What is oxycodone?
Effects of oxycodone
Download the Oxycodone fact sheet [PDF:500KB]
Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied upon in that way. Individuals wanting medical advice about oxycodone should consult a health professional.
What is oxycodone?
Oxycodone hydrochloride belongs to a group of medicines called opioid analgesics. It is a depressant drug which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body. Depressant drugs do not necessarily make a person feel depressed. Other depressants include alcohol, cannabis and heroin.
Oxycodone is most commonly prescribed by doctors to relieve moderate to severe pain. However, there is increasing concern among medical professionals about the risks of using these drugs, particularly when they are used for a long time.
Under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), oxycodone is a Schedule 8 drug. Doctors must follow state and territory laws when prescribing oxycodone and must notify, or receive approval from, the appropriate health authority.
Some people misuse oxycodone to become intoxicated, which can result in serious side effects.
Types of oxycodone
Oxycodone comes in a number of forms including capsules, tablets, liquid and suppositories. It also comes in a variety of strengths.
Common oxycodone brand names
Oxynorm®, OxyContin®, Endone®, Proladone®, Targin®.
Hillbilly heroin, oxy, OC and O.
How are they used?
Oxycodone is usually swallowed but is sometimes injected or used as a suppository.
To prevent OxyContin® tablets being injected by people who misuse them, they were reformulated on 1 April 2014. The tablets are now resistant to crushing and become a thick gel when added to water. They also have controlled release properties, even as a gel. Read more about this change in the DrugInfo Alert or on the ReGen website.
Effects of oxycodone
Use of any drug always carries some risk. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug and follow your doctor's prescription. Contact your doctor if you are concerned about the side effects of oxycodone.
Oxycodone affects everyone differently, but the effects may include:
- Pain relief
- Dizziness or faintness
- Confusion and difficulty concentrating
- Euphoria or negative mood
- Blurred vision
- Stiff muscles
- Dry mouth
- Stomach ache and nausea
- Difficulty urinating
- Slow pulse
- Excess sweating, flushing and itching
- Mild allergic rash or hives (see your doctor promptly)1
If a large amount of oxycodone is taken, the following may be experienced:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Small pupils
- Decreased awareness or responsiveness
- Extreme drowsiness and loss of consciousness
- No muscle tone or movement
- Slow or irregular heartbeat1
These effects may indicate an overdose. Call triple zero (000) immediately if someone looks they like have had oxycodone and are in trouble. Ambulance officers don't have to involve the police. If possible, have the medicine with you so the ambulance officers know what has been taken. While you wait for help to arrive:
- Stay with the person
- Make sure they have enough air and loosen tight clothing
- If they lie down, put them on their side in case they vomit
Injecting oxycodone when misusing the drug may also cause:
- Vein damage and scarring
- Infection including tetanus, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS
- Deep vein thrombosis and clots causing loss of limbs, damage to organs, stroke and possibly death
Injecting drugs repeatedly and sharing injecting equipment with other people increases the risk of experiencing these effects.
Regular use of oxycodone may cause:
- Dental problems2
- Swelling in the arms and legs
- Mood swings
- Reduced sex drive and decreased level of testosterone (males) and menstrual problems (females)
- Needing to use more to get the same effect
- Financial, work or social problems3
Using oxycodone with other drugs
The effects of taking oxycodone with other drugs can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
- Oxycodone + alcohol: increased confusion and clumsiness, and breathing difficulties.
- Oxycodone + some antidepressants (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors - MAOIs): delirium, convulsions, respiratory failure, coma and death.4
Giving up oxycodone after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. This is why it's important to seek advice from a health professional when planning to stop taking oxycodone, whether you have been taking it with a prescription or not.
Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and are different depending on the type of oxycodone taken. Symptoms usually last for approximately one week and can include:
- Watering eyes
- Runny nose
- Uncontrollable yawning
- Difficulty sleeping and severe restlessness
- Hot and cold flushes
- Pains in muscles and joints
- Muscle spasms and tremors
- Loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Uncontrolled kicking movements3
Information about withdrawal
Reducing the risks
ADF SEARCH – Find further credible research and information on oxycodone
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1. Mayo Clinic. (2014) Oxycodone (oral route).
2. Migraine Awareness Group. (n.d.) Treatment & Management Drug Profiles: oxycodone HCI, controlled-release OxyContin.
3. Brands, B. Sproule, B. & Marshman, J. (Eds.). (1998). Drugs & drug abuse (3rd ed.). Ontario: Addiction Research Foundation.
4. Upfal J. (2006). The Australian drug guide (7th ed.). Melbourne: Black Inc.
Last updated: 31 May 2016