Opioids are substances with analgesic, relaxing and euphoric effects that are used as drugs to treat symptoms of severe pain, although in many cases they are used as recreational drugs. In this sense, opioids such as oxycodone, morphine or codeine have a high potential for addiction and physical dependence.

In this article we will describe the main characteristics of oxycodone, what it is used for and the most common side effects of this opioid, which is widely used to treat pain in chronic disorders such as cancer.

What is oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an analgesic drug from the class of opioids, also known as narcotics. These substances, in addition to other effects, cause the brain to respond differently to pain, making it more bearable for the person suffering from it.

This effect occurs through the binding of the drug to the brain’s opioid receptors, which blocks the sending of pain-related signals. This causes the user of oxycodone and other opioids to have a different perception of pain.

Oxycodone is synthesized from thebaine, an alkali opioid found in the capsules of the opium poppy. The chemical properties of this compound are similar to those of morphine and codeine, two other very common opioids.

It is marketed under many different trade names, alone or in combination with other painkillers. Some of the most common are Oxycontin, Oxynorm, Targin and Percodan; the latter also contains aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), while Percocet is composed of oxycodone and paracetamol .

Although it is most often consumed in tablet form, oxycodone can also be found as an oral solution and, more rarely, in injectable form. There are quick release variants that are taken every 4 or 6 hours, and others that are slow release; in this case it is recommended that oxycodone be consumed every 12 hours.

What is it used for?

Oxycodone is used to relieve symptoms of pain. It is a relatively powerful analgesic and is recommended for use in the treatment of moderate to severe pain.

This drug is usually prescribed when a person is expected to feel pain for a long period of time, and in case the pain is not sufficiently relieved by the use of other, less aggressive painkillers.

Studies claim that oxycodone consumption improves the quality of life of people with moderate or severe pain, whether acute or chronic. In particular, the most common use of oxycodone is in the context of treatments for cancer-associated pain ; in fact, it is a drug of choice in these cases.

It is also used to relieve pain due to trauma or other physical injuries, as well as pain resulting from aggressive surgical interventions. As previously mentioned, given the addictive potential of oxycodone, it is preferable to administer milder drugs if their effects are sufficient for the person.

Although there are pharmaceuticals that consist exclusively of oxycodone, it is often combined with other painkillers in a single medication . Some of the more common ones are ibuprofen, paracetamol, aspirin and acetaminophen.

Side effects and precautions

The most common side effects of oxycodone include drowsiness, fatigue, dizziness, headache, itching, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach pain, constipation, sweating and dry mouth. Positive effects include relaxation, euphoria and reduced sensitivity to pain .

Nervousness, diarrhoea, urinary retention or hiccups are rare and of little relevance. Other reactions are more serious; if breathing problems, decreased sexual drive and performance, menstrual cycle disturbances, feelings of fainting or severe constipation occur, it is important to consult your doctor.

Oxycodone overdose is characterized by the following symptoms: muscle weakness, breathing difficulties, drop in body temperature, very intense sleepiness and even loss of consciousness and coma. These effects are more likely in children, so the consumption of oxycodone is not recommended in minors .

People with severe breathing problems or intestinal blockage should not take oxycodone. Oxycodone should also not be taken in combination with alcohol or during pregnancy or breastfeeding, as it can cause withdrawal in the baby. In addition, scientific research suggests that opioids may reduce fertility.

On the other hand, a large number of cases of abuse and addiction of oxycodone have been described, given that, like the other opioids, this drug produces reinforcing and euphoric effects. Oxycodone is often combined with naloxone to prevent withdrawal symptoms.