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Oxycodone Abuse Signs: Physical & Behavioral Changes to Look For

Elena Hill, MD, MPH profile image
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH • Updated Aug 14, 2023 • 6 cited sources

Oxycodone abuse may come with signs including physical and behavioral changes.

While opioid use disorders (OUDs) involving oxycodone can develop quickly, people rarely get help right away. In a study of people seeking treatment who misuse oxycodone, about 5% admitted to using the drug regularly for at least a year prior to receiving treatment. [1]

The quicker you recognize oxycodone misuse in yourself or others, the better you can help. The signs you see, including physical and behavioral changes, can prompt you to begin important conversations about seeking help. 

Physical Signs of Oxycodone Abuse

Oxycodone is a powerful opioid painkiller and carries a high risk of addiction. Some people are at risk of developing opioid use disorder after just three to five days of regular use.[2] 

People who misuse oxycodone regularly are often intoxicated. Physical signs of opioid intoxication include the following:

  • Sedation or lethargy 
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slurred or slowed speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Balance/coordination issues, or falls  

As the misuse continues, people may develop withdrawal symptoms when they do not use. Signs of withdrawal that you may notice include agitation/irritability, tremulousness, shakiness, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. The overall syndrome of opioid withdrawal is often described as being similar to having the flu, and can be experienced even with small dose reductions.[3] 

Overdose is the most severe physical sign of oxycodone misuse. In 2020 alone, more than 13,000 people died due to overdoses of oxycodone and hydrocodone.[4] 

An overdose can be quickly and effectively treated with the opioid blocker naloxone (Narcan), so many people who overdose do not die. But even one overdose episode is a strong physical indicator of oxycodone misuse. Anyone who has had an oxycodone overdose should be connected to care and resources for opioid use disorder. 

Behavioral Signs of Oxycodone Abuse/Misuse

Underlying mental health issues increase the risk of developing an OUD related to oxycodone misuse. And people with poor mental health may be more likely to get prescriptions for drugs like oxycodone than others.[5] An OUD can cause existing mental health problems to worsen, and new issues can develop. 

Mental health signs to look for include mood swings, increased irritability or agitation, increased anxiety or depressive symptoms. 

Behavioral signs include the following:[6]

  • Personality changes: Someone who was previously open can suddenly seem secretive and withholding. 
  • Isolation: People with OUD may withdraw from family and friends to keep their oxycodone misuse hidden. 
  • New contacts: People with OUD may feel more comfortable around others who use, and they may need to keep in touch with dealers and suppliers. They may spend less time with old friends.
  • Fewer outside activities: Since OUDs are so time consuming, people may not go to work, or participate in hobbies the way they used to. 
  • Poor performance: Lower-than-average grades, official work reprimands or probations are common in people struggling with drug use. 
  • Secretive behavior: People with OUD may feel embarrassed about their habits, and they may work hard to keep them from others. They may guard their privacy very carefully.
  • Financial problems: Oxycodone is expensive, and as OUD deepens, many people must buy the drug illicitly. They may drain bank accounts, sell possessions or make other questionable financial choices to fund their opioid use. 

Everyone with OUD is different, and emotional changes can vary dramatically. But changes in mood, mental health, or other behaviors can be a sign that opioid use is becoming a problem. 

How Is Oxycodone-Related OUD Treated?

Opioids like oxycodone alter brain chemistry, causing withdrawal symptoms and deep drug cravings when people try to cut down or quit. 

Medications like Suboxone contain buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist. This medication latches to opioid receptors, lessening withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. 

In the past, MAT programs were hard to access. Few doctors could prescribe the drugs, and some people worried that their friends and neighbors would see them entering drug treatment clinics. Telemedicine changed all that.

With telemedicine-based MAT, you can conduct your appointments through a secure online connection. Your doctor can send your prescription to a local pharmacy, and you can take your doses at home. 

Bicycle Health, a leading MAT telemedicine provider, is accepting new patients now. Contact us to learn how we can help.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where ... Read More

  1. Prescription OxyContin Abuse Among Patients Entering Addiction Treatment. American Journal of Psychiatry. November 2009. Accessed April 2023.
  2. Facts on Addiction and Opioids. Arlington, Virginia. Accessed April 2023.
  3. Alleviating Symptoms of Withdrawal From an Opioid. National Library of Medicine. December 2012. Accessed April 2023.
  4. Opioid Overdose Deaths by Type of Opioid. Kaiser Family Foundation. Accessed April 2023.
  5. When Addiction and Mental Illness Collide. National Institutes of Health. November 2022. Accessed April 2023.
  6. Opioids: Recognizing the Signs. New York State. Accessed April 2023.

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