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Oxycodone: definition, uses, side effects, and interaction

Reading time: 11 mins
Oxycodone

Oxycodone is a strong opioid that can be effective for pain relief when administered correctly. However, its misuse can quickly lead to physical dependence and addiction.   

The oxycodone dosage for acute pain in adults should be between 5 and 15 mg, given every 4 to 6 hours as needed to relieve acute pain. Meanwhile, it is advised to gradually increase the dosage for people with chronic pain, commencing at the lowest analgesic dose (2.5 to 10 mg every 4 to 6 hours). 

For acute pain in children, starting oxycodone doses are 0.05 to 0.15 mg/kg every 4 to 6 hours. Contrastingly, when administering oxycodone to children with chronic pain, it is best to start with the lowest effective dose and gradually increase it over time.

The side effects of oxycodone include constipation, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, lightheadedness, and asthenia. Serious side effects, such as mood changes, interrupted breathing during sleep, difficulty urinating, or severe stomach pain may also occur. 

Lastly, the purpose of oxycodone is to provide relief from pain when non-opioid pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, are ineffective.

What is oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a pain reliever that is manufactured using the chemical thebaine, which originates from the opium poppy plant. Because of its great potential for misuse, addiction, and dependence, it is a Schedule II controlled drug.

The drug oxycodone belongs to the group of medications known as opiate (narcotic) analgesics. It functions by altering how the nerve system and brain react to pain, as stated by the drug information about oxycodone published in MedlinePlus.

What is the other term for oxycodone?

The other term for oxycodone is OxyContin. The brand name for the extended-release version of oxycodone is OxyContin. Oxycodone, on the other hand, is the active ingredient found in narcotic painkillers including OxyContin, Percodan, and Percocet. 

Oxycodone can also refer to immediate-release and extended-release formulations and generic equivalents made by different pharmaceutical companies.

How often is oxycodone used?

According to a publication on OxyContin fast facts from the United States Department of Justice, almost one million people in the United States, including children as young as 12, have used OxyContin for nonmedical purposes. 

Furthermore, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection’s Prescription Monitoring Program states that one in five teenagers have misused prescription medicines like oxycodone. Teenagers also typically obtain their prescription medicines from friends and family medicine cabinets.

Results from a 2011 national multisite effectiveness trial on the comparative profiles of men and women with opioid dependence published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse found that among 892 participants, most men and women who were tested for oxycodone were positive (68% and 65%, respectively).

Finally, according to a 2016 study by Saha et al., published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, a quarter of long-term opioid users are 65 and older, with 2.2% of older adults report using prescription opioids for non-medical purposes in the previous year.

What is the purpose of oxycodone?

The purpose of oxycodone is mainly to help manage moderate to severe pain, but it has also been frequently used nowadays to treat chronic pain and discomfort connected to cancer. 

Oxycodone is usually given for short-term use or persistent pain that has not responded to other treatments due to its potency. The fact that oxycodone is a regulated substance and has a chance of abuse, dependency, and addiction should be noted.

With that said, it should only be utilized under close medical supervision and in accordance with the dosage and time frame recommended.

Can oxycodone be used for short-term pain relief?

pink pills

Yes, oxycodone can be used for short-term pain relief, particularly acute pain from injuries, surgeries, or other medical procedures. 

OxyContin can be taken in an extended-release form to treat pain around the clock, or in an immediate-release form to relieve pain quickly. However, the medication should not be taken for little discomfort or discomfort that only happens occasionally.

How does oxycodone work in the body?

Oxycodone works in the body by interacting with opioid receptors in the central nervous system. These receptors are involved in transmitting pain signals and regulating other functions such as breathing, coughing, and mood. 

Oxycodone suppresses pain signals by activating these receptors, resulting in analgesia (pain alleviation) and euphoria (pleasure).

Who is eligible to take oxycodone?

People who are in moderate to severe pain are eligible to take oxycodone. This is especially true if other pain-relieving options, such as over-the-counter medications, have not been effective.

