Oxycodone Side Effects, Withdrawal & Addiction Treatment

Though many have used oxycodone safely according to prescription guidelines, it has known abuse potential. Misuse of oxycodone can increase the risks of addiction and even overdose.1,2

What Is Oxycodone?

Oxy pills

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone and other prescription opioids work by activating opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord and other organs, altering pain signals that travel between the brain and the body.1

In addition to pain relief, oxycodone can also result in a euphoric high, especially when it is misused. People may misuse oxycodone in several ways, such as by:3

  • Taking the drug in higher doses or more frequently than recommended.
  • Taking the drug for nonmedical purposes (i.e., to get high).
  • Tampering with the drug such as by crushing it up to snort it or inject it.

What Drugs Contain Oxycodone?

There are several brand name drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that contain oxycodone alone or in combination with other medicines such as aspirin or acetaminophen. They include:4

  • OxyContin.
  • Percocet.
  • Percodan.
  • Roxicodone.

What Are the Side Effects of Oxycodone?

Oxycodone may have some side effects, even when used according to physician’s recommendations. Side effects might worsen in number or severity when the drug is taken in doses higher than prescribed or misused in other ways. Side effects include:1,5

  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Skin itching.
  • Respiratory depression.

Oxycodone Overdose

Oxycodone has the potential to slow a person’s breathing. Severely slowed breathing is much more likely to occur when the drug is misused than when it is taken appropriately. Misuse of oxycodone may result in life-threatening respiratory depression and hypoxia (inadequate oxygen to the brain).1

While misuse of any oxycodone may result in overdose, some formulations have unique dangers. Certain forms of oxycodone, such as OxyContin, are extended-release drugs meant to provide a slow, controlled release of the medication into the body over many hours. Fatal overdose may result from chewing or crushing extended-release versions of oxycodone to override the time-release mechanism and dump the full dose of oxycodone into the system at once.6

Are Opioids Safe for Long-Term Use?

Prolonged use of opioids has been associated with serious health issues that affect various body systems. These issues include:8

  • Chronic constipation.
  • Bowel obstruction.
  • Central sleep apnea and worsened obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Chronic hypoxemia (low oxygen) and CO2
  • Cumulative risk of overdose/respiratory arrest.
  • Increased risk of heart attack and other serious cardiovascular events.
  • Increased pain sensitivity.
  • Increased fall and fracture risks (a particular concern in elderly patients).
  • Hormonal imbalances in both men and women.
  • Suppression of the immune system and increased risk of pneumonia in older patients.

In recognition of these dangers, as well as the potential for developing an opioid addiction (opioid use disorder), many doctors have cut back on prescribing opioids, especially to treat chronic pain.9

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

People that have been taking oxycodone for significant lengths of time may be more likely to build up a physical dependence and experience withdrawal symptoms when they reduce their use or quit entirely.1,2

Common oxycodone withdrawal symptoms include:1,10

  • Dilated pupils.
  • Insomnia.
  • Restlessness.
  • Fever.
  • Sweating.
  • Goosebumps.
  • Watery eyes and runny nose.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Muscle and bone pain.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

How Long Does Oxycodone Withdrawal Last?

Individual experiences with opioid withdrawal may vary somewhat. However, as with other relatively short-acting opioids, oxycodone withdrawal can begin within 8 to 24 hours of the last dose with symptoms lasting as long as 10 days before they fully resolve.10

Oxycodone Detox & Addiction Treatment Options

Therapy session

Opioid use disorder, or OUD, is a chronic disorder characterized by continued misuse of opioids that causes significant problems in someone’s life—be that their health, career, home life, academic career, or relationships. Attempting and failing to cease use of opioids is one of the many signs of OUD.11

Treatment for opioid addiction typically involves a continuum of care. In many cases, treatment starts with detox, transitions into addiction rehabilitation, and continues with aftercare.

How to Detox from Oxycodone

Opioid use disorder treatment often begins with detoxification.12 Opioid withdrawal can be very unpleasant and, in rare cases, associated with certain medical complications such as severe dehydration and worsened cardiac issues. Medical detox can make acute withdrawal easier to bear and facilitates entry into further treatment. Detox can be completed in an outpatient or inpatient setting.13

Medication is an important aspect of opioid withdrawal for many people. Commonly used opioid withdrawal medications include opioid agonists like methadone or buprenorphine, drugs that can be maintained after detox is complete to decrease relapse risks and promote long term recovery.10

Detox at Laguna Hospital is performed in a hospital setting, allowing patients to be monitored 24/7 for safety and comfort. Beds in the detox facility are all equipped with EarlySense technology, which immediately alerts medical staff of any concerning changes in a patient’s vital signs. Laguna also utilizes buprenorphine during withdrawal when appropriate. From start to finish, detox usually lasts around 5-7 days.

How to Treat Oxycodone Addiction

People may undergo rehabilitation in a variety of settings. Patients with co-occurring disorders, health problems, high risk of relapse, or that lack a stable and supportive home environment may fare better in an inpatient or residential program. For others, a relatively less intensive outpatient option may also be helpful.14,15

Residential/inpatient rehabilitation often combines evidence-based therapy (individual and group), psychosocial services such as case management, drug education, positive recreational activities, skills development, and mutual support groups such as NA or SMART Recovery. Inpatient and residential settings will provide a great deal of structure in the day.14,16

Outpatient settings vary in intensity and services. More intensive levels of outpatient care, such as partial hospitalization, offer therapeutic services that are comparable to those in residential programs. Less intensive outpatient programs may offer minimal services including drug education and connections to community support groups.12,16 Patients can begin rehab in an outpatient setting or step down into an outpatient program upon completing a more intensive level of treatment.

Aftercare

Following rehabilitation, many people in recovery benefit from aftercare, whether that be weekly outpatient therapy, residing at a sober living facility, or attending regular meetings for a 12-step program like Narcotics Anonymous (NA).17

Laguna Treatment Hospital provides aftercare planning for patients and works with alumni to help them remain connected with their peers through the alumni app and with the support of our HOPE team (Helping Other People Engage).

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s not too late to get help. Please reach out to an admissions navigator at .