Causes, Signs & Effects of Oxycodone Addiction

OxyContin, also called oxycodone, is a synthetic opiate painkiller prescribed by a doctor for individuals who are suffering from moderate to severe pain.

More About Oxycodone

Learn More About Oxycodone

These drugs can be very helpful for individuals in consistent chronic pain that occurs with cancer, bone pain, heart attack, and severe burns. The time-release formulation of Oxy provides hours of pain relief for individuals in need of serious pain management. If used appropriately, OxyContin can be a wonderful medication that effectively relieves pain. However, if an individual becomes addicted, a future of negative consequences lies ahead.

When used, OxyContin produces a pleasurable high caused from the stimulation of the reward center of the brain and elevation of the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Individuals who abuse Oxy usually do so by snorting, chewing, or injecting it intravenously. After a period of time, individuals develop a tolerance to this medication and require higher doses to achieve desired effects. The cravings that result from tolerance to Oxy cause individuals to continue to use the substance to reduce the cravings and avoid the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.


Statistics on Oxycodone Abuse & Addiction

It’s estimated that 9% of all adults in the United States have or will abuse opioid narcotics in their lives. The United States Department of Justice estimated that over 13 million individuals in the U.S. used oxycodone for recreational purposes.

What Causes Oxycodone Use?

Learn About the Causes and Risk Factors for Oxycodone Addiction

Research has not been able to determine a single cause for the development of addiction. It is likely that addiction is the result of a number of factors working together. These causes may include:

Genetic: It has long been recognized that addiction runs in families. Those who have family members struggling with substance abuse and addiction are more likely to suffer from addiction themselves. Once you have started using a drug, the chances of it developing into an addiction can be influenced by inherited traits.

Physical: It has been hypothesized that some people are born with decreased levels of dopamine and defects in the pleasure center of the brain. As a result these individuals may attempt to cope with these defects by using narcotics such as Oxy. Additionally, many individuals struggle with underdiagnosed or untreated mental illnesses and are trying to cope with the associated symptoms through self-medication. Abusing substances for a prolonged period of time alters the way in which the brain feels pleasure. The drug causes physical changes to the brain that affect how neurotransmitters communicate with the rest of the brain.

Environmental: There are many environmental factors, such as your family’s beliefs and attitudes toward drug use, peer groups, socio-economic status, and lack of family involvement, that have a role in the development of an addiction disorder. For example, individuals who grow up in a home where addiction is present may learn that substance abuse is an appropriate way to handle negative emotions and cope with life stressors. These environmental factors increase the likelihood that an individual will develop an addiction later in life.

Risk factors:

  • Being male
  • Having another existing psychological problem
  • Suffering from anxiety, depression, or loneliness

Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Addiction

The symptoms of OxyContin addiction can vary wildly among individuals. Symptoms will depend upon individual characteristics, the length of addiction, the frequency of use, and amount of oxycodone used. Symptoms common to Oxy abuse include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Lying about amount of Oxy used
  • Multiple doctor visits
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Borrowing or stealing pills
  • Constantly losing prescriptions
  • Neglecting all responsibilities
  • Engaging in risky behaviors

Physical Symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Itching
  • Track marks on arms and legs
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheadedness

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Euphoria
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Becoming socially withdrawn

Effects of Oxycodone

The Effects of Oxycodone Addiction

The effects of Oxycodone addiction can cause a whole host of negative long-term effects in almost all areas of an individual’s life. Common effects of long-term Oxycodone use include:

  • Loss of friends and family
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Soft-tissue infections
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Legal issues
  • Marital problems, often ending in divorce
  • Loss of job or expulsion from school
  • Financial struggles
  • Homelessness
  • Communicable diseases like HIV
  • Respiratory distress
  • Seizures
  • Accidents
  • Coma
  • Death

Withdrawal & Overdose

Learn What Happens During Oxycodone Withdrawal & Overdose

Withdrawal: After an individual stops using Oxy or reduces the amount of medication after a prolonged period of abuse, they can experience a wide range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on how much of the drug has been taken and how long it has been abused.

Symptoms of OxyContin withdrawal include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting

Overdose: Overdosing on OxyContin is very dangerous and can be fatal. The specific effects of an overdose vary depending on the dosage and whether or not it was taken with any other medications or substances.

Some symptoms of an OxyContin overdose may include:

  • Cold and clamminess
  • Slow heart rate
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Blue colored skin
  • Weak or limp muscles
  • Low blood pressure
  • Coma
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Oxycodone Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Many with addictions have the presence of a co-occurring mental illness. Sometimes it is the symptoms of these untreated disorders that lead to the development of substance abuse.

The most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Self-harm
  • Alcoholism
  • Other substance abuse disorders