Can I get addicted to a prescribed dose of oxycodone?

Understand oxycodone use, dosage, side effects, and the risk of addiction. Learn how to reduce addiction risks and find support for opioid addiction.

Ophelia team
Hand holding bottle of prescription oxycodone pills
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Fact checked by
Arthur Robin Williams, MD

Oxycodone, also known by brand names like OxyContin® and Percocet®, is one of the most common pain management medications prescribed by medical professionals. It’s frequently recommended after major surgeries or injuries like broken bones.

As an opioid, oxycodone acts on the brain’s opioid receptors to block pain and amplify feelings of pleasure and euphoria. However, despite its prevalence as a medical painkiller and its useful effects, oxycodone has a high potential for addiction and must be used carefully. Learn about its effects and what to look out for below.

How oxycodone is used medically

In all its prescription forms, oxycodone is used to treat moderate to severe pain in patients who have experienced a major injury or surgery. It may be prescribed to people of all ages, though, like other drugs, children, the elderly, and pregnant people may need special doses and monitoring to ensure safe use. This opioid is generally used both for short-term and medium-term treatment, and it may even be prescribed to patients with chronic pain for long-term use. 

Oxycodone tends to come in pill form and may be found in fast-acting and extended-release forms, depending on what the patient’s needs are. Fast-acting pills take effect within 10 to 30 minutes and have a half-life of just over 3 hours, while extended-release versions may take an hour or more for the patient to notice the effects with a half-life of approximately 4.5 hours.

With a standard dosage, the drug will stay in your blood for about 24 hours. Oxycodone dosage has a wide range based on:

  • Severity of pain
  • Length of treatment
  • The patient’s opioid sensitivity

For adults taking extended-release capsules, therapeutic doses start at about 9 milligrams twice a day and may be increased up to a total daily intake of around 288 mg in severe cases. Adults taking fast-acting doses of oxycodone can expect to take their prescription four to six times a day, and doses are typically between 5 and 15 mg per pill. Once again, in cases of severe pain, these numbers may be increased as your physician sees fit. 

Oxycodone dosages for children and people with opioid tolerance are highly individual. Your doctor is the only one who can safely determine necessary doses in these cases. You can also expect very different numbers from the above if you are moving from one opioid medication to another as part of your treatment plan.

Another commonly prescribed opioid is hydrocodone, which has a very similar use case but can also be taken as an antitussive, or cough suppressant. Despite their similarities, hydrocodone and oxycodone are not interchangeable, and you should be aware of their differences. These two drugs are synthesized in different ways and will require different dosages and different instructions for proper use. Unlike oxycodone, hydrocodone is made from codeine, which is also found in over-the-counter drugs, typically for the treatment of coughs.

Common side effects of oxycodone

Oxycodone shares the list of side effects typical of other opioids. These include:

  • Respiratory and central nervous system depression
  • Euphoria
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Constipation

For a full list of side effects, consult your physician. 

Is oxycodone addictive?

Before even asking this question, it’s important to distinguish between addiction and physical dependency. There is a lot of social stigma associated with the use of opioids, even in prescription form, which has led many people to misunderstand the precise definition of an opioid addiction. However, precision is crucial when dealing with such sensitive topics, especially as misinformation about addiction can lead to serious consequences, such as social isolation and loss of employment.

Physical dependency on oxycodone is what happens when a person takes their prescribed dosage regularly and appropriately and begins to develop some level of opioid tolerance. This is a natural process that happens with many substances we introduce to our bodies. Substances like caffeine, alcohol, antihistamines, and antidepressants are all subject to a tolerance buildup. When this happens, it means that a static dose of a drug becomes less and less effective with time as your body gets used to the amount of the drug in your system. 

With static oxycodone doses, this means that the pain-relieving effects of the drug begin to lessen, and some doctors may prescribe increasingly high doses to combat this. Unfortunately, opioids can also cause a reliance on the drug to function normally. Essentially, the body recognizes that the opioids are a consistent presence and begins to rely on them to manage certain functions. This physical dependency is not unusual when taking a regular course of prescription opioids, and suddenly discontinuing the use of opioids while physically dependent can lead to symptoms of withdrawal. However, this does not necessarily indicate the presence of what medical professionals would call addiction.

Rather, addiction is understood as both a physical and a psychological reliance on a drug. With oxycodone, this means stronger-than-usual cravings, feeling the need to take the prescription more frequently than recommended, and mood swings and personality changes brought about by the drug. 

With that said, it cannot be denied that oxycodone is highly addictive, and even regular courses of treatment run the risk of causing addiction. 

How to reduce the risk of oxycodone addiction

Both patients and physicians can take steps to help reduce the likelihood of addiction when taking or prescribing oxycontin and other opioids. Patients should use their medicine only as directed and should consult their doctor about discontinuing use if they feel they no longer need it.

Physicians need to be mindful of how and when they prescribe these drugs. There are many risk factors that indicate a higher likelihood of addiction after prescription, and medical professionals should evaluate all patients for these factors before prescribing an opioid. When these factors are present, doctors should consider alternatives to opioids.

Comprehensive support for opioid addiction

Prescription medications are meant to be safe and effective, but addiction potential can make these medications risky for some. If you or a loved one is struggling with oxycodone use, Ophelia can help. Our dedicated care teams get to know every patient and develop treatment plans that meet their unique needs, including the use of Suboxone® and other buprenorphine-naloxone medications. We also schedule routine virtual check-ins to ensure patients get the support they need during opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment. 


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