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Oxycodone has US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) boxed warnings. This drug carries a significant risk for opioid addiction, abuse, and misuse and should be taken cautiously. Inappropriate use may have severe health consequences, including death.¹
Taking oxycodone in a manner not prescribed (crushed, chewed, snorted, or dissolved and injected) increases the risk of overdose and death.
Respiratory depression is a significant concern for people taking oxycodone, particularly when starting the medication or with dose increases. Thus, they should let others in their life know how to monitor them for signs of oversedation and respiratory depression, including shortness of breath, unusually slow and shallow breathing, or unusually rapid breathing.
Alcohol, opioids, sedatives, and other drugs that act on the central nervous system may have additive effects when used alongside oxycodone, also increasing the risk of overdose, respiratory depression, and death.
Oxycodone should be used cautiously in people with head injuries as its effects on carbon dioxide retention and cerebrospinal fluid pressure may be amplified in such cases.
Finally, oxycodone may trigger severely low blood pressure in some people.
Taking the drug accidentally can cause an overdose that can be fatal, particularly for children.¹
Oxycodone is a medicine that belongs to the classification of drugs called opioid agonists. It works by activating opioid (pain) receptors in the central nervous system and alleviating pain. It is also referred to as an analgesic, meaning it acts to relieve pain.
Oxycodone is a schedule II narcotic that requires a doctor’s prescription. It’s a controlled substance, so its manufacturing, handling, storage, and distribution are tightly controlled by the US FDA. This is due to a high risk of abuse that may lead to physical and mental dependence on the drug.
Oxycodone belongs to a group of opioid painkillers commonly called narcotics. It’s used to treat moderate-to-severe pain caused by injuries, cancer, some chronic medical conditions, and during painful procedures or while recovering from surgery.
Oxycodone is available in a range of forms and dosages. Under some brand names, oxycodone is combined with other pain medications.
Tablet: 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, and 30mg
Extended-release tablet (ER): 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 30mg, 40mg, 60mg, and 80mg
Liquid: 5mg/5mL, 20mg/mL, 100mg/5mL
Oxycodone is the drug’s generic name. Brands that have immediate-release and extended-release forms include:
Brand combining oxycodone and aspirin:
Brands combining oxycodone and acetaminophen:
Take oxycodone precisely as prescribed. Do not start, stop, or change your dosage without guidance from your doctor. Don’t take the medication for longer than your doctor recommends.
Most forms of oxycodone can be taken with or without food, but Xtampza ER is an exception and should be taken with food. People who struggle with swallowing tablets or capsules may also break open the capsule and sprinkle it onto semi-solid foods that don’t require chewing, such as applesauce or pudding. If you choose that route, be careful not to inhale the powder, and be sure to consume the mixture right away and entirely. The contents of a capsule are intended to be taken orally. Do not mix the powder with a liquid for injecting, as this practice may result in death.²
If you take Oxaydo tablets, swallow them with plenty of water to ensure complete, immediate swallowing.
In its tablet or capsule forms, oxycodone must be taken whole. Never crush, break, or chew a tablet, especially the extended-release form, because it can lead to an accidental overdose.
The liquid form of this medicine can be mixed into a small amount of juice, pudding, or applesauce. The dose should be measured carefully using the dosing syringe provided. If the package doesn’t come with a measuring tool, purchase one at the pharmacy.²
Oxycodone capsules are usually taken 4–6 times daily based on pain levels. Slow-release tablets are taken once or twice daily, and doses are typically scheduled. The liquid form is taken 4–6 times per day.²
Doctors usually start by prescribing the lowest dosage and adjusting the dosage as needed to meet the patient’s needs. Patients are monitored closely for signs of misuse and addiction while taking oxycodone.
How quickly oxycodone takes effect depends on the form.³
The capsule and liquid forms are fast-acting and usually provide pain relief within 30 to 60 minutes. The effects of oxycodone in these forms wear off within 4–6 hours.
In other slow-release forms, oxycodone takes effect within 1–2 days, but the pain-relieving effects last longer.