Healthcare professionals may also prescribe oxycodone to patients with post-surgical pain, injury, cancer, or chronic pain problems including arthritis or neuropathy. An article titled, “Who can and cannot take oxycodone” from the NHS (National Health Service) adds that oxycodone is suitable for most adults and children over 1-month-old. Side effects, however, are more prevalent in infants, children, and seniors.

Who is not eligible to take oxycodone?

People who have a known allergy or hypersensitivity to oxycodone or other opioids, breathing problems, a history of drug abuse or addiction, or certain medical conditions, such as serious liver or kidney disease, may not be eligible to take oxycodone. 

Oxycodone can cause severe allergic responses or other side effects in those with opioid allergies. It can also slow down the way lungs work, making breathing potentially more difficult for people with severe asthma, COPD, or respiratory depression.

Individuals with a history of substance addiction, particularly with opioids or other CNS depressants, are more likely to abuse and become dependent on oxycodone. In such cases, alternative pain management strategies may be considered.

Finally, the metabolism and removal of oxycodone from the body might be impacted by certain medical disorders, such as severe liver or renal illness. Individuals with these conditions may require careful monitoring or alternative pain management options.

What is oxycodone made of?

Oxycodone is made from a chemical called thebaine, which comes from the opium poppy plant. To create oxycodone, the molecular structure of thebaine is modified.

The medication is also made up of the active ingredient oxycodone hydrochloride. Its inactive ingredients include lactose, stearyl alcohol, sorbic acid, ammonio methacrylate copolymer, triacetin, polyethylene glycol 400, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, sodium hydroxide, povidone, talc, and titanium dioxide, according to the package insert of OxyContin published in the Food and Drug Administration website.

What is the health benefit of oxycodone?

pills in the capsule

The primary health benefit of oxycodone is its ability to give excellent pain relief for people suffering from moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone lessens the transmission of pain signals and thus the perception of pain by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord.

It can also help people with acute or chronic pain from medical problems or post-surgery enhance their quality of life when used as recommended and under medical supervision. Oxycodone can increase mobility, encourage better sleep, and enhance general wellbeing by reducing pain.

Is oxycodone used for the treatment of addiction?

No, oxycodone is not frequently used as an addiction treatment. In fact, the opioid drug itself carries a high risk of misuse, addiction, and dependence. As a result of these risks, it is classified as a controlled substance.

The main strategy for treating opioid addiction is to assist sufferers in lessening or eliminating their opiate reliance and achieving long-term recovery. This is usually accomplished through thorough addiction treatment programs, which may involve behavioral counseling, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and detoxification. 

What are the health risks of oxycodone?

The health risks of oxycodone include respiratory depression, sedation, risk of addiction and dependence, misuse and overdose, and adverse effects on mental health. 

Oxycodone can depress the central nervous system, particularly the respiratory system. High doses or misuse of the medication can lead to slowed or shallow breathing, which can be life-threatening.

The sedative and drowsy effects of oxycodone can also make it difficult to make decisions, coordinate movements, or carry out duties that call for attentiveness, such operating machinery or a vehicle.

Oxycodone is a highly addictive narcotic. Its abuse or prolonged use can cause physical and psychological dependence, which can cause withdrawal symptoms when someone tries to quit taking the medication.

OxyContin misuse, such as taking higher doses than prescribed or using it for recreational purposes, significantly increases the risk of overdose. A severe respiratory depression, unconsciousness, and possibly death may follow an oxycodone overdose.

Abuse or long-term use of opioid medication can cause mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Those with preexisting mental health issues may especially be vulnerable to these effects.

What are the side effects of oxycodone?

woman taking pill

The most common side effects of oxycodone include constipation, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, lightheadedness, and asthenia. According to an article titled, “Oxycodone (Oral Route)” from Mayo Clinic, as your body adapts to the medication, these side effects may go away during treatment. 

