Oxycodone Effects on the Body after Long Term Use (INFOGRAPHIC)

Long term effects of oxycodone include damage to every organ of the body. Learn how it affects the body and the brain here.

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ARTICLE SUMMARY: Oxycodone affects every organ in the body. It can also cause long term changes in brain function that can be reversed thanks to the brain’s neuroplasticity. What effects are more serious? Read on for details.


Defining “Long-Term”

The medical definition for “long-term” use of a prescription drug like oxycodone can vary. Some experts consider anything more than daily dosing of one month to be “long-term” use. Others consider intervals of 3 months or 6 months to be “long-term”. Usually, these are the basic markers: one month, 3 months, or 6 months.

Oxycodone Effects on the Body after Long Term Use (INFOGRAPHIC)

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In medical studies, an episode of long-term use is defined as at least 3 one-month prescriptions issued within a 90-day period from the date of an initial prescription. Episodes of long-term use typically end when there is a gap of 6 months or more without a prescription.

Physical responses

Oxycodone affects all organs and organ systems in your body. Physical effects of oxycodone vary among users, and are generally based upon unique and individual genetic makeup. Still, there are a few factors that can affect how you react to oxycodone. This can include:

  • amount used
  • frequency of use
  • length of use

Using oxycodone several times a day for a few weeks or more can lead to physical dependence and in some instances, addiction. The withdrawal symptoms of oxycodone are just the beginning of some of the long term effects of this strong drug. In fact, physical dependence may be least of your worries. Why?

Simply put, exposing your body to a lot of oxycodone for a prolonged period of time will start to affect the health of your organs and their optimal way of functioning. Physiological effects of oxycodone include:

  • constipation
  • cough suppression
  • pain relief
  • papillary constriction
  • respiratory depression
  • sedation

Risks of Chronic Use

Extended or chronic use of oxycodone containing acetaminophen may cause:

  • cardiac arrest
  • death from overdose
  • heart failure
  • impairment of mental and physical abilities
  • kidney failure
  • liver failure
  • low blood pressure
  • overdose
  • phantom pain in arms and legs (when out of oxy)
  • sedation
  • seizures
  • severe liver damage
  • suicidal ideation
  • withdrawal symptoms

Who Is Using?

Oxycodone is one of the most popular prescription painkillers in the U.S. Normal people are using it. Many people have been prescribed oxycodone for acute bouts of pain. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the acceptance and use of prescription opioids like oxycodone for the treatment of chronic pain, such as back pain or osteoarthritis, despite serious risks and the lack of evidence about its long-term effectiveness.

The 2016 National Survey of Drug Use and Health estimates that

  • 27.6 million people used a medicine containing oxycodone in the last year.
  • 3.9 million people reported misuse of oxycodone in the last year.

In fact, oxycodone is affecting every American in every state…especially in rural areas of the country. This Department of Justice 2014 report on oxycodone states that, “every age-group has been affected by the relative prevalence of oxycodone availability and the perceived safety of oxycodone products by professionals. Sometimes seen as a “white-collar” addiction, oxycodone abuse has increased among all ethnic and economic groups.

While prescription painkillers like oxycodone can be used to treat moderate-to-severe pain…they are also used for euphoric effect. Some doctors over-prescribe oxycodone and are more like drug dealers than medical doctors. These doctors operate “pill mills” that over-prescribe medications for kickbacks from pharmaceuticals. Plus, tablets are sold from $7-40 each on the illicit drug market. You can report any prescription drug dealing to the DEA here.

Signs of a Problem


So, how do you know if you’re experiencing negative effects of oxycodone, or not? Generally, if you think that you have a problem with oxycodone, you probably do. Oxycodone not only affects the body. It can also affect the brain, and the way that the brain functions. Some of the main signs of a problem include:

  • Continued use despite problems at home, work, or with your health.
  • Failed attempts to quit oxycodone.
  • Feeling high when you take your medicine.
  • Losing control of use amounts, frequency, or duration.
  • Only feeling normal when you’re taking oxycodone.

Oxycodone is known to be a strong drug. IT WILL CREATE DRUG DEPENDENCY, a side effect that is explicitly explained in the FDA approved drug label. However, drug dependence is physical. It is sometimes present when you’re addicted…but is not addiction in itself. A drug problem is more of a mental dependence on a drug and is determined mainly by intention of use.

