Oxycodone: What is it? Side Effects, Overdose, Long Term Effects and Drug Dependence Treatment

It is a prescription opioid pain reliever, or simply a “pain reliever,” that works by changing the way the brain responds to pain.

It is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, and it is commonly supplied under the brand names OxyContin and Percocet.

It is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Controlled Substances Act, which means that:

  • It has a high potential for abuse.
  • It has a currently accepted medical use.
  • It can lead to serious psychological or physical dependence.

Oxycodone can come in liquid or pill form (with immediate and controlled-release variations), and is often prescribed as a combination product with other drugs such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen, with each combination having a different brand name.

Brand names include OxyContin, Roxicodone, Percocet, and Percodan. Street names for oxycodone include “oxy,” “kickers,” “blue,” and “Hillybilly heroin,” among others.

Oxycodone can produce intensely positive feelings and rewarding sensations in the user. As such, it has a high potential for abuse.

When used recreationally, there is a high risk of overdose, as recreational ingestion methods often hasten the absorption of large and dangerous amounts of the drug.

Short-term effects of oxycodone

When taken as prescribed, oxycodone can elicit the following desirable feelings:

  • Euphoria.
  • Extreme relaxation
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Pain relief.
  • Sedation.

Side effects

Oxycodone is a powerful opioid pain reliever. Its positive pain-reducing effects can also come with a number of unwanted side effects:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth.
  • Constipation .
  • Dizziness.
  • Stomach ache.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Redness of the skin.
  • Perspiration.
  • Soft spot.
  • Headache.
  • Humor changes.

These side effects can make the user uncomfortable and tend to worsen as the dose increases. Other side effects can be much more serious and may require immediate medical help:

  • Irregular heart rate and / or rhythm.
  • Chest pain.
  • Hives , itching, or rash
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs.
  • Ronquera.
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  • Seizures
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Postural hypotension.
  • Daze.

Some of the most dangerous side effects of using oxycodone are associated with the breathing problems it can cause.

A markedly slow respiratory rate can quickly become life threatening, especially in overdose situations.

The quick effects of using oxycodone are particularly dangerous when combined with alcohol. Alcohol and opioids combine similar effects and result in a much higher risk of harm or death, particularly from severe respiratory problems and overdoses.

Oxycodone overdose

Symptoms of oxycodone overdose include:

  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased or stopped breathing.
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting.
  • Weak muscles
  • Dilation or contraction of the pupils.
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Slow or stopped heartbeat
  • Cyanosis (blue color of the skin, nails, lips, or mouth area).
  • Loss of consciousness or coma.

It is important to act immediately when you see the signs of an opioid overdose.

Long-term effects of oxycodone

Over time, oxycodone can have many different effects, both good and bad. For some, oxycodone is very effective in controlling their pain, especially for those who suffer from chronic pain.

On the other hand, oxycodone can have damaging psychological and physiological effects, including dependency.

Oxycodone use has been found to be associated with kidney and liver failure , as well as a reduction in the brain’s ability to adapt to new inputs, which may explain the shift from controlled to compulsive use.

Combination products pose an even higher risk. Long-term or chronic use of any drug that combines oxycodone and acetaminophen can cause severe liver damage. This risk is greatly increased when an oxycodone / acetaminophen combination is used simultaneously with alcohol.

Long-term prescription drug use presents risks that you should discuss with a doctor. Long-term recreational use often involves higher and faster doses that can lead to life-changing damage.


Oxycodone is classified as a Schedule II drug, which means that it has been determined to have highly addictive properties and a high potential for dependence.

Psychological dependence

Psychological dependence is often due to the feeling of euphoria that users experience at first. Users want to continue to feel as euphoric and relaxed as its early use, sometimes even reaching for higher doses in hopes of amplifying the effects.

Physical dependency

Physical dependence on oxycodone involves adaptation to a persistently high presence of the drug in the system. After a certain time, certain physiological processes are impeded when the drug is not available.

Additionally, tolerance can develop rapidly, a phenomenon that means that you will eventually need more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects.

Oxycodone Dependence Treatment

There are several options for treating an oxycodone dependence. The first phase of treatment will always involve detoxification.

Opioid detoxification should ideally be carefully supervised by an experienced professional, as withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and may cause the user to reuse to avoid symptoms.

Some common oxycodone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness.
  • Crying eyes.
  • Flu-like symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, sweating, chills).
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Irritability, anxiety and depression .
  • Difficulty falling asleep or falling asleep.
  • Nausea vomiting
  • Diarrhea.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart and respiratory rate.

Treatment after detoxification will involve behavioral counseling and, in some cases, medications. The combination of therapy and drugs is known as drug-assisted treatment.

Some common medications used to ease recovery from opioid dependence are:

  • Naltrexone : prevents opioids from fully activating receptors in the brain.
  • Vivitrol : a long- acting injectable form of Naltrexone.
  • Methadone : Long-acting synthetic opioid that helps with withdrawal symptoms and relieves drug cravings.

Non-pharmacological therapeutic approaches will serve as the basis for treating oxycodone dependence. One of the most common approaches is cognitive behavioral therapy , which addresses the underlying reason for the dependency and develops coping skills to prevent relapse.