Oxycodone Side Effects

People abuse oxycodone for its euphoric effects, but the drug also causes constipation, itching and other uncomfortable side effects. Large doses can cause dangerously slow breathing and even death. Cessation after more than two weeks of use may cause flu-like withdrawal symptoms.
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Oxycodone is a potent opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. Unfortunately, the prescription pain reliever can cause many unwanted side effects.

Minor side effects of oxycodone may include itching, nausea, flushing or a dry mouth. But the drug can also cause serious and even life-threatening reactions. People who take too much oxycodone or mix it with other drugs can stop breathing.

The drug is also habit forming. Oxycodone addiction and dependence can occur suddenly. It may even develop in someone who’s been using the drug as directed.

Effects of Oxycodone

Oxycodone is sold under dozens of brand names, including Percocet, Tylox and OxyContin. Tylox and Percocet contain a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. OxyContin is an extended-release version of oxycodone.

The side effects of oxycodone are the same as those of other opioids.

Minor side effects of oxycodone can include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Changes in mood
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Itching

Other, more serious reactions to the drug can also occur.

Between 2010 and 2016, poison control centers received nearly 19,500 reports of serious adverse events associated with opioids, according to a 2018 analysis in the journal of Drug Safety. More than three-quarters of those reports involved the use of oxycodone or hydrocodone, a similar opioid drug. The reported events included major reactions, hospitalizations and death.

If you experience any of these symptoms while taking oxycodone, call your doctor and seek emergency medical treatment:

Chronic use of oxycodone can also lead to addiction. A person who is addicted to oxycodone will use the drug compulsively, despite its negative effects and consequences.

Signs and Symptoms of Oxycodone Overdose

Oxycodone depresses the central nervous system and can dangerously slow a person’s heart rate and breathing. These effects are especially common during the first one to three days of use. But they can also occur when you increase your dose.

The elderly have a greater risk of developing breathing problems. People with other health problems are also more susceptible.

Signs and symptoms of an oxycodone overdose include:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Snoring or gurgling sounds
  • Weak or limp muscles
  • Change in pupil size (narrow or widened)
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Blue or grayish skin and dark lips or fingernails
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

Crushing OxyContin bypasses the drug’s built-in time release mechanism. This increases the risk of an accidental oxycodone overdose.

Unintentional overdoses of oxycodone products that contain acetaminophen can cause liver injury. The common combination has been associated with numerous cases of liver failure.

Oxycodone Overdose Response

If you suspect someone has overdosed on oxycodone, call 911 immediately. A life-saving medication called naloxone can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose if administered in time.

After calling 911, stay with the person until help arrives. If the person is unresponsive and not breathing sufficiently, you will need to administer rescue breaths.

How to give rescue breaths:

  • Place the person on their back.
  • Tilt their head back and lift their chin until their mouth opens.
  • Give two slow breaths and look for the chest to rise.
  • Administer 1 strong breath every 5 seconds until the person begins breathing on their own or help arrives.

Source: American Society of Anesthesiologists

Mixing oxycodone and alcohol increases the risk of an overdose. Mixing oxycodone and Xanax is also dangerous. To prevent complications, never combine oxycodone with a central nervous system depressant and use only as directed.

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Most people become physically dependent on oxycodone after using it for two weeks. With continual use, the drug changes your brain and you won’t be able to function normally without it.

Quitting oxycodone suddenly or reducing your dose may bring on uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These flu-like symptoms may include nausea, body aches and stomach upset. Some people find the symptoms so distressing that they’re unable to quit using the drug.

Symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal may include:

  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite loss
  • Fast heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

Withdrawal symptoms tend to be more severe if you are taking higher doses of the drug. More potent versions of the drug, such as OxyContin, can also worsen withdrawal.

Oxycodone withdrawal tends to set in around the time a person would have taken their next dose of the drug. Symptoms worsen over two to three days and usually resolve within five to seven days.

Medical detox can make oxycodone withdrawal easier. Health care professionals can provide medications that ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. They will monitor you to ensure your safety and comfort and address any complications that arise.

Once you are feeling better physically, a drug treatment program can help you overcome your oxycodone addiction. There are a variety of treatment plans that can help you achieve a sober and better life. Help is just a call away.

Author
Amy Keller, RN, BSN
Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
As a former journalist and a registered nurse, Amy draws on her clinical experience, compassion and storytelling skills to provide insight into the disease of addiction and treatment options. Amy has completed the American Psychiatric Nurses Association’s course on Effective Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder and continuing education on Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Amy is an advocate for patient- and family-centered care. She previously participated in Moffitt Cancer Center’s patient and family advisory program and was a speaker at the Institute of Patient-and Family-Centered Care’s 2015 national conference.
@DrugRehabAmy
editor
Kim Borwick, MA
Editor, DrugRehab.com

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