Oxycontin Addiction: Identify Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects of Abuse

Last Updated: September 22, 2023

Oxycontin addiction is a serious problem across the globe. Oxycontin is a very strong prescription medication used to manage long-lasting and severe pain that has not responded well to other medications. It belongs to a class of drugs called opioids. However, opioids are very addictive, and misuse of these drugs can lead to substance use disorder. They even have the possibility to cause death. As a matter of fact, roughly 130 Americans die every single day from opioid (including Oxycontin) overdoses. Therefore, it is important to understand the signs of Oxycontin abuse and how to address addiction to this powerful substance.

How is Oxycontin Abused?

When people are prescribed Oxycontin legally by a doctor, they are instructed to swallow Oxycontin pills intact. They are not supposed to cut, break, chew, crush or dissolve Oxycontin pills. Why is this the case? Well, breaking Oxycontin pills apart can have serious consequences. This is because the tablets are designed to release slowly over 12 hours, therefore breaking them apart enhances the release of the drug. It also increases the risk of overdose and death. When people abuse Oxycontin illegally they tend to snort, smoke or inject Oxycontin. Snorting, smoking or injecting Oxycontin greatly increases the risk of serious adverse side effects and addiction.

Snorting Oxycontin through the nasal cavity is perhaps the most common way that people abuse the drug. Smoking Oxycontin tends to make the drug act faster compared to snorting, but typically doesn’t last as long. Injecting Oxycontin is considered to be quite an advanced stage of Oxycontin addiction and abuse. It is particularly dangerous because of increased risks of overdose, as well as other diseases that can be acquired through the sharing of needles.

Signs of Oxycontin Addiction

There are many Oxycontin addiction signs and Oxycontin drug abuse symptoms. These symptoms can be physical as well as behavioral. In other words, Oxycontin affects both the body and the mind. Learn to recognize these key, characteristic signs and symptoms of Oxycontin addiction and abuse.

Physical Signs

Oxycontin was designed to relieve pain and make people feel relaxed. However, Oxycontin effects on the body are numerous. The most common physical signs of taking Oxycontin include:

  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

All side effects can be important indicators and warning signs of Oxycontin abuse.

Behavioral Signs

There are also behavioral signs of Oxycontin abuse. This means that Oxycontin can affect a person’s mood or other behaviors. These behavioral signs might include:

  • Euphoria (delight)
  • Social withdrawal (avoiding social interactions)
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Psychosis (disconnection from reality)
  • Stealing
  • Neglecting physical appearance
  • Neglecting personal responsibilities (including school, work, family or friends)
  • Excessive preoccupation thinking about how to obtain Oxycontin

Oxycontin Abuse Side Effects

What are the side effects of taking Oxycontin? There are actually numerous Oxycontin side effects. These side effects are similar to signs of Oxycontin abuse. Some of these side effects are short-term, which means that they are only present for a short time period following taking the drug. Other Oxycontin side effects last longer (long-term side effects) and can persist for a while after someone has taken Oxycontin.

Short-Term Side Effects

Short-term side effects of Oxycontin are side effects that only last for a short period of time after taking the drug. Some short-term side effects of Oxycontin include:

  • Euphoria (elevated mood)
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

The short-term side effects of Oxycontin are, apart from the euphoria or “high” associated with taking the drug, are generally physical (or affect the body).

Long-Term Effects

While the short-term side effects of taking Oxycontin generally affect the body, the long-term side effects of Oxycontin abuse tend to be related to an individual’s psychological well-being. This is because of the long-term effects of Oxycontin on the brain. After repeatedly taking Oxycontin, the drug will cause a depletion of the neurochemicals within the brain that normally make an individual feel happy. The chemical dopamine is particularly affected. Oxycontin essentially floods the brain and targets the brain’s natural reward circuitry by activating dopamine receptors (the molecules embedded in cell membranes that dopamine sticks to).

Over time, this causes the brain to produce less dopamine on its own, because it has basically been tricked into thinking too much dopamine has been there already. This can have profound effects on mood.

