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Physical Dependency Vs. Addiction: Are You Addicted to Oxycodone?

Physical Dependency Vs. Addiction: Are You Addicted to Oxycodone?

There is a difference between physical dependency on oxycodone medication and addiction to oxycodone medication, and it is not always understood. Physical dependency is a common side effect of oxycodone use even when used as directed. Addiction is far less common and much more dangerous. To understand the difference, it’s important to understand the mechanics of oxycodone.

Users of drugs like OxyContin and Percocet, which contain oxycodone, can become tolerant to the drug whether or not they are using them according to a doctor’s prescription. This tolerance causes the body to need a higher dosage to receive the same effect. Drug tolerance can contribute to physical dependency. When users become physically dependent on oxycodone or any other drug, their bodies will produce withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not present. These symptoms are typically characterized by overactivity of symptoms that the drug in question suppresses. For example, because oxycodone side effects include tiredness, lethargy and constipation, oxycodone withdrawal effects include insomnia, anxiety and diarrhea. Withdrawal symptoms are abated by a dose of the drug. This is called a physiologic state of adaptation.

Addiction is often accompanied or precipitated by physical dependence, but not always. Addiction has an added component of psychological dependency. The difference between physical dependence and addiction is cravings. Those who are physically dependent can become drug-free through a gradual decrease in dosage. Those who are addicted will experience uncontrollable cravings for the “rush” of another dose of their drug of choice. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests that relapses into opiod abuse after detox is a good indication of opiod addiction.


Click here to return to the first part in the series, “Introduction to Oxycodone Abuse, Addiction and Treatment.”

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