Can Oxycodone Cause Anxiety? The Untold Truth

Can Oxycodone Cause Anxiety

Honestly, taking care of yourself feels amazing – a fresh shave, a relaxing bath, or even brushing your teeth can change your mood for the better. But here’s the thing: sometimes, things get complicated when we’re going after that feel-good boost. Take oxycodone – it’s serious medicine for serious pain, and it works. But, and this is a big but, it can also make you way more anxious, which is the opposite of what you’re going for, right?

So, let’s figure out why that happens. We’ll look at how oxycodone affects your brain and Can Oxycodone Cause Anxiety?. The whole point is to know all the facts so you can take care of yourself – your body and mind – the best way possible.

What is Oxycodone

What is Oxycodone

Oxycodone is a potent prescription drug categorized as an opioid medication. Opioids can be traced back to their origins in the opium poppy plant or created synthetically to replicate the effects of natural opiates. Oxycodone is a powerful pain reliever, typically reserved for moderate to severe pain when other medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen haven’t provided sufficient relief.

How Oxycodone Works

How Oxycodone Works

Think of your body as being covered in sensors, constantly sending updates to your brain – not just pain signals, but all sorts of little messages. Oxycodone essentially dulls those sensors, cutting off the flow of information. Are those messages from a sprained ankle or a throbbing headache? They don’t get through. On top of the pain relief, oxycodone also triggers a little surge of “feel-good” chemicals in your brain. That’s where it gets tricky because while it’s helpful if you’re really in pain, that good feeling can make you crave more oxycodone, even when you don’t necessarily need it for pain.

Oxycodone’s Effects on the Brain

Oxycodone's Effects on the Brain
  • Mimicking Natural Endorphins: Think of endorphins as your body’s natural painkiller squad – oxycodone hijacks the system. It mimics endorphins but with way more firepower, blocking those pain signals. The problem is that it feels great but comes at a cost.
  • Disruption of Chemical Balance: Oxycodone doesn’t just mess with pain. It throws your whole brain chemistry out of whack. It floods your brain with dopamine, that “reward” chemical, which feels good at first but makes the drug harder and harder to resist. At the same time, it messes with serotonin, which is like your mood stabilizer – that’s when you can get mood swings, trouble sleeping, even digestive issues, and, yeah, major anxiety.
  • How This Disruption Creates Potential for Anxiety:
    • Depleted Neurotransmitters: The more you use oxycodone, the more your brain gets lazy about making its supply of those feel-good chemicals. So, when you stop, you’re in a deficit – that’s when the mood crashes, along with the risk of depression and intense anxiety.
    • Withdrawal Symptoms: Quitting oxycodone, even gradually, is rough. Your brain freaks out trying to get its balance back, which can mean crippling anxiety, agitation the work. Sometimes, those withdrawal symptoms are so bad that people end up back on oxycodone just to feel normal.
    • The Fear Cycle: Pain itself can be a huge trigger for anxiety, and if you’re used to oxycodone making it go away, you might start to dread that pain coming back when the meds wear off. This constant worry and anticipation can worsen anxiety all by itself or even trigger full-on anxiety disorders.

Signs of Oxycodone-Induced Anxiety

Signs of Oxycodone-Induced Anxiety

Oxycodone can mess with your head in a lot of ways, and one of the big ones is anxiety. It’s super important to talk to your doctor if you’re taking oxycodone and your anxiety flares up or if it’s something new altogether. Here’s what to look out for:

  • General Nervousness and Restlessness: Feeling jittery, twitchy, like you can’t sit still, even your mind is restless. It might feel like you’re buzzing with nervous energy.
  • Increased Worry or Fear: Your brain might be going a mile a minute, fixating on everything that could go wrong. Your worries might seem way out of proportion, and it’s hard to shut off those negative thoughts.
  • Panic Attacks: These are like anxiety on steroids – your heart’s pounding, you feel like you can’t breathe, maybe dizzy or sweaty, with a sense of overwhelming fear. Oxycodone can trigger these, which is especially scary because of the way it makes your body feel weird anyway.
  • Difficulty Sleeping: Difficulty falling asleep may be caused by anxiety, or you might wake up all night feeling wired. Even if you sleep, you might feel groggy because your brain never got a break.
  • Other Potential Signs: Oxycodone-induced anxiety can also show up as muscle tension, an upset stomach, and trouble focusing like your whole system is just on high alert. You might have headaches, feel short-tempered, or have difficulty remembering stuff.