Thus, long-term use of Oxycontin can have detrimental psychological side effects, including:

  • Anxiety (nervousness, panic attacks)
  • Depression (extreme sadness, social withdrawal)
  • Psychosis (feeling disconnected from reality)

Side Effects of Polysubstance Abuse

Polysubstance abuse is when an individual abuses more than one drug at a time. Unfortunately, many people who abuse Oxycontin also abuse other drugs. Oxycontin and alcohol is a particularly popular (and dangerous) combination. Mixing alcohol and oxycontin is dangerous because of how they both act in the brain. Both of these drugs are depressants, that is to say that they slow down the nervous system. When combined this can greatly increase the risk of overdose or respiratory arrest due to the additive effects. Some of the side effects of mixing Oxycontin and alcohol include:

  • Difficult or slowed breathing
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Sedation
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired motor skills and ability to operate a motor vehicle
  • Memory problems

Of course, there are also risks of combining Oxycontin with other drugs. For instance, some people like to mix “uppers” and “downers” in a process called “speed-balling.” Oxycontin, as a depressant, would be considered a “downer” and thus may be mixed with a drug such as methamphetamine (an “upper” or stimulant). This is also a very dangerous combination because it can result in cardiac arrest, stroke, and overdose.

Oxycontin Withdrawal Symptoms

Oxycontin withdrawal symptoms are not pleasant for the individual going through the withdrawal process. Withdrawal symptoms can be more severe depending on how the drug was used (snorting vs injecting Oxycontin, for example) and how large the dose typically consumed was.

Oxycontin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Mood changes (anxiety, irritation, restlessness or agitation)
  • Sleep changes (insomnia)
  • Physical changes (muscle aches, cramps or yawning)
  • Symptoms similar to the flu or cold (runny nose, sweating, chills, fever and congestion)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Blurry vision
  • Shivering or goosebumps
  • Reduced appetite

How long withdrawal symptoms from Oxycontin last can vary depending on several factors, including:

  • The amount of Oxycontin a person was normally intaking
  • If the drug was tapered off of (how slowly this process occurred)
  • Overall physical health
  • Physical exercise and exertion (this can actually make the withdrawal process last longer)
  • Other drugs a person is taking (including benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Klonopin)

Oxycontin Addiction Facts & Statistics

Oxycontin abuse statistics indicate that the dangers of prescription opioid (including Oxycontin) misuse, substance use disorder and overdose have been a growing problem throughout the United States. When the amount of opioids prescribed to patients began to grow rapidly in the 1990s, the number of overdoses and deaths from prescription opioids similarly increased. Rates of addiction have therefore also increased.

Even though the overall opioid prescribing rate in the United States peaked and then leveled off around 2010 to 2012 and has been declining since then, Oxycontin statistics indicate that over 200,000 people in the United States died from overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2017. Actually, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2017 than in 1999, and Oxycontin is one of the top three drugs related to these opioid overdoses.

  • Prevalence in men: Overall, more men than women struggle with drug addiction. Specifically, in one study, men were more likely than women to engage in polysubstance abuse.
  • Prevalence in women: What may surprise some people is that women are actually at increased risk for opioid usecompared to men. Additionally, the data suggest that women progress from use to dependence more quickly than men.
  • Teen abuse: Drug reports in teenagers suggest that approximately 2% of 10th graders in 2019 consumed Oxycontin within the past 30 days.
  • Senior abuse: Seniors are particularly at risk for Oxycontin addiction. This is because seniors are more likely to have access to the drug for a legitimate medical condition. However, even Oxycontin used as prescribed can lead to addiction. Oxycontin side effects in the elderly are also more pronounced, making the risk of overdose even more possible.

Oxycontin Overdose

How much Oxycontin does it take to have an overdose? Well, even a single dose of Oxycontin can be fatal. People who misuse Oxycontin by snorting, smoking or injecting it bypass the extended-release mechanism and therefore release all of the drug into the brain and body at once. This can cause respiratory failure (make someone stop breathing).

Symptoms of Oxycontin overdose include:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Extreme sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs)
  • Small or constricted pupils
  • Coma

How to Help Someone Addicted to Oxycontin

If you or a loved one is struggling with Oxycontin addiction, know that Oxycontin addiction help is available. There are many treatment options available for those struggling with addiction. So how do you help someone with an addiction to Oxycontin? What are the initial steps one can take? The first thing to do is let the person struggling with addiction know that you are there to help and also that you care about their well-being. If conversations like this are difficult, an intervention may be a good first step before beginning to discuss treatment options.


