Oxycodone, sold under various brand names such as Roxicodone and OxyContin (which is the extended release form), is a strong, semi-synthetic opioid used medically for treatment of moderate to severe pain. It is highly addictive and a commonly abused drug. It is usually taken by mouth, and is available in immediate-release and controlled-release formulations. Onset of pain relief typically begins within fifteen minutes and lasts for up to six hours with the immediate-release formulation. In the United Kingdom, it is available by injection. Combination products are also available with paracetamol (acetaminophen), ibuprofen, naloxone, naltrexone, and aspirin.
Common side effects include euphoria, constipation, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, drowsiness, dizziness, itching, dry mouth, and sweating. Severe side effects may include addiction and dependence, substance abuse, irritability, depression or mania, delirium, hallucinations, hypoventilation, gastroparesis, bradycardia, and hypotension. Those allergic to codeine may also be allergic to oxycodone. Use of oxycodone in early pregnancy appears relatively safe. Opioid withdrawal may occur if rapidly stopped. Oxycodone acts by activating the μ-opioid receptor. When taken by mouth, it has roughly 1.5 times the effect of the equivalent amount of morphine.
Oxycodone was first made in Germany in 1916 from thebaine. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. It is available as a generic medication. In 2020, it was the 54th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with more than 12 million prescriptions. A number of abuse-deterrent formulations are available, such as in combination with naloxone or naltrexone.
Oxycodone is used for managing moderate to severe acute or chronic pain when other treatments are not sufficient. It may improve quality of life in certain types of pain. It is unclear if use in chronic pain results in improved quality of life or ongoing pain relief.
Oxycodone is available as a controlled-release tablet, intended to be taken every 12 hours. A July 1996 study independent of Purdue Pharma, the drug’s originator, found the controlled-release formulation had a variable duration of action ranging from 10 to 12 hours. A 2006 review found that controlled-release oxycodone is comparable to immediate-release oxycodone, morphine, and hydromorphone in management of moderate to severe cancer pain, with fewer side effects than morphine. The author concluded that the controlled-release form is a valid alternative to morphine and a first-line treatment for cancer pain. In 2014, the European Association for Palliative Care recommended oxycodone by mouth as a second-line alternative to morphine by mouth for cancer pain.
In the U.S., extended-release oxycodone is approved for use in children as young as eleven years old. The approved uses are for the relief of cancer pain, trauma pain, or pain due to major surgery, in children already treated with opioids, who can tolerate at least 20 mg per day of oxycodone; this provides an alternative to Duragesic (fentanyl), the only other extended-release opioid analgesic approved for children.