Oxycodone Symptoms and Warning Signs

On a monthly basis, the media is flooded with news about the ‘opioid epidemic’, particularly the number of deaths caused by overdose.  More than 90 Americans die from some type of overdose daily, and it’s the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. With the amount of problems they seem to cause, the media rarely reports about the benefits of opioids or the lives saved by the pain relief it provides.

Addiction to prescription painkillers is generally not caused by availability or the so-called “for-profit” doctors who are thought to generously prescribe opioids to patients. Addiction is caused by underlying psychological issues, trauma from childhood, and/or other factors not completely related to the actual prescribing of pain medication.

While the problem elsewhere has not reached the massive scale witnessed in the United States, data from the NHS reveals that opioid prescriptions in the UK have more than doubled in the last decade. According to the EMCDDA, the UK accounted for 31% of Europe’s fatalities from overdose in 2015.

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a narcotic pain reliever, used for treating moderate to severe pain in postoperative patients, cancer patients, and those experiencing moderate to severe pain. Despite being synthesized, oxycodone produces a similar effect to other legal and illegal opioids, and can deliver a powerful high that makes it attractive to recreational users.

The potency of the drug may cause a patient with a legitimate prescription to build up a tolerance to the drug within a short period of time. It is classified as an opioid because it was developed in a laboratory setting, but it’s designed to replicate the structure of morphine. The psychoactive effect of opioid narcotics increases the risk of addiction if you abuse the drug in any way.

Top Warning Signs of Oxycodone Abuse

It is important to note that the signs and symptoms of substance abuse are not the same thing. Signs are what a person looking from the outside in sees, whereas symptoms are experienced by a substance abuser. If the individual who is abusing oxycodone hides the symptoms well, it might be harder to detect signs of abuse. However, the longer they abuse oxycodone, the more obvious it will be if they are abusing drugs.

Euphoria is one of the biggest warnings signs you will see in an abuser, andis the most immediate effect. The euphoric high produced by oxycodone can last a long time. Other signs to look out for include:

  • Going through a prescription faster than usual and immediately seeking a refill
  • Doctor shopping when the prescribing doctor refuses to give a new prescription
  • Lying about the severity of the oxycodone abuse to get another prescription
  • Financial woes from maintaining an expensive drug habit
  • Increased isolation
  • Medication going missing from the homes of loved ones when the addict visits
  • Replacing old friends with new drug-using friends

Sometimes it’s difficult for healthcare providers to determine if the patient isn’t receiving sufficient pain relief or is struggling with dependency. For safety reasons, most doctors prescribe lower doses to prevent addiction. Watching out for these signs could help you determine if your loved one is struggling with pain or dealing with substance abuse.

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Symptoms of Oxycodone Abuse

The symptoms you’ll experience depend on the formulation of oxycodone. OxyContin might last up to 12 hours, and immediate release versions like OxyIR last for shorter durations.

Pleasurable symptoms include the loosening of muscular tension, less physical pain, feelings of euphoria, and calmness. Undesirable symptoms include confusion, constipation, shallow breathing, short attention span, and drowsiness

Short-term Effects of Oxycodone Abuse:

  • Sedation
  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Pain relief
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Seizures
  • Blurred vision
  • Rashes
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty swallowing

The Long-term Effects of Oxycodone Abuse

Pregnant women using oxycodone might suffer premature delivery, miscarriage, and stillbirth. If the mother is addicted, she risks the baby developing neonatal abstinence syndrome, the result of which means the baby will need emergency withdrawal treatment. There is also evidence that abusing oxycodone leads to hypoxia, a medical condition which causes  you to experience respiratory depression, because the brain isn’t receiving sufficient oxygen.

You risk developing opioid dependence and addiction when you abuse oxycodone for a significant amount of time. Physical dependence develops when high levels of oxycodone is in your system and your brain adapts to a continuous flooding of dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters in its cells. As your brain becomes used to the high levels of chemicals oxycodone provides, you’ll need higher doses to feel the original effects.

