Oxycodone is prescribed to treat severe pain.
You may be prescribed oxycodone to take regularly, or only when it is needed for pain relief. Make sure you know which is right for you.
The most common side-effects are constipation, drowsiness and feeling sick. Your doctor will be able to prescribe medicines for you to take with oxycodone to help with some of these side-effects.
|Type of medicine||Strong opioid painkiller|
|Used for||Severe pain in adults|
|Also called||Lynlor®; OxyNorm®; Candox®; Carexil®; Dolocodon®; Longtec®; Oxylan®; OxyContin®; Targinact® (contains oxycodone with naloxone)|
|Available as||Capsules, modified-release tablets, oral liquid medicine, and injection|
Strong opioids (sometimes called opiates) are medicines used to treat severe pain. Oxycodone is a type of strong opioid. It is used in particular to treat pain after a surgical operation, and pain caused by cancer. It works on your nervous system and brain to reduce the way you feel pain.
Oxycodone can be taken as capsules or as a liquid medicine, both of which start working quickly to ease pain. It can also be taken as slow-release tablets - these release oxycodone over several hours to provide a more even pain control. It is also available as an injection.
Oxycodone is sometimes used in combination with another medicine called naloxone (in a brand called Targinact®). The naloxone helps to reduce some of the side-effects of oxycodone, such as constipation.
Before taking oxycodone
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking oxycodone, it is important that your doctor knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have heart, liver, or kidney problems.
- If you have prostate problems or any difficulties passing urine.
- If you have any breathing problems, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- If you have been told you have low blood pressure.
- If you have any problems with your thyroid, pancreas, or adrenal glands.
- If you have epilepsy.
- If you have a problem with your bile duct.
- If you have been constipated for more than a week or have an inflammatory bowel problem.
- If you have a condition causing muscle weakness, called myasthenia gravis.
- If you have a rare blood disorder called porphyria.
- If you have recently had a severe head injury.
- If you have ever had a mental health problem called psychosis.
- If you have ever been dependent on drugs or alcohol.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
How to take oxycodone
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The manufacturer's leaflet will give you more information about the specific brand of oxycodone you have been prescribed, and a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
- Take oxycodone exactly as your doctor tells you to. Depending on the reason you are taking it, your doctor may advise that you take regular doses or only when you need it for pain relief. Make sure you know which is right for you.
- If you have been prescribed the quick-acting capsules or liquid medicine, you will be asked to take a dose every 4-6 hours. If you have been given slow-release tablets, these are taken twice a day, 12 hours apart. Swallow the tablets whole with a drink of water - it is very important you do not break or crush them before they are swallowed.
- You can take oxycodone before or after food.
- If you forget to take a dose, check the manufactuer's information leaflet for advice about what to do. Depending upon when your next dose is due, you will either be recommended to take a dose when you remember or wait for your next dose. Never take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Ask your doctor for advice before drinking alcohol while you are on this medicine. Your doctor may recommend you do not drink alcohol while you are on oxycodone because it increases the possibility of side-effects such as feeling dizzy and sleepy.
- There are several different brands and strengths of oxycodone tablets and capsules. Each time you collect a prescription, check to make sure it contains what you are expecting. Ask your pharmacist to check for you if you are unsure about anything.
- If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking oxycodone as a painkiller.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable for you to take with oxycodone. Many other medicines have similar side-effects to oxycodone, and taking them together will increase the risk of unwanted effects.
- If you are planning a trip abroad, you are advised to carry a letter with you from your doctor to explain that you have been prescribed oxycodone. This is because it is classed as a 'controlled drug' and is subject to certain restrictions.
- Do not take oxycodone for longer than you have been advised by your doctor. This is because repeatedly using oxycodone may lead to your body becoming dependent on it. When you then stop taking it, it will cause withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness and irritability. If you are concerned about this, discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist.
Can oxycodone cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with oxycodone. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
|Common oxycodone side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who take this medicine||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling or being sick, indigestion, abdominal pain||Stick to simple meals - avoid rich or spicy foods. If this continues, let your doctor know|
|Feeling dizzy, sleepy or drowsy||If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol|
|Shallow breathing and other breathing problems||Let your doctor know about this|
|Constipation||Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water each day. If this continues to be a problem, speak with your doctor|
|Diarrhoea||Drink plenty of water to replace any lost fluids|
|Dry mouth||Try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets|
|Other common side-effects include: reduced appetite, feeling confused or disorientated, sleep disturbances, headache, chills, itching, sweating, and rash||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store oxycodone
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
- Many liquid preparations of oxycodone only keep for a few weeks once the bottle has been opened. Check the label for further details and remember to jot down the date a bottle is opened.
Important information about all medicines
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 66th Edition (September 2013) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Prof Cathy Jackson