Certain groups of people cannot take oxycodone safely. People with hypersensitivity to oxycodone or other opioids shouldn’t take the drug.
In environments where medical supervision isn’t possible and resuscitative equipment is unavailable, oxycodone is not considered safe for people with significant respiratory depression. Further, it’s not considered safe for people with severe chronic lung disease or hypercarbia under any circumstances.
While concerns about misuse and addiction shouldn’t prevent a patient from receiving adequate pain relief, oxycodone should be prescribed cautiously in patients who exhibit signs of misuse.
Extra caution is also necessary for people who are older or debilitated and those with:
Intestinal obstruction or severe constipation
Loss of consciousness
Medical conditions that increase the risk of dangerously low blood pressure
Oxycodone has known side effects. Some are mild and common, while others are more severe and occur less frequently.³
The more common side effects associated with oxycodone include the following:
These side effects are seen quite frequently and will usually resolve with time. However, if they persist for a long time and worsen, it is recommended that you stop the medicine and call your doctor to ask for advice.
Less commonly, a person may experience severe side effects, including:
Changes in heartbeat
Slow respirations or apnea
Cold, clammy skin, indicating shock
Low blood pressure, signaled by lightheadedness on standing
Inability to achieve an erection
Difficulty in swallowing and breathing
While some of these side effects may seem minor, they can indicate something more serious. Speak with your doctor or call 911 if you experience any of these side effects.
Oxycodone overdoses can result in the following symptoms:²
Slow and shallow breathing, apnea
Cold and clammy skin
Respiratory problems, respiratory arrest
Very low blood pressure
Loss of consciousness
If you or someone in your care experiences these symptoms, immediately call 911 and then your local poison control center helpline. An oxycodone overdose demands urgent medical attention.
Naloxone (under the brand name Narcan) is the antidote to an opioid overdose. Patients are advised to keep naloxone with them at all times, and it should be administered as soon as an overdose becomes evident.
Naloxone is available at pharmacies without a prescription. If you’re taking oxycodone, ensure the person responsible for your care knows how to administer naloxone. If you’re uneasy, a doctor or pharmacist can show you how it’s used.
If you miss a dose of oxycodone, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it’s nearly time for your next scheduled dose, skip the missed one and resume your regular schedule. Never take extra doses of oxycodone, even if you’re struggling with pain.
Consult your doctor and ask for instructions if you miss your dose or the prescribed dose doesn’t adequately alleviate your pain.
It’s rare, but oxycodone can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The symptoms of allergic reactions include the following:
Swelling of the tongue, throat, or face
If you develop signs of an allergic reaction while taking oxycodone, stop taking the medication and consult your doctor immediately. If the reaction is severe, call 911.
As indicated by its status as a schedule II drug, long-term use of oxycodone is known to be habit-forming, resulting in mental and physical dependence, which may lead to drug-seeking behaviors.
When taken for an extended period, the body becomes tolerant to the medicine. In that case, a person may need a higher dose to achieve the same level of pain relief.
Oxycodone falls into pregnancy Category B, according to the US FDA. It is unclear with the current research whether there is a direct risk of birth anomalies or toxicity when oxycodone is taken during pregnancy. There are no well-controlled studies in pregnant women, and thus the risk during pregnancy is unknown. In a few animal studies, it has been linked to abnormal behavioral effects in the offspring.⁴
If oxycodone is taken in the later or end stages of pregnancy, there is a risk that the baby may be born addicted to the medication and may experience opioid withdrawal symptoms after birth.
Symptoms of withdrawal in newborns may include the following:²
Uncontrollable shaking of the body
Failure to gain weight
Oxycodone can be found in breast milk. Although there is no data regarding risks to the baby, there is a theoretical risk the medicine given to the mother in high doses could cause severe drowsiness and slow respirations in the baby.
The interactions between oxycodone and other medications can trigger severe or fatal processes within the body.
