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Oxycodone

6-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 pain-relief medicine used to relieve moderate to 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.

What is oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid medicine that is available on prescription from your doctor.

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

What is oxycodone used for?

Oxycodone is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It should only be used when other forms of non-opioid pain relief have not been successful in managing pain or are not tolerated.

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

How does oxycodone work?

Oxycodone works directly on opioid receptors in the central nervous system and reduces feelings of pain by interrupting the way nerves signal pain between the brain and the body.

What are the possible side effects of taking oxycodone?

All opioids, including oxycodone, can have side effects that 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.

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.

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 oxycodone suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Oxycodone may make it difficult for you to drive or operate heavy machinery. If you have recently started taking oxycodone or another opioid medication, or changed your dosage, you may be at higher risk of having an accident.

If your kidney or liver function is impaired, your doctor may decide that oxycodone in not appropriate for you. There are other factors that may limit your use of oxycodone — for example, if you drink alcohol or take other medicines that can cause drowsiness.

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on whether oxycodone is the right medicine for you, how much you need and how long to take it for.

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

Access to overdose-reversing medication

Naloxone is a medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. A pilot program, funded by the Australian Government, is offering certain individuals in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia this medication (including the nasal spray Nyxoid) free of charge and without a prescription.

Learn more here about the take home naloxone pilot.

Are there any alternatives to oxycodone?

Everyone's pain is unique, and different pain-relief medicines will work 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 discomfort. This may include physical fitness and activity pacing, social activities, relaxation techniques and overall health management.

You can find more information here 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 Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

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', since this can lead to inappropriate use.

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

Resources and support

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

See also this list of medicines that contain oxycodone to read the consumer medicines information (CMI) leaflet for the brand prescribed. You can also:

  • Call the NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line (1300 633 424) to talk about the medicines you are taking for your pain.

  • Discuss your pain on the Pain Link telephone helpline (1300 340 357) which is staffed by volunteers with personal experience of chronic pain.

  • Got to Painaustralia to find pain services and programs in your area.

  • Learn more about prescription opioids on ScriptWise.

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

Last reviewed: January 2021


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