Additionally, your healthcare provider might be able to provide you with information on how to avoid or lessen some of these adverse effects. More serious side effects may also occur, such as mood changes, interrupted breathing during sleep, difficulty urinating, or severe stomach pain. 

It is essential to keep in mind that not everyone experiences these adverse effects. Their prevalence and severity can also vary widely between individuals. If you experience serious side effects or have questions regarding your symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

What to know before you take oxycodone?

The most important thing you need to know before you take oxycodone is that it can cause drowsiness and impair cognitive and motor functions. Do not get behind the wheel or operate heavy machinery until you know how oxycodone will impact you.

The potential for oxycodone to cause sleepiness, constipation, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and mood swings must also be considered. Understanding these side effects helps you identify any abnormal reactions and discuss them with your healthcare provider.

How to take oxycodone?

Follow your doctor’s directions when taking oxycodone. Here is a general list of instructions for how to take oxycodone. Keep in mind, though, that the exact instructions may differ based on the formulation your doctor gave you and your own personal situation.

  • Read the medication guide: Familiarize yourself with the medication guide or patient information leaflet provided with the prescription. It includes crucial details regarding the medication, such as dose, possible side effects, and safety measures.
  • Follow the prescribed dosage: Take oxycodone exactly as prescribed by your healthcare professional. The dose may be changed based on your response to the medicine, pain level, and overall health. Do not exceed the prescribed dosage or take it more frequently without consulting your healthcare provider.
  • Swallow the tablets whole: Swallow the oxycodone tablets whole with a glass of water. If your healthcare provider doesn’t specifically direct you to do so, avoid crushing, chewing, breaking, or dissolving the tablets. Crushing or breaking the tablets can lead to an immediate release of the entire dose, potentially increasing the risk of side effects or overdose.
  • Measure the dose of liquid medicine carefully: According to the drug information on oxycodone (oral route) provided by Mayo Clinic, you should use the calibrated dropper that is included in the container, a marked measuring spoon, an oral syringe, or a medication cup to scoop out the oral liquid concentrate. You might also be required to combine the concentrate with a little amount of fluids or food by your doctor. Pay close attention to the directions and immediately consume the pharmaceutical mixture.

What is the best time to take oxycodone?

white pills on yellow background

It is best to take oxycodone consistently at the same time each day and spacing out your dosages equally, as stated by an article titled, “How and when to take oxycodone” from the NHS (National Health Service).

For instance, if you take oxycodone twice daily, take the first dose at 8:00 A.M., then the second dose should be taken at around 8:00 P.M.

How often should I take oxycodone?

According to the article about oxycodone published in MedlinePlus, typically, the solution, concentrated solution, tablet, and capsule forms of oxycodone are taken every 4 to 6 hours, with or without meals, either as needed for pain relief or as part of a regular medicine routine.

Slow-acting oxycodone preparations are frequently administered twice a day, spaced 12 hours apart. On the other hand, fast-acting doses should only be administered when necessary for pain.

What are the common dosage strengths of oxycodone?

The common dosage strengths of oxycodone are 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20, and 30 mg for immediate-release tablets. The 2022 continuing education activity on oxycodone published in StatPearls also states that the oral concentrate is available in a dosage of 100 mg/5 mL, whereas oral solution is available in a strength of 5 mg/ 5 mL.

Finally, extended-release tablets like OxyContin are available in 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg, 80 mg, and 120 mg strengths.

What is the effect of missing a dose of oxycodone?

The effect of missing a dose of oxycodone is decreased pain relief. The primary purpose of oxycodone is to treat pain, therefore skipping a dose could temporarily lessen the effectiveness of the medication. This can lead to increased discomfort or a return of pain symptoms.

If you forget to take your scheduled dose of oxycodone, and there is still a significant amount of time until your next dose, take the missed dose as soon as you remember to. 

The consumer medicine information on oxycodone controlled release tablets published in Medsafe also asserts that you should not take more than one dose at once to make up for doses you missed. This may raise your chances of experiencing an unpleasant side effect.

How long does it take for oxycodone to start working?

