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Last updated : August 19, 2017

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®.

Slang names

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 in 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 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
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • Euphoria or negative mood
  • Restlessness
  • Blurred vision
  • Stiff muscles
  • Constipation
  • 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

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.

Overdose

If you take a large amount of oxycodone, you could overdose. If you have any of the symptoms below, call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police. If possible, have the medicine with you so the ambulance officers know what has been taken.

  • 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

Long-term 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

Withdrawal

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

Getting help

If your use of oxycodone is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situations, you can seek help and support.

Oxycodone statistics

National

The amount of oxycodone being prescribed by doctors increased from 95.1 kg in 1999 to 1270.7 kg in 2008 – a 13-fold increase.5

Oxycodone and the law

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.

Using oxycodone without a prescription from a doctor, or selling or giving them to someone else, is illegal. There are also laws against forging or altering a prescription or making false representation to obtain oxycodone or a prescription for them from a health professional.

References
  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.
  5. Rintoul, A.C., Dobbin, M., Drummer, O.H., & Ozanne-Smith, J. (2011). Increasing deaths involving oxycodone, Victoria, Australia, 2000-09. Injury Prevention, 17(4), 254–259.

 


Effects

blurred vision, confusion, constipation, difficulty concentrating, difficulty urinating, dizziness, dry mouth, euphoria, excessive sweating, faintness, flushing and itching, hives, nausea, negative mood, pain relief, restlessness, stiff muscles, stomach pains, tiredness.

AKA

hillbilly heroin, O, OC, oxy.