Oxycodone Abuse Side Effects & Symptoms

Oxycodone has many affects on a person’s body and mind, which will — sooner or later — result in outwardly showing symptoms. At first, it may be difficult to tell if a person is using the narcotic. Friends and family of suspected oxycodone abusers can clarify their hunches by looking for certain signs and symptoms. Even if the person is keeping their addiction a secret, they will often show marked changes in behavior, appearance or mood that give away their drug abuse. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in a loved one, it’s time to confront them about their oxycodone problem and seek out help.
Often before a person begins showing symptoms of oxycodone abuse, they will exhibit several social changes. These signs of oxycodone abuse can include multiple elements of a person’s life, and are all a result of the person craving more and more oxycodone, at the sacrifice of their other priorities.

It’s common for oxycodone addicts to exhibit changes or problems in these areas of their life:

  • Work
  • School
  • Finances
  • Personal relationships
  • Hobbies, clubs or activities

Oxycodone addiction is defined as the physical and psychological need to use oxycodone. Psychologically, a person will crave the drug. Physically, the person will go into withdrawal without the drug. As a result, an oxycodone addict’s new focus in life is obtaining more oxycodone, getting high off of it, and repeating the process.

When this happens, the person will often begin to perform poorly at school or work. They may avoid their normal routines, such as arriving at school or work by a certain time. Students may skip classes in order to go buy or use drugs, or employees may cut out of work early or in the middle of the day for the same purpose. Because of oxycodone’s effects on the body, the addict may also have problems thinking or focusing while at school or work. As a result, students may earn poor test scores, failing grades, or possibly be excluded from graduation. Similarly, full-time workers may be reprimanded for low job performance or let go from their position.

Loss of job will cause serious money problems for an oxycodone addict, but it only one of several financial issues they will likely experience. Depending on how much oxycodone they are taking and how frequently they get high, an addict could be spending an exorbitant amount of money on drugs. When high, abusers are also more likely to make impulse purchases, such as buying food to satisfy the “munchies.” These expenses can quickly add up, especially when added to a person’s existing bills and financial responsibilities. After losing their job, it’s not unusual for an addict to be evicted from their home or have to declare bankruptcy. Some addicts will also cash out savings accounts, retirement accounts and sell treasured family heirlooms to pay for their oxycodone habit. If they get caught with or selling the drug, the person may also have to pay for bail or legal fees.

As this is happening, it’s not uncommon for an addict’s personal relationships to become strained. They may face questions or criticism from loved ones, or may ignore friends and family entirely, choosing to spend time getting high with new friends instead. They may also become more distant with friends from their hobbies or activities as the addict drifts away from these interests, choosing to get high instead.

Oxycodone use and abuse can cause many changes in the body. While a few of these symptoms are “desirable,” and are the reason why a doctor may prescribe the drug, oxycodone abuse can lead to many adverse health effects. Many of these symptoms are physical, but some are also psychological.

Physical symptoms of using oxycodone include:

  • Sedation
  • Pain relief
  • Cough suppression
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Flushed complexion
  • Dry mouth
  • Respiratory depression

Psychological symptoms of using oxycodone are:

  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Mood swings

In some users, oxycodone can also cause some more adverse reactions. Some of the most serious side effects of oxycodone include:

  • Heartbeat changes
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sex drive
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Hives or rash
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Seizures
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hallucinations
  • Diarrhea

Coupled with the social changes in an abuser’s life, noticing these symptoms makes it easier to confirm a hunch and confront a suspected oxycodone abuser. If you think a loved one is abusing oxycodone, and they’ve shown several signs and symptoms of abuse, it’s time to have a conversation with them. In some cases, they may admit to the problem. In other cases, they may insist they don’t have a problem, act insulted or put the blame on you. It’s important to remember you did the right thing by confronting the person, and if they don’t come around, an intervention may help you get through to them.

oxycodone withdrawal
If an abuser continues taking oxycodone over an extended period of time, the typical symptoms they experience may worsen and lead to further diseases and disabilities. In many cases, long-term side effects of oxycodone abuse can cause irreversible damage. Many of these side effects are also likely to be fatal.

Long-term side effects of oxycodone abuse and addiction are:

  • Severe liver damage
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Brain damage, resulting in compulsive drug use and other compulsive decisionmaking
  • Seizures
  • Low blood pressure
  • Endocarditis, or heart infection
  • Heart failure
  • Collapsed veins
  • Arthritis
  • Clogged blood vessels
  • Breathing irregularity
  • Respiratory depression
  • Addiction

Liver damage and failure is a particular risk for those taking Percocet and Tylox, because those drugs combine oxycodone and acetaminophen. Acetaminophen, especially when taken in high doses over a long period of time, can cause liver damage because the liver metabolizes acetaminophen. Similar to alcohol abuse, constantly using the liver to metabolize this drug can, over time, cause damage and inhibit the organ’s ability to function properly. Studies show acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.

Because the liver metabolizes both drugs, it’s especially important to avoid drinking and taking Percocet or other oxycodone-acetaminophen combinations together, as this will only cause more damage to the liver more quickly.

It can be difficult to diagnose liver damage because it often takes symptoms a while to show. Some of the most common symptoms of liver trouble are nausea, vomiting, inability to eat, abdominal pain and confusion.

While there is an antidote for acetaminophen overdose — N-acetylcysteine — that carries a 66% recovery rate if administered early. Most people with acute liver failure will need a new liver and are typically put on the transplant list. However, if the transplant recipient does not get their Percocet or Tylox addiction under control, they risk overdosing on acetaminophen again and damaging their new liver.

When a person takes a high dose of oxycodone, they risk overdosing on the drug. Overdose is essentially poisoning, as the body cannot detox the high dose of oxycodone fast enough and it causes certain organs to shut down.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms following taking oxycodone, you may have overdosed:

  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Slowed, stopped or labored breathing
  • Widened or narrowed pupils
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Blue skin, especially around the lips and fingers
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Overdose is a medical emergency and should be treated as such, as it can be fatal. If you think someone is overdosing, call 911 or take them to a hospital immediately. Once at the emergency room, the person will likely receive some of the following tests or procedures:

  • Naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote
  • Airway support
  • Blood test
  • Urine test
  • CT scan
  • Chest x-ray
  • Intravenous fluids
  • EKG

It’s important to provide EMTs or doctors with as much information on the person as you have available so they can treat them efficiently. Be sure to let them know the person’s name, age, when they took the oxycodone, if they took it with any other drugs, how much they took, and if they have any allergies or medical conditions. 

Center for Substance Abuse Research. “Oxycodone.” CESAR, University of Maryland, 29 Oct. 2013, www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/oxycodone.asp. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.
Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. “Oxycodone: Protect Your Teens.” CT.gov, Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Prescription Monitoring Program, www.ct.gov/dcp/lib/dcp/drug_control/pmp/pdf/oxycodone.pdf. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.
Fontana, Robert J. “Acute Liver Failure Including Acetaminophen Overdose.” PubMed Central, National Institutes of Health, 1 July 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2504411/. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.
MedlinePlus. “Hydrocodone/Oxycodone Overdose.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 26 Jan. 2016, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007285.htm. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.
MedlinePlus. “Oxycodone.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Jan. 2017, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682132.html. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.
WebMD. “Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Poisoning.” WebMD, www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tylenol-acetaminophen-poisoning#1. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.
Oxycodone Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, & Side Effects
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