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Oxycodone is a semisynthetic opioid analgesic used for the relief of moderate to severe pain.

9 Minute Read | Published Jan 18 2024 | Updated Jun 04 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Amber Asher
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Amber Asher
Reviewed by

Common Brand Names: Endone, OxyContin, Percolone, Roxicodone; Endocet, Percocet, Primlev, Roxicet, Tylox, Xartemis XR (with acetaminophen)

Similar to other opioid analgesics, oxycodone inhibits the body’s perception of pain. Considered to be one of the stronger opioid drugs, oxycodone is estimated to be 1.5 to two times as strong as morphine. It is placed at the third step of the WHO analgesic ladder as it is only prescribed for pain that cannot be alleviated by weaker opioids.

Because it can induce feelings of relaxation, stimulation, and euphoria in patients or users, the drug is prone to misuse and abuse. In fact, oxycodone is listed as a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States.

What Oxycodone Is Used For

Oxycodone is approved for use in relieving moderate to severe pain, whether acute or chronic. It is also prescribed for patients who require round-the-clock relief from severe pain over a long period, particularly if their pain cannot be alleviated by other types of pain medications.

How Oxycodone Is Abused

Because it’s a strong opioid, oxycodone presents a high potential for abuse. Many individuals who abuse it simply increase their dosages or frequency of intake. However, some use the drug in unintended ways to destroy oxycodone’s time-release mechanism. Doing so helps induce the substance’s full effects.

Abusing oxycodone in any of the manners listed below could result in a person taking a fatal dose of the medication:

  • Cutting, breaking, chewing, or crushing oxycodone tablets before taking them
  • Crushing and dissolving oxycodone tablets in water and drinking the resulting solution
  • Crushing oxycodone tablets and inhaling them
  • Dissolving crushed oxycodone in water and injecting the solution directly into the veins

Oxycodone Drug Interactions

The hepatic enzyme CYP3A4 helps in metabolizing oxycodone in the body. As such, any medication that can cause changes in CYP3A4 activity may interact with oxycodone. Examples of such substances include the following:

  • CYP450 inducers: Carbamazepine, rifampicin, and phenytoin can stimulate oxycodone metabolism and, in turn, decrease the plasma concentrations of the drug in the body. This can decrease the efficacy of oxycodone or trigger withdrawal symptoms in people with oxycodone dependence.
  • CYP3A4 inhibitors: Azole antifungals, protease inhibitors, and macrolide antibiotics can increase oxycodone plasma concentrations, prolonging the effects of oxycodone.

Other drugs that are known to interact with oxycodone include the following:

  • Anticholinergics: When taken with oxycodone, anticholinergics may increase the risk of severe constipation or urinary retention. These conditions may result in paralytic ileus, which is a blockage in the intestines caused by paralysis of the intestinal muscles.
  • Diuretics: Because opioids help release antidiuretic hormones, oxycodone may decrease the efficacy of diuretics.
  • Muscle relaxants: Oxycodone can magnify the neuromuscular blocking action of muscle relaxants, which could potentially result in increased respiratory depression.
  • Mixed agonists/antagonists, and partial agonist opioid analgesics: When these are taken together with oxycodone, this may reduce oxycodone’s analgesic effect or trigger withdrawal symptoms.
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants: Taking oxycodone in combination with these may result in extreme drowsiness, slow and ineffective breathing, low blood pressure, and coma. Examples of CNS depressants include:
    • Alcohol
    • General anesthetics
    • Hypnotics
    • Other opioids
    • Phenothiazines
    • Sedatives
    • Tranquilizers

Side Effects of Oxycodone

Some of the most common side effects that you may experience after taking oxycodone include:

  • Changes in mood
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushing
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain

In addition to the symptoms listed, acute overdose or chronic misuse of this medication can manifest with other potentially more serious adverse effects such as:

  • Ataxia (lack of muscle coordination or control)
  • Changes in heartbeat, or rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion, hallucinations
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Feeling lightheaded whenever you’re changing positions
  • Fever
  • Hives, itching, or rashes
  • Hoarseness
  • Hypotension
  • Intense twitching or stiffness of the muscles
  • Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Shivering or sweating
  • Swollen eyes, face, tongue, lips, throat, or extremities
  • Unusual weakness or lack of energy

In case you experience any combination of the side effects listed here, immediately call your doctor or contact 911 for help.

