Last published: December 02, 2021
What is oxycodone?
Oxycodone hydrochloride is part of a group of drugs known as opioids. Opioids include any drug that acts on opioid receptors in the brain, and any natural or synthetic drugs that are derived from, or related to, the opium poppy. Opiates are a subset of opioids, which are naturally derived from the opium poppy plant, rather than synthetic substances.
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. This means doctors must follow state and territory laws when prescribing oxycodone and need to notify, or receive approval from, the appropriate health authority.
Some people use oxycodone to become intoxicated, which can result in serious side effects.
Types of oxycodone
Oxycodone comes in many 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.
Other types of opioids
How is oxycodone 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.
Effects of oxycodone
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk – even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug and to follow your doctor’s prescription. Contact your doctor if you are concerned about the side effects of oxycodone.
Oxycodone affects everyone differently, but its effects may include:
- pain relief
- dizziness or faintness
- confusion and difficulty concentrating
- euphoria or negative mood
- 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 injecting drugs, there is an increased risk of:
- vein damage
If sharing needles, there is an increased risk of:
- hepatitis B
- hepatitis C
- HIV and AIDS
Taking a large amount of oxycodone can result in an overdose. Call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000) if you or someone else has any of these symptoms (ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police):
- 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
Note: If possible, have the medicine with you so the ambulance officers know what has been taken.
Regular use of oxycodone may cause:
- dental problems2
- mood swings
- reduced sex drive and a 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 MAOI were the first type of antidepressants developed but generally have been replaced by ones that are safer and have less side effects.
‘Polydrug use’ is a term for the use of more than one drug or type of drug at the same time or one after another. Polydrug use can involve both illicit drugs and legal substances, such as alcohol and medications. Find out more about polydrug use.
Giving up oxycodone after a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. It’s important seek advice from a health professional 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 around 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
If your use of oxycodone is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situations, or you’re concerned about a loved one, you can find help and support.
Call 1300 85 85 84 to speak to a real person and your questions answered as well as advice on practical ‘next steps’. It’s confidential too.
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Oxycodone was the most commonly dispensed prescription opioid in 2016–17, with 5.7 million prescriptions dispensed to 1.3 million Australians.5
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.
It is illegal to:
- use oxycodone without a prescription from a doctor
- sell or give an oxycodone prescription to someone else
- forge or alter an oxycodone prescription
- make false claims to obtain oxycodone or an oxycodone prescription from a health professional.
- John Hopkins Medical. What are opioids? n.d. [17.11.2021].
- South Australia Health. Adverse effects due to long term opioids 2021 [19.11.2021].
- Brands B Sproule B Marshman J. Drugs & Drug Abuse. 3rd ed. Ontario: Addiction Research Foundation; 1998.
- Upfal J. The Australian drug guide. 7th ed. Melbourne Black Inc.; 2006.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Opioid harm in Australia and comparisons between Australia and Canada. Canberra AIHW; 2018.