a pile of pills and a container during a discussion of teens and oxycodone abuse

Oxycodone is a legal prescription drug that teens often view as a harmless way to get high. Many teenagers are introduced to the drug by friends at school who have access to the drug because it is a legally prescribed drug and found in many home medicine cabinets, making it easily accessible for teens. Needless to say, teens are at high risk for abusing addictive substances.

Oxycodone is Dangerous

Because it is so addictive, many abusers – including teens – end up becoming opioid addicts. As regulations and guidelines tighten the crackdown on doctors who over-prescribe the drug and attention is focusing on a growing prescription drug abuse issue there is a decrease in the availability of drugs like oxycodone. Young people who are unaware of the dangers of the drug are switching to illicit street drugs such as heroin (which has recently been seen to be mixed with Fentanyl) at alarming rates to replace the oxycodone that was once easily available in their parents’ medicine cabinets.

It’s extremely important to talk to your teen about the dangers of prescription opiate abuse before it’s too late.

What Is Oxycodone?

Statistics prove without question that those who have become addicted to prescription opiates like oxycodone are 40 times more likely to develop a heroin abuse problem.

​Oxycodone is a pain-relieving drug that is frequently prescribed to address moderate to severe pain. The substance is found alone and in combination with other pain relievers in a tablet form under several brand names including:

  • OxyContin – oxycodone; both immediate and controlled release formulations
  • OxyIR and OxyFast – oxycodone immediate release
  • Percodan – oxycodone and aspirin
  • Percocet – oxycodone and acetaminophen

Oxycodone is synthesized primarily by a chemical modification of opioid molecules, which are obtained from the opium poppy plant. Despite the fact that it is manufactured in a lab, oxycodone still impacts the user in very similar ways as other legal and illegal opioids and, like all opioid drugs, oxycodone is capable of delivering a powerful high—making it a potential drug of abuse for an alarming number of individuals.

Associated Risks

​Oxycodone use puts the user at risk for developing both a high tolerance and a total dependence on the drug not just for the illicit user, but also for those whose medication is taken as prescribed. Statistics show that over time, addiction is the most likely end result.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Oxycodone causes the user to experience a range of symptoms related to its impact on the opioid receptors throughout the body. It essentially depresses multiple functions throughout the body in a manner consistent with other opioid substances causing the body to not be able to use these natural functions on its own.

​The signs vary depending on the specific formulation of oxycodone. Controlled release OxyContin will provide signs that may be of lower intensity that last for an extended period, whereas drugs like OxyIR and other immediate-release variants can trigger stronger symptoms for a shorter duration. The specific dose and the method used to consume the substance will additionally influence the impact on an individual as well. Some of the alternate ways of administering oxycodone to the body include crushing the tablets and either snorting them or dissolving them in a solution that is then injected directly into the bloodstream.

​Effects of Oxycodone Abuse

Oxycodone is considered an opioid receptor agonist. One of the altering effects of this molecular interaction between the drug and the body receptor is an increase in dopamine activity in the key brain regions.

​Because dopamine is an important neurotransmitter, it is in part a catalyst for the effects of the drug. Dopamine is associated with the brain’s reward system—meaning that people experiencing this type of dopaminergic activity will value the sensation and try to repeat it in the future. This feeling of euphoria leads to abuse of the drug. As previously mentioned, some of the effects of abuse include tolerance, physiological dependence and, ultimately, addiction.

​Tolerance to the Drug

As the body experiences the effects of long-term use of oxycodone, it will adjust itself to the levels causing a decreased effect of the same amount. As the body adjusts the tolerance increases, and the user will then begin to need more of the substance to achieve the desired effects of the drug.


Addiction takes hold at the point when a person continues to use a substance even though they know it is having an unwanted influence in their life. People addicted to oxycodone may:

  • Lie and steal to obtain more of the drug
  • Display changed interests and personality characteristics
  • Neglect aspects of their life while devoting more attention to obtaining and using oxycodone
  • Try to acquire more of the substance by providing false medical histories to medical professionals, forging prescriptions or visiting multiple doctors to receive multiple prescriptions
  • Continue use even when confronted by medical, interpersonal, legal or financial hardships

Dependence and Withdrawal

Dependence on oxycodone happens when the brain becomes so accustomed to the presence of the drug, both physical and mental, that it cannot function normally without it. Once dependence is established, the user will need to maintain a supply of “oxy” or face withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Rebound pain, or increased pain sensitivity
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Inability to sleep
  • Gastrointestinal problems including appetite changes, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling cold and shivering

Interestingly, people using other opiate or opioid substances – such as heroin – will sometimes use drugs containing oxycodone to reduce or eliminate their own withdrawal symptoms.​

Oxycodone Abuse Treatment

The withdrawal symptoms of oxycodone can be very uncomfortable and oftentimes is long-lasting. Because of this, individuals attempting to quit oxycodone often benefit from seeking professional treatment in a rehabilitation center.

​Depending on the frequency and duration that an individual uses oxycodone, a supervised detox program may be recommended. Detoxification is the purposeful reduction of oxycodone in the body. This is often completed in an inpatient setting. This is so medical professionals can tend to the patient and help to ensure their safety and comfort during detox.

During this time, other medications may be prescribed to reduce cravings and other symptoms.

​When detox is complete, patients can be referred to a number of treatment options such as:

Residential rehab programs are when the patient is living at a treatment center for a period of time. Treatment program lengths vary but tend to range from several weeks to several months. Addiction therapy can be administered as outpatient programs as well. Outpatient addiction treatment is less time-intensive than inpatient or residential programs, but typically involves daily or weekly counseling and education to help the abuser maintain abstinence.

Statistics on Oxycodone Abuse

Oxycodone abuse has been growing in popularity over the last 25 years. According to these statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration:

  • Nearly 60 million prescriptions for oxycodone-containing drugs were written in 2015.
  • In 2013, 16 million people reported abusing oxycodone in their lifetime. This is an increase of more than a million individuals compared with the previous year.
  • 2012 – Oxycodone was responsible for more than 150,000 ER visits.
  • 2011 – Law enforcement documented more oxycodone-related infractions than any other prescription drug.

Contact Palmetto Center Today

Getting help for your teen’s addiction doesn’t have to be a struggle. Help with teens and oxycodone abuse, call 318.728.2970 today to speak to an addiction expert about treatment options.

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