Long-Term Effects of Oxycodone

Continuing to use oxycodone regularly over several weeks or months may cause you to experience the following side effects:

  • Dental problems
  • Mood swings
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Becoming unable to get or keep an erection
  • A greatly reduced sex drive

For pregnant women, using oxycodone for a long period may cause neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and physical dependence in the neonate.

Oxycodone Overdose Symptoms

An overdose may occur if you take oxycodone more frequently or in higher doses than recommended to achieve adequate pain relief. Some signs that may indicate that you’re experiencing an oxycodone overdose include:

  • Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Miosis (excessive shrinking of the pupil)
  • Muscle flaccidity (lack of muscle tone)
  • Respiratory depression (slow and ineffective breathing)
  • Somnolence (drowsiness)

If possible, ask your physician about getting and using naloxone. This rescue drug is an opioid antagonist that reverses the euphoria, sedation, and respiratory depression experienced by opioid overdose patients.

Signs of Oxycodone Addiction

Oxycodone is classified as a Schedule II drug because it has a high potential for abuse and dependence. Chronic use of the substance may eventually lead to a substance use disorder.

For health professionals to determine whether a person has developed an addiction to oxycodone, the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists 11 pathological behavior patterns that may indicate that an individual has a substance use disorder. These criteria are also applicable to oxycodone addiction, and they are the following:

  1. Taking oxycodone more than intended or longer than you should
  2. Wanting to reduce the intake of or completely stop using oxycodone, yet not being able to
  3. Spending too much time to get, use, or recover from the use of oxycodone
  4. Feeling intense urges and cravings to use oxycodone
  5. Being unable to manage commitments due to using oxycodone
  6. Continuing to use oxycodone even though doing so has caused problems in your relationships or social interactions
  7. Giving up other activities (occupational, social, or recreational) because of oxycodone use
  8. Repeatedly using oxycodone even when it endangers your life
  9. Continuing to use oxycodone despite the substance causing physical and psychological problems or worsening existing problems
  10. Needing to take more oxycodone to achieve the desired effect (tolerance)
  11. Developing withdrawal symptoms whenever you stop taking oxycodone (dependence)

Signs of Oxycodone Withdrawal

If you have developed dependence to oxycodone, abrupt cessation of drug use may result in several withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Anorexia (lack or loss of appetite)
  • Anxiety
  • Backache
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate, or respiratory rate
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Lacrimation (shedding more tears than is normal)
  • Myalgia (chronic pain, stiffness, and tenderness of the muscles, joints, and tendons )
  • Mydriasis (dilated pupils)
  • Nausea
  • Perspiration
  • Restlessness
  • Rhinorrhea (a runny nose)
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Yawning

Experiencing these withdrawal symptoms does not necessarily mean you have an oxycodone addiction. However, it’s still possible to develop a dependence on the drug even if you took it as prescribed.

Note that developing a dependence on the drug isn’t the same as becoming addicted to it. Dependence occurs when your body has gotten used to the presence of oxycodone, which means it can be dangerous to suddenly stop taking it. On the other hand, addiction is characterized by chronic misuse of the substance despite the negative consequences of doing so.

To help you safely and gradually decrease the presence of oxycodone in your body, consult your physician and ask about oxycodone detox. They can come up with a tapering schedule that you can follow so that you can avoid experiencing extreme or dangerous withdrawal side effects.

Oxycodone Detoxification

If you have developed oxycodone dependence, you shouldn’t suddenly stop taking it. Otherwise, you’re likely to experience incredibly uncomfortable and painful withdrawal symptoms.