Oxycodone Withdrawal and Anxiety

One of the most challenging aspects of discontinuing oxycodone use is the withdrawal period. As the brain adapts to operating without the substance, it undergoes a period of oversensitivity. This is partially due to the downregulation of natural neurotransmitter production that occurred during active oxycodone use. This readjustment period can bring a host of intense, uncomfortable symptoms, with anxiety being a prominent concern.

Here’s why anxiety typically worsens during oxycodone withdrawal:

  • Brain Readjustment and Oversensitivity: When oxycodone is abruptly stopped, the brain is thrown into a state of dysregulation. The sudden lack of artificial dopamine and the disrupted neurotransmitter balance leave the body prone to mood swings, intense anxiety, and panic. This dysregulation can also manifest in physical symptoms that mimic anxiety, such as a racing heart, rapid breathing, and muscle tension, further fueling the cycle of anxious arousal.
  • Exacerbation of Pre-Existing Symptoms: If someone has a history of anxiety or other mental health conditions, oxycodone withdrawal can significantly exacerbate these problems. People who do not have a past of substance use may still feel anxious because of the physiological and psychological impacts of withdrawal. People with co-occurring anxiety disorders may find their existing symptoms become much more severe, while others may develop new anxiety problems for the first time.
  • Fear of Withdrawal Itself: Knowing that withdrawal is a difficult process can create considerable anxiety. This anticipatory anxiety can spiral and contribute to worsened symptoms or even panic attacks. The fear of withdrawal can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as anxiety itself can worsen some withdrawal symptoms.

It’s important to note that oxycodone withdrawal, particularly if done abruptly, can be challenging and requires medical supervision for safety and increased chances of success. Anxiety can be a significant component of this process, and it’s crucial to seek professional support to manage both physical and mental discomfort. A doctor can help develop a safe and gradual tapering plan to minimize withdrawal symptoms and provide medication or therapy to address anxiety during this challenging time.

If you’re experiencing anxiety related to oxycodone use, the most important thing is not to try to tackle this alone. Support, guidance, and professional help are crucial for addressing the physical and mental components.

Here are some key steps to take:

  • Importance of Talking to a Doctor: Be honest with your doctor about your struggles with oxycodone use and the anxiety you’re experiencing. They can help you determine the best course of action, which may involve tapering off oxycodone and finding alternative pain management solutions. Feel free to seek recommendations from specialists who can provide expert guidance on managing discomfort and anxiety.
  • Therapy Options: Several therapy modalities can be highly effective in addressing anxiety related to oxycodone use:
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT assists in recognizing and questioning harmful thought processes and behaviours that are fueling feelings of anxiety. This therapy focuses on developing coping skills for managing anxious thoughts, regulating emotions, and finding healthy ways to manage pain.
    • Other Therapies: Mindfulness-based stress reduction, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and exposure therapy can also provide valuable tools for managing anxiety and finding a more balanced life.
  • Alternative Pain Management Strategies: Addressing oxycodone-related anxiety also involves finding ways to effectively manage the underlying pain that may have spurred oxycodone use initially. Here are some potential alternatives:
    • Non-opioid Medications: Discuss other pain medications with your doctor that don’t have the same risks as oxycodone, such as over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications like antidepressants or anti-seizure medications which can help with certain types of pain.
    • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can enhance physical abilities through various exercises and methods tailored to boost strength, flexibility, and mobility. They can offer strategies for managing pain and avoiding additional harm.
    • Complementary Therapies: Mind-body practices like acupuncture, massage therapy, and mindfulness techniques (like meditation) might help offer pain relief and reduce stress.

