Physical addiction to oxycodone is treated with medication or medical detox, while the psychological addiction is addressed through therapy. Here’s what you need to know about opioid addiction and dependence.

Oxycodone, which includes the brand OxyContin, is an opioid painkiller prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Like heroin and all opioid prescription pain medications, oxycodone is highly addictive. A physical addiction to oxycodone almost always requires treatment to overcome.

Is OxyContin a Physical or Psychological Addiction?

A physical addiction to oxycodone is known as dependence. Dependence and addiction aren’t the same thing. To understand the answer to the question, is OxyContin a physical or psychological addiction? it’s essential to understand the difference between dependence and addiction.


Dependence is a physical addiction to oxycodone ad develops as a result of brain changes that occur due to heavy drug abuse. When you abuse opioid drugs, it causes a massive release of the brain chemical dopamine, which is what produces the intense euphoria associated with opioids. Your brain knows that this dopamine rush is unnatural, and it immediately begins to change the way it functions to compensate for the excessive dopamine levels. It does this in part by reducing the activity of the dopamine system.

These changes in brain function lead to tolerance, which is a sign that you may be developing a dependence. Tolerance means that you need increasingly larger doses of oxycodone to get the desired effects. But as you increase the dosage, your brain continues to change the way it operates to compensate. At some point, brain function may shift, and the brain will now operate more comfortably when oxycodone is present than when it’s not. Then, when you stop using it, your normal brain function rebounds, and this causes the onset of withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking opioids are the primary indication that you’ve developed a physical addiction to oxycodone.


While the terms “addiction” and “dependence” are often used interchangeably, addiction is different from dependence, and it’s one of the most devastating long term effects of oxycodone abuse.

Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug use that continues even though the drug abuse is causing major problems in your life. You may want to stop using, and you may try to quit, but you’ll find that you can’t. Addiction is a powerful disease of the brain that’s characterized by changes in the brain regions associated with reward, pleasure, learning, and memory.

When you abuse drugs or alcohol, the pleasure they produce is recorded in the memory center of the brain. The learning center begins to make ironclad associations between this elevated pleasure and the drug use. Over time, these connections become stronger, and the physical structures and chemical functioning of your brain begin to change. Eventually, you’ll begin to experience intense cravings for the drug. You’ll begin using more often. Your brain will begin to associate certain environmental triggers with the substance abuse.

For example, if you frequently use oxycodone when you’re stressed, or when you’re with a certain person, or when you’re bored, you’ll begin to experience intense cravings for the drug whenever you’re stressed, with that person, or bored. These cravings are powerful and make it extremely difficult to stop using without professional help.

Treating Dependence and Addiction

Addiction and dependence require different treatments. Dependence is treated through medical detox or medication-assisted treatment. Detox is the process of allowing all traces of oxycodone to leave your body so that brain function can begin to return to normal. Detox typically lasts around four to 20 days, and it breaks the physical addiction to oxycodone.

Alternatively, dependence can be treated with medication-assisted treatment, which involves administering medications that reduce cravings and prevent the onset of withdrawal so that individuals can focus better on addressing the issues behind the addiction.

Addiction is very complex and almost always has underlying causes, such as chronic stress, medical or mental illness, a history of trauma, or family dysfunction. Treating an addiction requires intensive therapies that help you delve into the underlying issues as well as develop essential coping skills to deal with stress, cravings, and other triggers.

Because addiction is so powerful, and it affects the way you think and behave, treating it requires re-learning healthy thought and behavior patterns, and this takes time. The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that treatment lasting less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness.

A high quality, holistic treatment program can help you end your physical dependence and your addiction for the long-term, and prevent long-term effects of oxycodone abuse, which includes devastating physical and mental health and cognitive problems. Treatment will help you address your multiple needs and issues for a higher quality of life and keener sense of wellbeing for the long-term.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.