Instead, it’s best to undergo an oxycodone detox program at a medical detox facility. There, a team of medical professionals will oversee the detoxification process. They will provide you with 24/7 supervision and assistance to make sure that your recovery goes smoothly.

To gradually remove the oxycodone from your body, you will be provided with a tapering schedule as recommended by your assigned physician. You will also be given IV fluids, nutritional supplements, and medications as deemed necessary.

Treatment for Oxycodone Addiction

Over a million people in the US suffer from substance use disorders relating to prescription opioids such as oxycodone. More severe cases of opioid misuse may result in overdose and even death.

Fortunately, it is possible to treat oxycodone addiction by undergoing a rehabilitation program. Treatment of opioid use disorder typically entails a combination of pharmacologic treatment with behavioral and psychosocial interventions for a more holistic approach.

Rehabilitation for oxycodone can be done in either an outpatient or inpatient setting, depending on the severity of your case and if you have an adequate support system, among many other factors.

  • Outpatient oxycodone addiction treatment: In case your medical team determines that you have a milder case of oxycodone use disorder, an outpatient program may be more appropriate for you, especially if you have a strong support system at home. You will be allowed to live at home for the duration of the program but will have to go to your assigned treatment center for scheduled therapy and counseling sessions.
  • Inpatient oxycodone addiction treatment: This type of rehabilitation program is typically recommended for individuals with a high-risk profile. You will be required to stay at a rehab facility until you are done with the program. This setup ensures that you’ll be supervised by a team of medical professionals 24/7, making it an ideal option if you have a history of non-compliance to treatment protocols or display more severe addiction symptoms.

Contact a Recovery Support Advisor for Help Today

If you’re considering seeking help for oxycodone addiction but aren’t sure whether you can afford it, you’ll be glad to know that most inpatient and outpatient programs are covered in whole or in part by most insurance plans. Even if you don’t have an insurance plan, you can still find other options for financing your treatment. We can help you verify your insurance and find a suitable treatment center.

To get started, all you have to do is call (800) 429-7690. A recovery support advisor will take your call and will guide you through the process of finding the right treatment program for your particular needs. They can also assist you in finding ways to finance your oxycodone rehab so that you won’t have to pay for everything out of pocket.

Historical Background: Oxycodone

In 1916, German researchers first developed oxycodone drug from the opium-derived substance thebaine, while its first therapeutic use was documented to have happened in 1917. During the Second World War, it became a widely available pain medication, becoming especially popular among members of the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany. In 1939, it first became available in the United States.

The U.S. government classified oxycodone as a Schedule II drug in the 1970s. Some two decades later, in 1996, it was commercially released under the brand name OxyContin, following its FDA approval the year before.

Resources

bullet Sadiq, N. M, Dice, T. J., & Mead., T. (2021)
"Oxycodone. StatPearls"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet Anekar, A. A. & Cascella, M. (2021)
"WHO Analgesic Ladder. StatPearls"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2015)
"Oxycontin (Oxycodone Hydrochloride) Extended-Release Tablets, for Oral Use, CII"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet Gudin, J., Levy-Cooperman, N., Kopecky, E. A., & Fleming, Alison B. (2015)
"Comparing the Effect of Tampering on the Oral Pharmacokinetic Profiles of Two Extended-Release Oxycodone Formulations with Abuse-Deterrent Properties. Pain Medicine, 16(11):2142-51"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus (2021)
"Oxycodone"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation (2021)
"Oxycodone"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus (2016)
"Naloxone Injection"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Diversion Division (n.d)
"Controlled Substance Schedules"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet American Psychiatric Association (2013)
"Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.)"
Retrieved on July 06, 2021
bullet Moradi, M., Esmaeili, S., Shoar, S., & Safari, S. (2021)
"Use of Oxycodone in Pain Management. Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, 1(4):262-264"
Retrieved on January 01, 1970
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