The Risk of Addiction and Worsening Anxiety

The Risk of Addiction

Oxycodone use carries a serious risk of dependence and addiction, which can worsen anxiety in a cyclical pattern. As the mind grows dependent on the substance, it reduces its natural production of the chemicals necessary for pain relief and emotional balance. This means that when the oxycodone wears off, the subsequent crash of mood and intensified pain can trigger severe anxiety and cravings for relief, driving the user to seek more of the drug. Even if someone isn’t fully addicted, withdrawal symptoms from missing a dose can manifest as heightened anxiety, creating a persistent fear of withdrawal. This can lead to anticipatory anxiety and a constant worry about the timing of the next dose.

Furthermore, dependence on oxycodone can lead to feelings of shame and eroded self-esteem. This exacerbates anxiety and establishes a harmful pattern that is challenging to overcome without the help of a professional.

Long-Term Impacts

The effects of oxycodone use can linger long after stopping the medication. Prolonged use alters the brain’s delicate balance of neurotransmitters and reward pathways.  Even after detoxification, the brain may not immediately return to its pre-drug state, leaving some individuals with a heightened sensitivity to stress and an increased vulnerability to anxiety disorders. The brain might have difficulty regulating mood, pain perception, and stress responses without the artificial support it grew accustomed to during oxycodone use. This lasting change in brain chemistry can make everyday stressors feel more overwhelming and heighten the risk of experiencing anxiety symptoms, even when there is no active addiction present.


Oxycodone can be a lifesaver for really bad pain. Still, it’s super important to understand that it can seriously mess with your head, making you way more anxious – while you’re taking it, coming off of it, and even long after you quit. This is all because it changes your brain chemistry, which takes time to return to normal. Knowing this is key to making smart choices about managing your pain.

If chronic pain is a problem, definitely work with your doctor to figure out other options – there’s a lot out there besides just relying on meds. And even if you’re already on oxycodone and it’s making you feel anxious, please don’t just suffer through it. A doctor can help you get off it safely or find ways to manage the anxiety alongside the pain. There’s no shame in asking for help – taking care of your physical and mental health matters most.


Can oxycodone cause anxiety?

Yes, oxycodone can cause anxiety as a side effect in some individuals.

How common is anxiety as a side effect of oxycodone?

Anxiety is reported in a small percentage of individuals taking oxycodone.

Could anxiety be the culprit behind your pelvic pain?

Yes, anxiety can be a culprit behind pelvic pain due to the mind-body connection, causing physical tension and worsening existing conditions. If you want to know more about rose water, check out this article, “Can Anxiety Cause Pelvic Pain?

When should I seek medical help for anxiety caused by oxycodone?

If you experience severe or persistent anxiety while taking oxycodone, it is essential to consult your healthcare provider.

Are there any ways to manage anxiety while taking oxycodone?

Some individuals may benefit from relaxation techniques or counseling to help manage anxiety associated with oxycodone use.

Can reducing the dosage of oxycodone help alleviate anxiety symptoms?

In some cases, reducing the dosage of oxycodone may help alleviate anxiety symptoms. Consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes.

Is it safe to abruptly stop taking oxycodone if it causes anxiety?

It is important to seek the guidance of a healthcare provider when discontinuing oxycodone to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Are there alternative pain management options that do not cause anxiety?

There are various alternative pain management options available that may be suitable for individuals who experience anxiety with oxycodone.

How can I discuss my concerns about anxiety with my healthcare provider regarding my use of oxycodone?

It is important to openly communicate your concerns with your healthcare provider so they can work with you to find the most appropriate treatment plan for your pain management needs.

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