Dependence can also be psychological. You seek an escape from the present pain you are going through, and oxycodone offers it to you. You take higher doses to amplify the effect and stay in the ‘high’. When you come down from this high, you feel depressed, irritable and angry, reinforcing a compulsion to take more drugs and feel the pleasurable effect again.

Other long-term effects include:

  • Brain damage
  • Arthritis
  • Low blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sex drive
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Heart failure
  • Collapsed veins
  • Seizures
  • Clogged blood vessels

Physical and Psychological Effects of Oxycodone

In order for a diagnosis to be made that an individual has opioid use disorder, the individual must display symptoms of opioid use disorder over a 12-month period. These symptoms cover both the physical and psychological factors affecting oxycodone abuse. They include:

  • Not starting out abusing oxycodone, but soon taking too many pills
  • Wanting to cut back but being unable to do so
  • Being preoccupied with getting more oxycodone, using, and recovering from the short-term effects
  • Experiencing cravings when you go a short period without taking oxycodone
  • Domestic life, work productivity, and recreational activities taking a back burner to oxycodone use
  • Engaging in reckless behaviour that endangers the person in question, and others around them, such as driving under the influence of opioids
  • Continuing abuse of oxycodone even when the negative consequences to personal relationships are known
  • Continuing oxycodone abuse even when the physical and psychological effect are completely visible, such as worsening medical conditions
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempts are made to quit using oxycodone

Behavioural Signs of Oxycodone Abuse

The behavioural signs depend on your finances, living arrangements, the severity of addiction, and assets. Behavioural signs include:

Drowsiness: You appear tired and drowsy, even outside of your usual nap or sleep times.

Decreased performance: You start to develop impaired cognitive function that prevents you from being efficient at work, school, or in the home. You start taking sick days, leaving work early, appearing in public looking unkempt, and stop caring about anything that isn’t related to oxycodone.

Personality changes: Due to oxycodone abuse, you start to withdraw from friends and loved ones, and stop caring about the activities you loved in the past, such as social activities and sports. Your new circle of friends includes your drug dealer and other recreational users.

Poor personal hygiene: You become far too relaxed about your physical appearance. Your hair stays unbrushed, you stop shaving, wear dirty clothes and stop using your usual grooming products.

Secrets and lies: Hiding your substance abuse is a lot of hard work, that forces you to live a double life. You have secret names for your drug crowd, and use street names when talking about drugs. You lie about where you spend your free time and what you do with money.

Methods of Using Oxycodone

If your loved one is abusing oxycodone by taking the pills orally, an obvious tip-off would be empty prescription bottles from different pharmacies with overlapping dates. Those who buy medication or drugs on the dark web will get their packages delivered in inconspicuous packages that make them easier to hide. If they are injecting oxycodone directly into their bloodstream to increase the potency of the high, you will notice paraphernalia such as syringes, needles, and other tools used to melt the pill into liquid form.

Some recreational users insert rectally. In this case, you’ll find suppository or enema equipment that they need to consume the drug. Bear in mind that this method is the same as swallowing the pill, it just helps to avoid stomach pain. Opioid users who crush the pill and snort it will often have a runny nose and other visible signs that come with snorting substances.

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The Dangers of abusing Oxycodone

Although patients most typically experience pain relief when they take oxycodone, the dangers of abuse are becoming more obvious. Most individuals who abuse oxycodone are aware of the risk of addiction, but still feel compelled to abuse opioids. Oxycodone is a central nervous system depressant, that lowers blood pressure and also increases the risk of respiratory depression.  You could overdose, experience seizures, cardiac arrest, and even go into a coma from an oxycodone overdose (these are most likely to occur if you snort it).

Combining oxycodone with alcohol, and other addictive substances, is extremely dangerous. They are both CNS depressants, and the interaction between them could lead to irreversible damage. You might experience dizziness, loss of consciousness, confusion, impaired motor function, and, of course, overdose.

