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Oxycodone

8-minute read

If a person is not breathing, or if they are unresponsive, seek help straight away. Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Key facts

  • Oxycodone is an opioid medicine used to relieve severe pain.
  • It is not usually recommended for the treatment of chronic (long-term) pain.
  • Oxycodone is only available on prescription from your doctor.
  • If you stop taking oxycodone suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • There are risks to taking opioid medicines, so make sure you take these medicines exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

What is oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a strong opioid medicine used to treat severe pain.

LOOKING FOR A MEDICINE? — See this list of medicines that contain oxycodone to find out more about a specific medication.

What forms of oxycodone are available?

Common brands of oxycodone include Endone, OxyContin and OxyNorm. It comes in different dosages and forms including:

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • suppositories
  • liquid

Some formulations work immediately. Other controlled-release formulations work more slowly, so their effects last longer.

Oxycodone is only available on prescription from your doctor.

What is oxycodone used for?

Oxycodone is used to relieve acute, severe pain. It is recommended if your doctor decides other treatments cannot effectively manage your pain, or you can't tolerate those treatments.

Oxycodone is not usually recommended for the treatment of chronic pain.

How do I take oxycodone?

It is important to follow the directions given to you by your doctor or pharmacist.

Your doctor will write the recommended dosage on your prescription.

If you have been taking oxycodone for more than a short while, it is important not to suddenly stop taking the medicine. You should gradually reduce the amount you are taking, under the supervision of your doctor. This will help to reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms occurring.

What are the possible side effects of oxycodone?

All opioids, including oxycodone, can have side effects and these include life-threatening breathing problems. The risk of these is higher:

  • when first taking oxycodone
  • after a dosage increase
  • if you are older
  • if you have an existing lung problem

The side effects of oxycodone are similar to those of other opioids, and include:

Always take medicines exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

If you experience side effects while taking oxycodone, or are concerned about your opioid use, speak with your doctor. Your doctor can advise you on other options, or whether you may need a dosage adjustment.

For a complete list of side effects see the consumer medicines information (CMI) leaflet.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

What are the risks associated with oxycodone?

Opioids are strong pain medicines and can cause life-threatening breathing problems.

Oxycodone can cause side effects that include drowsiness, sleepiness or dizziness in some people. You should avoid driving or operating machinery until you know how it affects you.

If you have recently started taking oxycodone or another opioid medicine, or changed your dosage, you may be at higher risk of having an accident.

WORRIED ABOUT YOUR OPIOID USE? — The Opioid Risk Indicator can help you find out if you may be developing a problem.

It's also important to tell your doctor if you have any allergies, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Using oxycodone with other medicines that can make you drowsy, such as sleeping tablets or other pain-relief medicines, can be dangerous. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicine.

You shouldn't drink alcohol while using oxycodone, as it can increase your risk of serious side effects.

Be careful not to accidentally 'double dose' by also taking a different brand that contains the same active ingredient. Check the packaging or ask your pharmacist if you're not sure.

Also, do not take a double dose to make up for a dose that you have missed.

Opioid dependence

If you take oxycodone, you may become dependent on this medicine even if you take it exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor will monitor how you use oxycodone to reduce your risk of harm, including through misuse, abuse and addiction.

You may also develop tolerance when you take oxycodone. This means that you may need to take larger amounts of the opioid to get the same effect. As the dosage increases, so does the risk of side effects.

Continue to take oxycodone for as long as your doctor tells you to. If you stop taking any brand of oxycodone suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Opioid overdose

If you take too much oxycodone (known as an overdose), it's important to get immediate medical attention. Overdose of opioid medicines can cause you to stop breathing.

Symptoms of overdose include:

  • feeling sleepy
  • difficulty breathing
  • unconsciousness

If you are concerned about an overdose of oxycodone or any opioid-containing medicine, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Access to overdose-reversing medication

Naloxone is a medicine that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The Australian Government is offering this medication free of charge and without a prescription to people who may experience, or witness, an opioid overdose.

Learn more about the Take Home Naloxone program.

See healthdirect's medicines section for more information about oxycodone.

Are there alternatives to oxycodone?

Everyone's pain is unique. Your doctor may recommend different pain-relief medicines in different circumstances. Some people's pain will respond well to non-opioid medicines, which are generally associated with fewer risks and side effects.

Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before making any change to the dosage or type of medicine you take.

If you have chronic (long-term) pain, your doctor might suggest lifestyle changes to help manage the pain. This may include:

Find out more about options for managing chronic pain.

When should I see my doctor?

If your pain is not well controlled by oxycodone or you have any new or unexpected side effects, see your doctor.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Pain Question Planner to prepare for your doctor’s appointment.

How do I dispose of medicines safely?

It's important you dispose of unwanted opioid medicines safely. Unused medicines can be returned to any pharmacy. Don't keep unused oxycodone 'just in case', as this can lead to dangerous or inappropriate use.

Keep oxycodone out of reach of children and pets. Never throw medicines into a garbage bin or flush them down the toilet, as this is dangerous to others and harmful to the environment.

Resources and support

Asking about your treatment or medicine is important to help you understand your options. Here's a guide to questions you should ask your pharmacist or doctor before taking any medicine.

You can also see this list of medicines that contain oxycodone to read the consumer medicines information (CMI) leaflet for the brand you have been prescribed, or:

  • Call 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) to talk about the medicines you are taking for your pain.
  • Discuss your pain on the Pain Link helpline (1300 340 357) which is staffed by volunteers with personal experience of chronic pain.
  • Go to Painaustralia to find pain services and programs in your area.
  • Learn more about prescription opioids on Choosing Wisely.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2023


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