According to an article titled, “About oxycodone” from the NHS, oxycodone pills and liquid start working in 30 to 60 minutes, but the effects wear off after 4 to 6 hours. Slow-release medications can take one to two days to fully kick in, but the pain relief they provide will stay longer.

What precautions should be taken when using oxycodone?

pills scattered

It is important to use oxycodone under medical supervision, particularly during the first 24 to 72 hours of treatment. This helps your healthcare provider monitor your response to the medication and make any necessary adjustments.

All medications—prescribed, over-the-counter, and herbal—should be disclosed to your doctor. Certain medications, such as clarithromycin, ketoconazole, drugs containing ritonavir, and some antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac), and paroxetine (Paxil), can interact with oxycodone. 

According to a 2022 article titled, “7 Oxycodone Interactions You Should Know About” from GoodRx Health, these medications can potentially affect how the body metabolizes oxycodone, leading to harmful effects. Your healthcare provider can help assess potential interactions and adjust your medication regimen accordingly.

Consult with a healthcare professional before making the decision to use OxyContin while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding infants who receive oxycodone through breast milk may have drowsiness, respiratory depression, and other negative effects. Opioids can have a stronger impact on infants, especially newborns and younger infants.

Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or intend to get pregnant. They can assess your individual situation, provide personalized guidance, and help weigh the potential risks and benefits of using oxycodone during pregnancy.

What should I refrain from while taking oxycodone?

While taking oxycodone, it’s crucial to refrain from consuming alcohol and other sedatives. Combining oxycodone with alcohol or other sedative drugs can raise the risk of respiratory depression and other side effects.

It’s best to wait to see how oxycodone affects you before driving, operating heavy machinery, or doing anything else that needs your whole attention and motor skills. Your safety and the safety of others may be at danger because of these deficiencies.

You should also avoid using other drugs that slow down the central nervous system, like benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, and sedatives. 

Oxycodone used with other CNS depressants can cause increased drowsiness, respiratory depression, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, poor coordination, and other significant central nervous system consequences. 

These interactions can make it more likely that an overdose, respiratory failure, and other potentially fatal consequences would occur.

Where can you purchase oxycodone?

pharmacist working

You can purchase oxycodone from pharmacies or medical facilities where prescription medications are typically dispensed. 

It is worth noting, however, that you cannot purchase oxycodone over the counter without a prescription. A legitimate prescription from a qualified healthcare provider is required to buy oxycodone, as it is a prescription drug. 

It is also categorized as a Schedule II controlled substance in many nations, including the US. Schedule II medications like oxycodone require careful monitoring and control due to their high potential for abuse and addiction. They are not sold over the counter in pharmacies or other retail establishments.

How long is oxycodone typically prescribed for?

Oxycodone is typically prescribed for a brief period of time to treat acute pain, such as after surgery or a serious injury. Depending on the anticipated recovery period and pain management requirements, the prescription in these situations can be for a few days to a few weeks.

In cases of chronic pain, where the pain lasts for a long time, the length of an oxycodone prescription can change. In order to properly control pain, it is often advised to take the lowest effective dose for the shortest time possible. This strategy aids in reducing the dangers connected to long-term opioid usage.

What is the difference between oxycodone and trazodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller that is most often used to treat mild to severe pain, including one brought on by surgery or cancer. It works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, blocking pain signals and providing pain relief.

Meanwhile, trazodone is an antidepressant that is typically used for depression but may also be used off-label to address sleep disturbances and anxiety, according to a comparison between oxycodone and trazodone published in Drugs.com.

It primarily works by modulating neurotransmitters to help improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression.

What is the difference between oxycodone and Klonopin?

pills on the floor

According to a 2003 case report about a fatal drug interaction between oxycodone and clonazepam published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, oxycodone is an opium alkaloid utilized in chronic pain management.

On the other hand, clonazepam – the generic name of Klonopin – is a benzodiazepine medication used to treat seizure disorders (epilepsy), panic disorder, and certain anxiety disorders.