Understanding the Dangers of Oxycodone Abuse

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As stated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, “Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic analgesic and historically has been a popular drug of abuse among the narcotic abusing population.” Unfortunately, many individuals who abuse oxycodone do not realize the dangers of doing so, partly because they believe it to be less dangerous than heroin because it is a prescription drug. But using any type of prescription drug in a way other than prescribed, especially those in the opioid family, is very dangerous and can lead to both physical and psychological harm.

Side Effects of Oxycodone

oxycodone side effects

Oxycodone can lead to a variety of negative side effects.

The drug, just like any other, has a number of side effects that doctors must warn patients about. According to the National Library of Medicine, some of the most common side effects associated with oxycodone include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Mood changes
  • Sweating
  • Constipation
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Flushing

While these effects may not seem dangerous, they are more likely to occur when an individual abuses oxycodone, and they are likely to become more intense as well. The NLM advises you to “tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away,” and this is more likely to occur with consistent abuse of the drug.

In addition, some of the side effects will cause worse problems for the oxycodone abuser, especially if they remain consistent. For example, the loss of appetite caused by the drug can lead to malnutrition if the individual is constantly abusing it. The consistent issues of nausea, vomiting, and constipation can also lead to severe gastrointestinal problems over time.

Severe Oxycodone Side Effects

Some side effect caused by the drug can be serious whether an individual is abusing it or not. One reason why it is so important for a person to take the drug exactly as prescribed is that high doses can lead to severe respiratory depression, to the point where the individual may stop breathing altogether. This often occurs with frequent oxycodone abuse, but even someone who accidentally takes too large of a dose can experience it.

Respiratory depression is one of the most dangerous symptoms of an oxycodone overdose, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Depressed respiration can affect the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain,” causing brain damage. This effect may also prove fatal if the user is not taken to the hospital in time.

Individuals who take oxycodone can also experience dizziness, drowsiness, or coordination problems. For these reasons, patients on the medication are told not to drive while they are currently using it, but many abusers of the drug decide to drive anyway as the result of impaired judgment, leading to harmful or fatal accidents.

In addition, oxycodone has been known to cause seizures in some users. This side effect is rarer than most, but someone who is taking the drug very frequently is more likely to experience it. Frequent users also risk issues like endocarditis (heart infection), liver disease, kidney disease, and clogged blood vessels.

According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, consistent abuse of the drug can also lead to “increased pressure of cerebral and spinal fluid.” This can cause brain or spinal cord damage because the pressure of the fluid may damage vital structures. In addition, the blood flow to these areas often becomes restricted as a result of increased pressure, also leading to brain damage.

Tolerance and Dependence

Both tolerance and dependence can occur when someone is taking oxycodone as prescribed by a doctor. These issues must be managed carefully, and the doctor will help ensure that they don’t cause further complications for the patient. However, someone who is abusing the drug will not have this type of support and will likely experience many problems as a result of these changes.

  • Tolerance occurs when a person starts to need higher and higher doses of oxycodone to feel the same effects they once did. This is a sign of impending addiction, and many users will start to take higher doses of the drug in order to feel those effects. This type of action can lead to overdose.
  • Dependence refers to a state in which the individual feels that they cannot live without the drug. They will make excuses to continue taking it and experience both psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms if they stop, including insomnia, flu-like symptoms, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle pain. Many individuals will continue taking oxycodone just to avoid dealing with these extremely uncomfortable symptoms.

Both tolerance and dependence can lead to other problems, and individuals who begin to experience them are likely frequent abusers in danger of becoming addicted to the drug.


As stated by the Prescription Monitoring Program, “Repeated misuse will lead to addiction to oxycodone.” The drug causes euphoria when it is taken in large enough doses, and eventually, the brain begins to crave this feeling, causing users to take the drug over and over. Once someone becomes addicted to oxycodone, they cannot stop abusing the drug on their own and will need professional help in order to do so. Even with help, recovery from addiction is extremely difficult, and the condition may affect the rest of the individual’s life.

Oxycodone addiction can also lead to:

  • Frequently missing work, poor performance, and job loss
  • Poor grades, loss of scholarship, and expulsion
  • Financial problems
  • Depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health issues
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Arguments, breakups, and falling out with family members
  • Arrests and other problems with the law

Addicted individuals also have a higher chance of contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other transmittable diseases, both due to sharing needles and unsafe sexual practices. Also, because oxycodone is an opioid, individuals who become addicted to it often begin using heroin as an attempt to combat tolerance to the former drug. This can lead to heroin addiction and another host of physical and psychological issues.

Oxycodone Abuse is Dangerous

The dangers of oxycodone abuse are great as well as severe. It is important to understand these issues and avoid abusing prescription medications, especially opioids, at all costs. If you are taking oxycodone for a medical issue, make sure to follow all of your doctor’s instructions and avoid taking more of the drug than you were prescribed.

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