Oxycodone is a prescription in the narcotic family used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from a thebaine, which is a derivative of opium. It is a highly addictive drug that is prescribed for pain relief from injuries, fractures, arthritis, back pain, and cancer pain. It is also used as pain relief medication after operations and childbirth.1
Oxycodone was developed as an alternative to morphine and heroin, although it has been noted that it has the same pain relieving abilities as morphine. Oxycodone does not block pain, but decreases pain by increasing a user’s tolerance to pain.2 This is done by the opioids attaching to opioid receptors found in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract, which changes the way a person experiences pain.3
Oxycontin, one of the drug’s common names, is the copyrighted name of the Purdue Pharma’s brand of oxycodone.4 It is a sustained-release formula that came onto the market in 1995.5 From this time, the medication gained popularity, which is often the reason why the names (and spellings) are often interchanged in literature about the drug.
Oxycodone was developed in a pharmaceutical lab in 1916 and was introduced into clinical practice in Germany in 1917.6 It is a derivative of a chemical called thebaine, a chemical found in opium. Beginning in Europe and then spreading throughout the world, oxycodone has been used as a pain reliever and was often combined with other medications such as acetaminophen, phenacetin, and caffeine for moderate pain.
Oxycodone is used in medications such as Tylox and Percocet, in 2.23 to 5 mg doses. In 1996, when Purdue Pharma L.P. patented OxyContin, they developed 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg tablets, and in 2000 came out with a 160 mg tablet.7 1 This is because of the time-release mechanism of OxyContin, which carries proportionally higher amounts of oxycodone than a one-time released dose. However, when the pill is chewed or crushed, this time-release bond is broken, making one dose of OxyContin up to 160 mg at once.
*OxyIR and OxyFast are immediate release medications that are designed to give a dose of the oxycodone all at once.8
Oxycodone is the name of the generic drug. Purdue Pharma branded the name, Oxycontin. The drug is also called Percocet (this is combine with acetaminophen and paracetamol), Percodan (this is combined with aspiring), Roxicodone, and OxyNorm; many of these names have been copyrighted by pharmaceutical companies.9
Oxycodone typically comes in a pill form. However, it can be crushed up, making it a white powder or it can be dissolved in water.
Oxycodone can be swallowed, snorted, chewed, or injected. Each way has a different amount of time that it takes to reach the user’s body. The effects of oxycodone set in within 10 to 60 minutes, depending on how it is used. It can last up to 6 hours.
People who take oxycodone may become addicted after several weeks or months of taking the drug. The user does develop a tolerance for the drug and, therefore, needs increasingly more of the drug in order to reach an acceptable high (depending on the user).
There is a broad range of effects when using oxycodone, which are determined by factors including a person’s individual tolerance, dosage, frequency taken, etc.
It is noted that oxycodone causes few hallucinations and itchiness than morphine.5
Short-term effects of oxycodone use:11
- Pain relief
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Mood changes
- Decrease in pupil (dark circle in eye) size
- Red eyes
Serious side effects that need the attention of a doctor include:11
- Fast or slow heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Slowed breathing
- Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hallucinating (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
- Loss of consciousness
Long-term effects of oxycodone use:
Signs of an oxycodone overdose:11
- Difficulty breathing or slowed or stopped breathing
- Excessive sleepiness
- Limp or weak muscles
- Increase or decrease in pupil (dark circle in the eye) size
- Cold, clammy skin
- Slow or stopped heartbeat
- Blue color of skin, fingernails, lips, or area around the mouth
- Loss of consciousness or coma
Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms
It is important to gradually decrease use of oxycodone, rather than stop using the drug cold turkey. This is because the withdrawal symptoms can be severe. Withdrawal symptoms of oxycodone include:11
- Watery eyes, runny nose
- Muscle or joint aches or pains
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Loss of appetite
- Fast heartbeat, fast breathing
2) “Medications and Drugs.” MedicineNet.com. Date downloaded: July 19, 2010.
3) “NIDA InfoFacts: Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse. Date downloaded: July 19, 2010.
4) “Oxycodone.” Wikipedia. Date downloaded: July 16, 2010.
5) "Oxycodone Basics.” Erowid. Date downloaded: July 19, 2010.
6) Kalso, E (May 2005). "Oxycodone". Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 29 (5S): S47–S56. Date downloaded: July 19, 2010.
7) “OxyContin Diversion and Abuse.” National Drug Intelligence Center. Jan 2001. Date downloaded: July 19, 2010.
8) “Oxycodone.” U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control. Date downloaded: July 19, 2010.
9) “Oxycodone.” Erowid. Date downloaded: July 19, 2010.
10) “OXYCONTIN.” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Date downloaded: July 19, 2010.
11) “Oxycodone.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Date downloaded: July 16, 2010.