An Oxycontin intervention may be a necessary first step to help someone towards the road to recovery and healthy living. An intervention is an organized attempt to get someone to seek addiction treatment. Usually an intervention consists of family and friends sitting down with their loved one who is struggling with addiction to confront them about their problem and explain that they should seek treatment. Family and friends are also encouraged to express their concerns and feelings in a positive and structured manner. The most effective interventions require a lot of forethought and planning on the part of the family and friends. Hopefully, the end result of this intervention is that the person who is struggling with Oxycontin addiction decides to seek professional treatment at a detox center.

Oxycontin Addiction Treatment Options

To address the opioid epidemic in our country, several types of rehabilitation programs have been established. These programs range from minimal to constant medical care and have various behavioral treatment methods and drug treatment options. Because every patient is different, it is important to choose an Oxycontin addiction treatment center and rehab program that meets your specific needs. Methadone treatment for Oxycontin addiction is sometimes an option.

It is also important to consider that drug addiction often coexists with other medical conditions, such as mental health problems like depression or physical health problems like high blood pressure. Therefore a multidisciplinary approach and implementing unique treatment plans are important for treating co-occurring disorders.

  • Detox: The first part of treatment is detox. This is usually some form of medical detox from opioids that is done in an inpatient setting. “Inpatient” means that an individual stays for an extended period of time in a professional facility. Here, patients receive around-the-clock care from trained medical professionals. Furthermore, medications are often used for the treatment of Oxycontin withdrawal symptoms. Methadone treatment for Oxycontin addiction is common in some treatment centers. Other medications that may be used include Suboxone, Buprenorphine, Clonidine and Codeine phosphate. These drugs interact with the receptor molecules that Oxycontin would normally bind to in the brain. This produces similar effects that Oxycontin would cause, which, in turn, reduces the effects of Oxycontin withdrawal.
  • Residential: Inpatient rehab is also known as residential rehab; it typically follows medical detox procedures. Once an individual has successfully gone through Oxycontin withdrawal, it is important that these individuals do not return immediately to those people, places and things that were once associated with opioid use. Because of the way opiates work in the brain (such as through interactions with an important brain region called the hippocampus), those memories can potentially trigger relapse. In inpatient drug rehab, however, people are away from these drug cues and associations. This intensive stage of recovery focuses on defining treatment goals and then starting to build the skills necessary to achieve those goals. Patients will meet with doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists to build toward these individual goals while maintaining sobriety in a safe and drug-free setting.
  • Outpatient: Generally, the next step is outpatient rehab. Outpatient drug rehab allows patients to live at home and travel to a treatment facility for scheduled medical visits or psychiatric counseling. Outpatient rehab helps individuals work toward recovery while maintaining much of their daily life, like work or school.
  • Dual diagnosis: People who struggle with addiction, including Oxycontin addiction, oftentimes have a mental health condition such as depression or an anxiety disorder that occurs alongside their drug use. A dual diagnosis can make Oxycontin addiction particularly hard to treat. However, dual diagnosis treatment centers strive to address both issues (mental health and addiction) at the same time. This sort of treatment plan typically involves going through medical detox, inpatient rehab, and outpatient rehab, but there is a focus on treating both disorders. Treating co-occurring disorders is necessary to heal from addiction and manage mental illness.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to Oxycontin, specialized help is always available at Orlando Recovery Center. Contact us today to learn about the personalized and confidential services we offer that can work best for your situation.


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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Understanding the Epidemic.” December 19, 2018. Accessed December 27, 2019.

Purdue Pharma. “OXYCONTIN.” September 2018. Accessed December 27, 2019.

Zhang, Yong; et al. “Behavioral and neurochemical changes ind[…]scent and adult mice.” Neuropsychopharmacology, 2009. Accessed December 27, 2019.

World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Manag[…]e in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed December 27, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Prescription Opioid Data.” August 13, 2019. Accessed December 27, 2019.

Back, Sudie E.; et al. “Comparative profiles of men and women wi[…] effectiveness trial.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2011. Accessed December 27, 2019.

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