What is Oxycodone and Why is it So Dangerous?

For the last several years, stories of the opioid epidemic have been present in the media. One of the most common opioids that people throughout the country are abusing is a prescription painkiller known as oxycodone. 

Every year, tens of millions of people receive oxycodone prescriptions, and many of them go on to develop an addiction to it. Explained below is everything you need to know about oxycodone and the risks associated with using it for long-term pain relief.

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a drug that acts on the opioid receptors in the body. It is known as an opioid agonist. 

This medication functions in a similar way to the body’s natural endorphins. It minimizes the severity of pain signals sent from the body to the brain. This then decreases pain symptoms. 

Oxycodone also triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. When dopamine is released, individuals experience feelings of euphoria (a “high”). 

Types of Oxycodone

Oxycodone comes in many different forms including capsules and tablets.  It is also available as a liquid.  These forms include both immediate and extended release. They are designed to be taken orally. However, some people abuse oxycodone by crushing tablets and snorting the powder. 

pills and capsules

Oxycodone is available under several different names.  Brand names include:

 Xtampza ER

Generically, it is sold as Oxycodone or as Oxycodone Hydrochloride.

Why is Oxycodone so Addictive?

It is easy for people to become addicted to oxycodone. The drug provides relief to people who are in pain.  And some patients enjoy the euphoric feeling that they get when they take it. 

The body will build up a tolerance to oxycodone very quickly as well. When this happens, patients have to take more of the drug in order to experience the same effect that they felt when they first started taking it. 

As a patient develops an addiction to oxycodone, they will often experience the following signs and symptoms:

 Dilated pupils


 Shortened attention span

 Reckless behavior, including stealing money or medication

 Difficulty focusing and performing at work or at school

 Sudden weight loss

 Mood swings


Then when they go too long without consuming the drug, they will also experience withdrawal symptoms.  These include headaches, nausea, vomiting and a craving for the drug.

Depressed man

How Do People Get Addicted?

Often, people develop an addiction to oxycodone after they’ve been prescribed it for a legitimate health condition. 

Although many physicians are no longer offering it as the first line of defense, that was the case for a long time, and oxycodone was very easy to get ahold of. Even still, it’s not too difficult for someone to get their hands on a prescription and begin using it. 

When someone is no longer able to get a prescription, he or she may move on to stronger, more addictive opioids like heroin.

Avoid Oxycodone Addiction Today

As you can see, Oxycodone can be a very dangerous and addictive drug even when taking it for a short period of time.   It is important to know about this risk of addiction.  This will make it easier to avoid becoming dependent on it; and to help your loved ones who may have developed a problem with Oxycodone. 

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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