Snorting oxycodone accelerates the addiction timeline, and you may then also experience the following: nausea, headaches, severe constipation, dry mouth, fatigue, lightheadedness, sexual performance issues, and shallow breathing. Snorting also increases your chances of moving to stronger opioids such as heroin. People who buy oxycodone online might actually receive Fentanyl instead, a powerful and deadly substance, that has such a fast overdose effect, it can kill before emergency services even have a chance to arrive.

The Effect of Oxycodone On The Brain

Oxycodone can alter your emotional response to pain. It binds to kappa, mu and delta opioid receptors in the CNS (Central Nervous System) to change the way you feel pain. When you take oxycodone, it triggers the release of feel-good dopamine chemicals in the brain’s reward centre. The brain then adjusts to the overstimulation and remembers the action or substance that led to the release of dopamine. It also decreases your sensitivity to dopamine and prevents reuptake of serotonin.

The longer you use oxycodone, the harder it will be to reverse the changes it has made in the brain, and the more painful the withdrawal symptoms will be when you attempt to quit. Depending on any pre-existing co-occurring disorders you may suffer from, and your individual genetic makeup that could increase your risk of addiction, the psychological effect might be more severe.

Most of the acute effects fade away after you quit using oxycodone, but you’ll require addiction treatment to address psychological symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, social isolation, and low self-confidence.

Oxycodone Overdose

Overdose rates for prescription opioids rose 200% between 2000-2014. In 2014 and 2015, nearly 19,000 people and 18,000 people, respectively, died from an opioid overdose. The tragic factors that lead to overdose usually develop alongside addiction and might be hard to fight if you don’t receive treatment on time.

When you take large quantities of oxycodone over a long period of time, it increases the risk of overdose. This occurs because taking larger doses causes an imbalance in the areas of the brain that control breathing. Recognising the symptoms of this could help save a life. They include:

  • Seizures
  • Non-responsiveness
  • Pale skin
  • Bluish tint to fingernails and lips
  • Cold skin
  • Unconsciousness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Extremely shallow breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Lightheadedness

Former users are at an increased risk of overdose because they’ve lost the tolerance they once had to oxycodone. Taking high doses like you used to be able to in the past could lead to accidental overdose. The specific amount that leads to overdose is difficult to pinpoint, because each individual has a unique physiology. Generally, taking higher doses than originally prescribed is dangerous, and first-time users taking more than 15 mg every six hours are at risk of overdosing on oxycodone.

If you notice any of these symptoms in a loved one, call your local emergency number for help immediately. Healthcare workers will use naloxone to block the receptors that oxycodone binds to in the brain, and suppress overdose.

Treatment for Oxycodone abuse


The detox process can either be completed in a medical facility or at home. If you’ve tried to quit on your own but failed, a medical detoxification will help to remove all traces of oxycodone from your system using the tapering technique. During detox, doctors gradually reduce your regular dose to prevent the onset of painful withdrawal symptoms. You’ll then transition to drug rehabilitation when you’re physically stable.

Inpatient and Outpatient treatment

There is almost always an underlying reason for why people abuse prescription painkillers. It might be because they have parents who abuse drugs, peer pressure, living in an environment where drug use was normal, unaddressed past trauma, and mental health issues. Inpatient rehab centres provide a therapeutic environment for you to heal without any distractions. You’ll enjoy round the clock care from medical professionals, who can address all the triggers that might lead to a relapse. Your therapist will help you develop a relapse prevention plan to ensure you maintain abstinence after rehab.

Outpatient rehab is geared towards individuals who can’t attend inpatient programmes because of family or work responsibilities. You detox as an inpatient and then attend rehab from home. This programme benefits high-functioning addicts and those with mild addictions.

Where Can I Find Help for Oxycodone Abuse?

If you need professional help for oxycodone abuse, there are free addiction counselling helplines you can call today. These drug counsellors use research-backed procedures to help you find a treatment option best suited to your addiction needs and individual preferences.

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