Drugs known to interact with oxycodone include:¹
Sedatives, including Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Restoril, and others
Other opioids or pain medicines
Prescription cough medicines
Parkinson’s disease medication
Certain medications used to prevent nausea, vomiting, motion sickness, overactive bladder, and irritable bowel syndrome
Diuretics (water pills)
Cold and allergy medicines
Bronchodilators for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Before you start using oxycodone, it is beneficial first to discuss the following concerns with your doctor:
Tell your doctor about any allergies you have, especially if you are allergic to opiate medicines, such as oxycodone and all of its ingredients. You can consult your pharmacist for a complete list of the ingredients.
Ensure your doctor is aware of any other medical conditions you may have, such as low blood pressure, brain disorders (seizures), breathing problems, liver disease, kidney disease, stomach or intestinal disease, gallbladder disease, or pancreatic conditions.
Let your doctor know about all other medications you are currently taking, including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, herbal medicines (St. John’s wort), supplements (tryptophan), and vitamins. Oxycodone is known to have severe and even fatal drug interactions.
Tell your doctor if anyone in your family has a history of drug or alcohol use disorders. Patients with this history are more prone to becoming addicted to oxycodone.
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to be pregnant, or are currently nursing an infant.
Do not discontinue oxycodone on your own. Doing so may result in withdrawal symptoms, which may include the following:²
Feeling agitated, irritable, and restless
Rapid heartbeat and breathing
Pins and needles
Ringing in the ears
Feeling nervous and anxious
Body aches and pain
Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
The US FDA initially approved oxycodone in 1950. They evaluated the drug’s safety using data from 713 patients with moderate-to-severe pain enrolled in double-blind clinical trials. They also assessed open-label studies on 187 patients with cancer pain.¹
In the evaluated studies, common side effects were typically minor and included constipation, nausea, drowsiness, and more.
The FDA evaluated the drug’s effectiveness with a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 133 patients with chronic pain across two weeks. In the study, 20mg of oxycodone proved effective, while 10mg demonstrated results comparable to placebo.
OxyContin extended-release was approved in 1995. Two trials comparing the two versions of the drug concluded that the controlled-release version of oxycodone was as effective as the immediate-release form in providing pain relief for patients with pain, particularly those with cancer and lower back pain.⁵ ⁶
Oxycodone is a medication with high addiction potential. Make sure to take it as prescribed to avoid unwanted effects.
Only the person for whom the medicine was prescribed should take it. Never share it with others, especially those with a history of addiction. Misusing this medicine can cause severe and fatal effects such as overdose, addiction, and even death.
Keep track of your medicine and keep it in a protected place to ensure that no one else has access to it.
Oxycodone can cause dizziness. You should not engage in activities that require focus, such as sports and driving, when you are taking opioid medications.
Do not drink alcohol when taking oxycodone, as alcohol can increase its effects.
Oxycontin® (oxycodone hydrochloride) extended-release tablets, for oral use, CII (2015)
Oxycodone | MedlinePlus
Prescription opioids in pregnancy and birth outcomes: A review of the literature (2015)
Opioid approval and monitoring by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2017)
Can a controlled-release oral dose form of oxycodone be used as readily as an immediate-release form for the purpose of titrating to stable pain control? (1999)
Access the latest treatments and medications. unavailable elsewhere - entirely free of charge. We make it easy to take part.
Here at HealthMatch, we’ve done our best to ensure that the information provided in this article is helpful, up to date, and, most importantly, accurate.
However, we can’t replace the one-to-one advice of a qualified medical practitioner or outline all of the possible risks associated with this particular drug and your circumstances.
It is therefore important for you to note that the information contained in this article does not constitute professional medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or recommendation of treatment and is not intended to, nor should be used to, replace professional medical advice. This article may not always be up to date and is not exhaustive of all of the risks and considerations relevant to this particular drug. In no circumstances should this article be relied upon without independent consideration and confirmation by a qualified medical practitioner.
Your doctor will be able to explain all possible uses, dosages, precautions, interactions with other drugs, and other potential adverse effects, and you should always talk to them about any kind of medication you are taking, thinking about taking or wanting to stop taking.
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