealed shocking statistics, including:
- Oxycodone products sell for an average price of $1 per milligram on the streets
- In 1996, before OxyContin came out, the federal government recorded 49 oxycodone-related deaths. In 1999, the federal government recorded 262 oxycodone-related deaths
- In 2013, 2 percent of eighth graders, 3.4 percent of 10th graders and 3.6 percent of 12th graders surveyed in the Monitoring The Future study said that they abused OxyContin in the previous year
- Of the 20.5 million Americans with addiction in 2015, 2 million were addicted to prescription narcotics including oxycodone
- Opioid addiction and abuse led to 20,101 overdose deaths in 2015
- Women are at higher risk of prescription opioid abuse and addiction than men
- 4 out of 5 new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers
Once an individual becomes dependent on oxycodone, their life revolves around finding the drug and consuming it. It is not uncommon to notice a change in their behaviors. Individuals who have become depending on the drug often start to slack off with their responsibilities, such as attending work or school. Financial issues can also occur, as an oxycodone addiction can become expensive. Depending on the form of the drug that is preferred, and how frequently the drug is used, a large amount of money can be spent on oxycodone.
Another sign of an oxycodone dependence and addiction is when a person continued to use the drug without worrying about the negative side effects of it’s consumption. People who misuse the drug find that the euphoric high experienced is worth suffering the troublesome effects for. Symptoms can include: headaches, abdominal pain, dry mouth, trouble breathing, and constipation. In severe cases, symptoms can include: seizures, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations and lightheadedness. If an oxycodone dependence and addiction is not stopped, users can experience liver failure, kidney failure, brain damage and even heart failure. It’s important to address the issue as soon as the warning signs appear to ensure someone’s health can be regained.
Oxycodone has the potential to be a helpful medication, but due to the years of misuse, it has proven to be just as harmful as it is beneficial. When the medication isn’t taken properly, it can lead to a dependence on the drug, and can then possibly lead to an overdose. By the time an overdose occurs, it is almost always too late to detox. An overdose can cause individuals to fall unconscious, have seizures, experience organ failure or even enter a coma. For these reasons alone, it’s important to address any dependence on the drug as soon as possible to ensure that these life-threatening symptoms do not occur.
To manage an oxycodone addiction, it is highly recommended to work one-on-one with a group of medical professionals in an accredited treatment center. By allowing physicians and therapists to determine the most effective form of treatment individuals are helping to ensure a successful recovery. Doing this also ensure a safer and more comfortable withdrawal process. Doctors have the authority to administer medication to help ease the symptoms, as well as help refrain any setbacks from occurring. The Recovery Village offers various kinds of programs nationwide to fit the needs of each individual looking to recover from an oxycodone addiction, such as inpatient, outpatient and aftercare programs.
Oxycodone dosage varies based on the patient and their condition, their symptoms and which formulation of oxycodone is prescribed. OxyContin, the long-release form of oxycodone, comes in 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 60, 80 and 160 mg doses.
Percocet comes in 2.5, 5, 7.5 and 10 mg doses. In all of these formulations, the dose of acetaminophen stays consistent at 325 mg. Tylox capsules combines a 5 mg dose of oxycodone with 500 mg of acetaminophen. Percodan pills combine a 4.85 mg dose of oxycodone with 325 mg of aspirin.
The typical adult doses for these drugs are:
- One Tylox capsule every 6 hours, as needed
- One Percodan tablet every 6 hours, as needed, with a maximum daily dose not to exceed 12 tablets
- One or two Percocet tablets every 6 hours, as needed, with a maximum daily dose of six – 12 tablets, depending on the formulation
- One OxyContin tablet every 12 hours, as needed
The amount consumed by an individual determines not only just the severity of the addiction, but possibly the amount of time it will take to withdraw from oxycodone and rid the body of the drug. Withdrawal can be a very uncomfortable process if not handled carefully, so it’s important to seek professional help in order to configure the proper way to taper off the drugs.
To taper off a drug means to gradually wean off the drug in question by cutting the dosage down a certain amount on a regular basis. The amount cut will depend purely on the severity of the addiction and the dosages that have been taken by the oxycodone consumed. Since each person becomes addicted to oxycodone in different ways, the process of ridding the body of the drug varies as well. It is suggested to do this with the supervision of a medical professional, as they can determine how much should be tapered off on a weekly basis. This is the best way to prevent withdrawal symptoms from appearing quickly and severely.
An oxycodone addiction is not something that should be taken lightly. If an addiction is not properly handled, the results can be overwhelmingly severe. If you or a loved one struggle with oxycodone addiction, call The Recovery Village. Our representatives can provide information on our unique programs and answer any questions you may have about entering rehab. Calls are free and confidential, so pick up the telephone and start your journey to recovery today.
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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.
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