If you are using oxycodone to get high, to avoid stress, or to deal with emotional issues…you may be addicted to it.

What Next?

If you’re struggling with oxycodone, know that you are not alone. An estimated 22 million people in the U.S. need help for a substance problem. Still, this may not be the comfort you’re looking for. If you’re ready to take action and get help for a drug problem, we recommend that following steps:

1. Seek a diagnosis. Before you know what exact steps to take, you need a full assessment. You can seek a diagnosis with a medical professional, including: your prescribing physician, a psychiatrist, an addiction specialist (MD), a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, or in an addiction treatment center.

2. Get oxycodone out of your body. If you have become physically dependent, you’ll need to slowly remove oxycodone from your body. There are specific opioid painkiller tapering guidelines that doctors recommend. Generally, dose reduction is no more than 25% at a time and happens over the course of a few weeks. Tapering helps minimize the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, and is characterized by periods of stabilization periods with intermittent step-down doses.

3. Learn how to live drug-free. Physical dependence is one thing. Psychological dependence is another. Once you get oxycodone out of your system, you’ll need to learn without it. Often, this involves psychotherapy in individual and group settings. You’ll need to learn how to cope with cravings and how to change behaviors over the long-term. This way, you can deal with stress, anxiety, and/or anger in healthy ways, rather than turning to oxycodone.

Want to know more?

If you find our infographic useful…feel free to share it! For any questions or comments you may have, please use the comments section below. We’ll do our best to provide a personal and prompt answer to all legitimate inquiries. If we cannot answer your question, then we’ll be happy to refer you to someone who can.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. I’ve been clean off oxycodone and oxycontin for 1 year. I will tell everyone and anyone that this should NOT be a long term medication. It messed me up pretty bad and I still wonder even a year after if it’s affected things and i’m always trying to find out research from other people in similar stories. I’m paraplegic and this was administered since day one after my accident. I have a metal bar in my back so since the start I assumed i had pain & probably did. I took these medications (lower dosages of 5mg and 10mg) for 10 years. The first 5 years seemed ok i guess??.. but as time went on I became more and more ‘sick’. I refer to it as zombie living…i couldn’t function and some days having a shower during the day was the only accomplishment. It was like being stuck in tar…mentally and physically & i just couldn’t do the littlest things, let alone doing work and brining in an income. I dont know how I could manage if i had kids – there would be no way. Chronic fatigue was unbearable and i felt like my body was shutting down. This drug takes over your life so that when you feel ‘blah’ you take more pills for more ‘energy’. I couldn’t do activities with friends or family without medications and i became more and more withdrawn from people because I just kept slowing down. I refused to up my dosage so I plateau’d and felt more slow day to day, month by month’. My memory was shot, concentration was scary, confusion was a constant thing and i also had a bad state of depression. I would go to my doctor and tell them i’m exhausted to the point i can’t function some days but no one ever questioned this medication and kept writing me prescriptions and telling me i was depressed (thinking due to being in a wheelchair perhaps). After researching on my own, learning what it does to your neurotransmitters and finding others in the same boat of how they felt, I decided to ween myself slowly off the narcotics. That’s the key..s l o w l y. This ‘medication’ is hell long term and sucks you in before you know it and then you think you need it, hence an addiction you would never admit to because it helps your pain. During my years. I’ve ran out of it for a day in the past and my back pain was worse, i was in agony – not realizing i was in withdrawals – i just knew i needed medication. It tells the brain that you need more and intensifies that pain. To anyone trying to get off this drug, doing it slow is the key. Its still hard as hell but I managed and i don’t take ANY pain killers. I don’t have pain – its so messed up to say that knowing what i’ve felt before but I really don’t. Don’t get me wrong, the first couple weeks completely off the pills were really rough… fidgety, sweats, mind thoughts were crazy..even months after it was still a struggle but you have to stick with it. For the first weeks you need to keep your mind busy with videos, movies, games etc. I also took a bit of cannabis that helped with the anxiety. Taking that time to get better is FAR more worth it, than trying to live under those narcotics. I work at home so it was easier to do this than most, but you need a plan — get help and dont be afraid to ask for it. f perdue pharma and i hope the lawsuits do something to help people who have lost part of their lives due to that crap.

