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Oxycodone is a painkiller. To get oxycodone, you need to have a prescription written for you by your doctor. You can't buy it from a pharmacy without one.

Looking for a medicine?

Visit healthdirect’s list of medicines that contain oxycodone to find out more about a specific medicine.

Here you will find more information on what oxycodone is, what it’s used for, how it works, its risks and whether there are any other treatment options available in its place.

What is oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an active ingredient in medicines commonly used to treat pain. It belongs to a group of medicines called opioid or narcotic analgesics (pain relievers). It is commonly prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain, particularly after surgery or for cancer-related pain.

Your doctor might prescribe oxycodone for another reason. If you are unsure about why you are taking oxycodone, ask your doctor.

How does oxycodone work?

Oxycodone works in the brain and spinal cord to alter how you perceive pain. 

What forms of oxycodone are available?

Oxycodone is available in different:

  • brands
  • forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids and suppositories
  • strengths

Risks of taking oxycodone

Each person responds to medicines differently. Just because a side effect is listed, it doesn’t mean you will experience it. Even if you do experience a side effect, you and your doctor will need to weigh up the medicine’s benefits against its risks before deciding what to do.

Common side effects of oxycodone include:

  • dizziness
  • light-headedness
  • confusion
  • drowsiness
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • nausea or feeling sick

Drinking alcohol while on oxycodone could make you more dizzy, sleepy or light-headed than usual. If you use oxycodone for a long time you might become addicted to it. Talk to your doctor about the right way to tail off your dose. 

Tell your doctor is you have difficult passing urine, a dry mouth, abnormal heart rate or a fall in blood pressure when you stand up while you’re taking oxycodone. Serious side effects of oxycodone that need immediate medical attention include:

  • unconsciousness
  • breathing problems
  • slow, fast or abnormal heartbeat
  • severe dizziness, drowsiness or confusion
  • allergy symptoms, such as itchy skin rash, blisters or discolouring of the skin

This is not a full list of the side effects of oxycodone. For more information on the side effects and risks, read the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) for the brand of oxycodone you are taking. If you are experiencing a serious or life-threatening side effect, immediately call triple zero (000).

Access to overdose-reversing medication

Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. A pilot program, funded by the Australian government, will offer certain individuals in NSW, SA and WA this medication (including the nasal spray Nyxoid) for free and without a prescription during the period 1 December 2019 to 28 February 2021.

Learn more about the Take Home Naloxone pilot here, or contact the Pharmacy Programs Administrator to find out how to register.

Alternatives to oxycodone

Many alternative painkiller medicines are available. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about choosing the most suitable medicine for you. Your health professional will usually suggest the most suitable option based on your symptoms and overall health.

If you have chronic (long-term) pain your doctor may suggest lifestyle measures to help manage the pain. This may include physical fitness and activity pacing, social activities, complementary medicines and therapies, relaxation techniques and overall health.

This page does not give you all the information available about oxycodone. Please read Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) for the brand of oxycodone you are taking, and ask your doctor or pharmacist the important questions.

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

Last reviewed: December 2018

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