What you should know about oxycodone

Understand the basics of oxycodone, where this narcotic drug comes from, how it’s used, and what role it plays in the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Ophelia team
Oxycodone pills
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Fact checked by
Arthur Robin Williams, MD

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic with high abuse potential, making it a critical player in the opioid epidemic in the United States. The drug is marketed alone as OxyContin® for pain relief and in combination products, like Percodan® (combined with aspirin) and Roxicet® (combined with acetaminophen).

Researchers attribute oxycodone's role in the epidemic to various factors, from its high likability to a history of over-prescribing by healthcare practitioners. As a result, oxycodone is a contributing factor to high rates of opioid use disorder (OUD) in the U.S..

That said, it's not all bad news. As experts have come to understand the dangers of opioids like oxycodone, healthcare practitioners have become more cautious with their prescribing practices. On top of that, there are effective treatments available to treat oxycodone-related OUDs. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is one effective solution recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you have questions about where oxycodone comes from and what it looks like and does to the body, we’re here to answer them. And we’ll explain what we’re doing to fight back against oxycodone-related OUD.

What is oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid, so it attaches to the brain cells' opioid receptors, signaling the brain to reduce the perception of pain and increase the perception of pleasure.

It's important not to confuse oxycodone with OxyContin. "Oxycodone" refers to the drug itself, while "OxyContin" is the branded name of a specific controlled-release medication that contains oxycodone. The two names often get used interchangeably because OxyContin is so familiar, but they’re not exactly the same thing.

Where does oxycodone come from?

Oxycodone is synthesized from thebaine, which originates from the poppy plant. However, by the time the product reaches consumers, you'd never guess it came from a plant.

What does oxycodone look like? It's generally sold as a tablet or capsule, commonly seen with prescription forms, like OxyContin. However, oxycodone can be abused in various ways beyond simply ingesting pills.

Crushed tablets can be sniffed or dissolved in water and injected. It's also possible to heat tablets on a piece of foil and then inhale the resulting vapor.

What does oxycodone do?

Oxycodone impacts the central nervous system, alleviating pain. It can produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria, which is one reason for its high likability— and potential for abuse.

In addition to those psychological effects, it can also produce a sedation-like effect on the body. That means slower breathing and drowsiness. It can even suppress coughing and cause pupil constriction.

If someone uses oxycodone regularly for a longer period, they may experience negative effects, affecting their organs, including their stomach, intestines, and liver. At the same time, important bodily systems can become dysregulated, so it becomes difficult for that person to respond to stimuli, such as hunger, mood changes, temperature changes, and breathing during sleep.

Since opioids can affect the endocrine and musculoskeletal systems, oxycodone can even increase the risk of bone fractures.

How is oxycodone linked to opioid addiction?

Since oxycodone is an opioid, long-term use can result in OUD, making it difficult for individuals to manage their daily routines without the drug. This is why OxyContin is so familiar—a prescription regimen can spiral out of control, or the pills can fall into the wrong hands.

People who develop a dependence on opioids and then try to quit may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Break free from oxycodone dependence with Ophelia

MAT is one treatment shown to help people successfully overcome withdrawal symptoms and conquer OUD. This approach connects people with a care team and prescription medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Our online treatment platform makes MAT accessible for patients in a growing list of states, including those on Medicaid. You’ll be able to receive care in the privacy and comfort of home, on your schedule.


Treatment that works is right at your fingertips.

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