  2. I too have a husband who takes about 140mg of Oxycodone a day since 2012 for back pain. He sits at a desk all day and his back has suffered for it. He has had 2 surgeries without success. So he continues to take the pills. The first week he gets his prescription he’s full of energy, making plans, positive and just normal. Then the send week comes when he’s taking more than prescribed because they are not having the same effect anymore so he over medicates. The third week he’s rationing them out because he only has for a few pills a day(4 maybe) as appose to 12 on his regular prescription day. So now he’s hurting, he’s always cold, he’s tired, spends his afternoon on the couch and is miserable. The fourth week comes without any medication and he’s looking for anything around the house to help with the pain. He’s also prescribed a huge bottle of gapentin, fto help with withdrawal symptoms. I hate that drug. It makes my husband get angry and irrational. He has asked for a divorce so many times during this time. Wanted to leave in his car and just drive and one time even get as far as Pheonix, from San Diego until the effect of that medication wore off. And if he’s not hallucinating or irrational and violent he is withdrawing. He can’t keep any food down, barely any liquids, he’s throwing up, can barely walk, wears layered clothing because he is simply freezing, he’s popping countless anti-diahreal pills and it is just horrible. This is a monthly thing in our house. He has aged so much and is pale and frail. He’s teeth are decaying and he eats nothing but sweats. I don’t know how to help him. I still need to take care of the kids, work and take care of our home. I can’t tell his doctor because he will stop his pain medication. And he insists he is in excruciating pain without them. I have insisted he see a general doctor to see how much damage oxycodone has caused his body, but he refuses. I don’t know what to do for him. Our lives have changed so drastically because of this medication. I sometimes wake up in the morning fearing he’s had a hard attack during the night. I go over it in my head on how I would handle that day with the children. Who would I call to get them out of the house while the paramedics take him away.

  3. I have taken oxycodone for 8 years, 80 mg twice a day. Its for a back injury that leaves me with crippling pain. originally I took pregablin and dihydrocodeine and paracetamol, but the pregablin was a waste. Now the doctor wants to redude the oxy to 60 mg a day and increase the pregablin. I said no, its too much and he does not suffer with the pain and chronic fatigue and everything else that goes with it, but now he says that the oxy has too many side-effects and is actually increasing the pain. I do’nt know who to believe but I am loath to decrease the meds. I should add that all in all for my condition I take 9 different sorts of medication.

  4. My husband has been on Pain meds for years. It has taken a strong hold on him and his body. He is a complainer, mood swings, hurts the ones that love him, want admits he has a problem with taking his meds. Takes to many.

  5. I was prescribed opiods for 20+ years for chronic pain (crps, dds, fibromyalgia). I had major concerns about even starting, doing my own q & a with my med team as well as other professionals; the pain so excruciating taking the meds was lesser of 2 evils. I barely took tylenol b4 my injury and had concerns for years of affects of the meds on my internal organs! For better part of past 6 to 8 yrs I’d start weaning myself off (had to in early yrs to determine cause of other things going on so I knew how to safely) and Dr said go back up dose so I did. About 8 mos. ago I got tired of keeping my sleep schedule just to fit in the 3 doses p/d & wasn’t about to fluctuate doses daily so I once again began weaning off; at next appt told Dr I wanted to stick with it and over 4+ mos was off long acting & given short term to take max 3x p/d if needed 2.5 mos ago which I didn’t take all. Well things happen for a reason during the process of weaning off I found out I’m having KIDNEY problems! That said other meds I was taking could also cause the kidney problems I’m having. I will say I’m a lucky one I did not get addicted to the meds and addiction runs in my family. ** I am still having problems with my bm (urgency) could this still be an effect of the long term meds and my system readjusting?

