Oxycodone

Prescription drugs pain killers

Last published: July 19, 2021

What is oxycodone?

Oxycodone hydrochloride is part of a group of drugs known as opioids

Opioids interact with opioid receptors in the brain and bring about a range of responses, from feelings of pain relief to relaxation, pleasure and contentment.

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 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. 

Effects of oxycodone

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
  • tiredness
  • confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • euphoria or negative mood
  • restlessness
  • 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

If injecting drugs, there is an increased risk of: 

  • tetanus
  • infection
  • vein damage 

If sharing needles, there is an increased risk of:

  • hepatitis B
  • hepatitis C
  • HIV and AIDS

Injecting drugs repeatedly and sharing injecting equipment with other people increases the risk of experiencing these effects.

Overdose

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.

Long-term effects

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. Read more here.

‘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.

Withdrawal

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

Getting help

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. 

National

The amount of oxycodone being prescribed by doctors increased from 97kg in 1997 to 1295kg in 2008.5

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.
  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.

Explore opioids on the Drug Wheel

Drug wheel segment - Opioids segment@2x.png

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

O, OC, hillbilly heroin, oxy