Oxycodone Side Effects and the Risk of Addiction

Recent news has unveiled shocking incidents of doctors over-prescribing drugs, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. When it comes to oxycodone, one physician in Florida was indicted for intentionally over-prescribing the drug with the intent of getting patients hooked. Once hooked, the patients would return for additional refills, which were filled without question. The practice was so intent on creating addicted users that one patient was provided a prescription for 1,590 30-milligram oxycodone pills. These pills were purportedly for a 30-day supply. Of course, such organized attempts to provoke substance abuse and addiction are rare. That said, even when prescribed responsibly, oxycodone remains one of the most addictive opioids available, which unfortunately lends it to abuse.

What Is It For?

Oxycodone is an opioid used for the relief of moderate to severe nerve-related pain. Specifically, it is used for severe back pain, pain relief due to cancer, bone pain, dental pain, and pain related to postoperative procedures.

When oxycodone is used as directed, it can be an effective solution against severe or chronic pain. The effects include the following.

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Lowered anxiety
  • Sedation

Note: the pleasant feelings are one of the reasons oxycodone is abused. As a result, it must be taken as directed.

Dangers of Abuse

Of course, abuse can take the form of recreational use, but abuse can also involve a patient attempting to relieve pain by taking it too often. In these circumstances, oxycodone can be habit forming. Although this has been stated earlier, it bears repeating. That a drug can be habit forming is an often-heard phrase. Consequently, simply reminding people that a drug can be addictive does not carry the weight or cautionary impact it should. Specifically, abuse of oxycodone can result in a compulsory need to take more of the medicine. This compulsion is emotionally driven and not easily resisted. Once the compulsion is established, health and quality of life ultimately deteriorate.

Side Effects

Oxycodone side effects can range from mild to severe. Common side effects include the following.

  • Dizziness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Shallow breathing
  • Light-headedness
  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating

Serious Side Effects and Symptoms of Abuse

One serious side effect that can result from not taking the medicine as prescribed is increased inter-ocular pressure, which involves higher than normal pressure within the eye. This pressure can squeeze the retinal nerve, leading to blurred vision. However, over time, this can develop into permanent blindness if not caught soon enough or if the symptoms are ignored and the drug is chronically abused.

Nausea and vomiting are two of the most common side effects associated with the use of oxycodone. If a patient experiences ongoing nausea or vomiting, he or she should contact a physician and have the prescription swapped for another pain reliever.
Since nausea and vomiting are common side effects, deaths related to oxycodone abuse often result from vomiting in one’s sleep. When this happens, the patient suffocates on aspirated stomach contents.

Uncommon yet severe side effects can result in hospitalization or death. If a person experiences any of the following side effects, he or she should seek medical assistance immediately.

  • Apnea
  • Blood pooling (circulatory depression)
  • Hypertension (low blood pressure)
  • Slowed breathing (respiratory depression)
  • Shock
  • Respiratory arrest

Respiratory side effects are dangerous because Oxycodone can slow one’s breathing, causing the patient to take slow, shallow breaths. Over a period of even a few minutes, this can reduce the amount of oxygen to the blood. Additionally, the use of alcohol will exacerbate this problem. In fact, one of the primary causes of oxycodone-related deaths is mixing it with alcohol, which can result in slowed breathing, shock, respiratory arrest, and death. Patients who smoke or have a history of COPD can also experience slowed breathing.

Supervision Required

Because overdose symptoms or side effects can happen quickly and because they can be severe, patients taking oxycodone should always be in the company of a supervising person, such as a friend or family member. Side effects such as dizziness, for instance, could be caused by shock or a sudden drop in blood pressure. Should something like this occur, it might be impossible for an unsupervised patient to call for assistance or safely make it to the hospital emergency room.

Drug Interactions

Drinking alcohol in conjunction with taking oxycodone can increase the severity of known and unknown side effects. Additionally, to decrease the potential for abuse, oxycodone is often mixed with Tylenol. Consuming alcohol while taking oxycodone and Tylenol can result in liver damage or failure.


One of Oxycodone’s biggest dangers is the fact that it is difficult to stop taking. Even when taken as instructed, if taken for a long enough duration, withdrawals can also include the following symptoms.

  • Nervousness and restlessness
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea

Some patients have reported higher perceived pain as a result of going off oxycodone. This rebound effect can occur if the medication is stopped abruptly. Consequently, it is important to taper off the medication as advised by one’s primary care physician because some patients end up abusing oxycodone in the form of extra doses to compensate for this added, perceived pain.

In order to avoid the discomfort associated with long-term use, it is necessary for a physician to gradually lower the dosage until ceasing the drug entirely causes no ill effects. That said, even when used as directed by a physician, oxycodone may still result in substance abuse, or the compulsory emotional desire to use it.

Those Most at Risk

People with a history of substance abuse are, of course, at greatest risk for abusing oxycodone. However, equal risk exists for people with no such history but experience lots of pain, requiring extended use of the drug. Extended use creates opportunity for abuse, and it also creates physical reliance on the drug, which could lead to substance abuse and addiction.

What to Do?

Whether someone inadvertently experiences problems related to oxycodone or experiences oxycodone side effects or withdrawal symptoms resulting from its abuse, it is important to obtain professional assistance or guidance.

St. John’s Recovery Place’s staff of professionals are available to help you. If you feel you have a substance abuse problem, you can benefit from a confidential consultation to find a solution that will work for you.

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