Oxycodone is the most commonly abused opioid in America. More than 12 million people use opioid drugs recreationally in the U.S.A.
Oxycodone was the leading cause of drug-related deaths in America until 2012, when heroin and fentanyl became more widely abused. Oxycodone overdose can cause spinal cord infarction in high doses as well as ischemic damage to the brain, due to prolonged hypoxia from suppressed breathing.
Most common side effects of oxycodone include reduced sensitivity to pain, euphoria, relaxation, and respiratory depression. Other side effects of oxycodone include constipation, nausea, tiredness, dizziness, itching, dry mouth, and sweating.
Most side effects generally decrease in intensity over time, although constipation is likely to continue throughout use. Oxycodone in combination with naloxone in timed-release tablets have been created to deter abuse and reduce “opioid-induced constipation.”
There is a high risk of severe withdrawal symptoms if a patient abruptly discontinues taking oxycodone. In a medical context, if the drug has been taken over an extended period of time, it is to be withdrawn gradually. People who abuse oxycodone at higher than prescribed doses are at risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal may include anxiety, panic attack, nausea, insomnia, muscle weakness, fevers, and other flu-like symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms have also been reported in newborns whose mothers had been taking oxycodone orally or injecting it during pregnancy.
In high doses and in people not tolerant to opioids, oxycodone can cause shallow breathing, slowed heart rate, clammy skin, pauses in breathing, low blood pressure, constricted pupils, circulatory collapse, respiratory arrest and death. Opioids were responsible for 49,000 of the 72,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017.
Oxycodone, sold under brand names such as Roxicodone and OxyContin (the extended release form) is a strong, semi-synthetic opioid used medically for treatment of moderate to severe pain. It is highly addictive, usually taken by mouth, and is available in immediate-release and controlled-release formulations. Onset of pain relief begins within fifteen minutes and lasts up to six hours with the immediate-release tablets.
The reformulated OxyContin has caused some recreational users to switch to fentanyl, which is cheaper and not as difficult to find (and far more dangerous). In the United Kingdom, oxycodone is available by injection. When taken by mouth, oxycodone has roughly one and a half times the effect of the equivalent amount of morphine.
Oxycodone was first made in Germany in 1916 from thebaine, an opiate alkaloid. In 2020, oxycodone was the 54th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States with over 12 million prescriptions.