  6. I’ve been on oxycodone for 15 year’s was taking 30 mg 4 times a day for over 6 year’s. My doctor told me I will need chronic pain medication the rest of my Life I recently changed doctors 1 year ago they cut my meds in half and have been treating me with deferent types of injections with little or no help. I don’t like taking the pills I don’t know what to do. I have paid out a lot of money and my doctor is afraid to give me the 30 mg 4 times a day because of being labeled a pill Mill what should I do life is bad for me right now

    1. Hi Kenneth. I have answered to Neil below, who’s in similar situation as you. I’d suggest you do the same.

  7. I was injured in 2008. Now they found three yrs later 12 degenerative discs and 14 disc herniations 8 of which pancake my spinal chord. I also have type l diabetes and advanced periphial vascular disease. The surgeon that worked on my legs after they clotted fully closed. Almost lost them both. Surgeon said I will always have a physical depedence to be able to stand being alive. Now they want to take it away. Why? I see a psychiatrist monthly and she said I am probably the most mentally stable person, uncluding herself, that she had ever met. She is concerned if the MD takes me off the Oxycodone I will be in alot of psychological trouble due to the pain. It is so intense sometimes. I put a mouthguard in because I actually broke my very good teaath off prior to starting Oxycodone and Fentanyl combined. What am I going to do if nobody will help?

    1. Hi Neil. Unfortunately it has become a common practice for doctors to cut off necessary medications for patients. There is even a term for it now called “opiophobia” – a fear of prescribing opioids in adequate amounts to relieve pain. This is in part due to fear of legal repercussions for overprescribing narcotics.

      If your physician refuses to prescribe a pain medication or to provide regular refills as needed, you can ask for referral to a pain specialist. You can also check online directories to find medical doctors who regularly work with pain, such as:

      The American Board of Pain Medicine
      The American Academy of Pain Medicine
      The American Academy of Pain Management

      NOTE: Doctors listed in these directories may or may not be board-certified pain specialists.

  8. I have been on various opiods (on and off) since 2005, after my hip replacement which was done wrong I later found out. Anyway, I just had a spinal fusion done and am presently taking 15 MG of straight oxycodone every 4 hours. I wake up early everyday (after going for 6 hours without a pill ) with restless leg and arm symptoms. Today I ran out of pills on the day of my appointment with my pain specialist and I was in full blown withdrawal by the time I got there. Everyone thought I had the flu…as soon as I filled my prescription (felt like hours) and took a pill all my symptoms stopped. No more runny nose and eyes or chills and body cramps and intense anxiety and restlessness. It scared me to death. I have 2 more months of pills before they start tapering me off. I know for a fact I can’t be tapered off, I’ll never be able to withstand the symptoms in between pills. Would a detox help? If so, do they give you meds to help with the withdrawal? What can I expect afterwards? Will I be completely over withdrawal or will I still experience some symptoms. I.can’t wait to.get off these pills! I hate the fact that I need them, and I hate the fact that I’m so.addicted. i.can’t function without them…

  9. I have been talking oxycodone for 15 years do to a back injury. My Primary care physician started me on this medication. Started w/ 5/325 for a few years then 7.5/325 for a few years then 10/325 for a few years then he give me 15 mg. without Acetaminophen for a few years. Then when I needed to be increased again my primary care physician decided to send me to pain management. Had an MRI they determined I had degenerative disc in my lower back three of them. had a few procedures done to my back. Now I’m in more pain. That doctor tried several things to control my pain. So he gives me methadone 10mg 2x a day and 20mg oxycodone 4x a day. WOW! What a big difference with that regiment of medication I felt great I could do anything around the house and didn’t have to stop every couple of hours to rest my back I also sleep better and eat good. So we get a
    new doctor actually a nurse practitioner she see me for three minutes and determined I’m taking to much pain medication. So she bumps my methadone to 4 10mg per day. Takes me off of the oxycodone. Her instructions for taking was three a day the first week two a day the second week one a day the third week and then a half of one till they were gone. Now I’m only getting the 4 methadone a day. Now I’m in more pain and the doctor don’t want to help manage my pain. So my question is should they have taken longer to wean me off of the oxycodone or just simply keep giving it to me or just lower my dosage a little. Any suggestions your answers would be very helpful. Thank you so much you have a great day I will be looking forward to hearing from you.

  10. I have been on oxycodone for years only had it increased a couple of times. Before the pain relief my life was at its end . I thank God for oxycodone and it’s help with chronic pain. When prescribed and taken responsibility it can be a life saver…..BTW no harmful side effects here!

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