Picture of Oxycodone molecule

Oxycodone

Chemical Name:
(5a)-4,5-epoxy-14-hydroxy-3-methoxy-17- methylmorphinan-6-one
Classification:
Opioid agonist
Primary Uses:
Analgesia
Brand Names:
OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Roxicodone, Roxicet, Endocet
Slang:
Oxies, O.C., Ocean City, Orange County, hillbilly heroin

General Information

Oxycodone is an opioid derived from an alkaloid of opium—thebaine. Oxycodone was first synthesized in the early twentieth century, with some sources indicating the year 1916. At the very least, we know that oxycodone has been available in Europe for oral and intravenous use since 1917, though there are still some historians who believe it was one year earlier. The drug was released in the United States during the 1950s.1 Some brand name prescription drugs containing oxycodone as the active ingredient include Percocet, Percodan, Roxicet, OxyContin, and Roxicodone. The effects most sought after are pain relief, euphoria, reduction in anxiety, and sedation. Other side effects caused by oxycodone are constipation and dizziness. Many user report feeling itchy after ingesting oxycodone; this results from the release of histamine in the brain.

In 1995, OxyContin, which is manufacturered by Purdue Pharma and allows for up to 12 hours of continuous pain relief, was approved for sale. OxyContin is available in 10, 20, 40, and 80 milligram pills. When it was first released, a 160 milligram pill was manufactured, but Purdue eventually pulled it off the market. On the streets, OxyContin is referred to as OC, hillbilly heroin, oxies (or oxys), jawns, jimmies (or jimmys), "big guys" (refers to 80 mg formulation), itchies, Ocean City, or Orange County. The evergrowing OxyContin problem has reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the United States. In southeastern Pennsylvania, users have been witnessed paying $80 for one 80 mg OxyContin pill, which ends up being more expensive than gold. As habits grow, many people switch to heroin because of its availability and attractive lower prices.

Interesting Facts about Oxycodone:

  • Oxycodone is not tested for in a standard drug screening; however, at very high doses it may cause a positive for opiates. Typically, oxycodone remains in the urine for 3-4 days. Very rarely is it a part of extended drug screening.
  • Oxycodone is very addicting and causes tolerance to rapidly build up. Moderate use is hard to maintain with any opiate or opioid. Most people who say they will "only use once a week" find they are using much more than they intended to. Using opiates on a regular basis will cause a physical and mental dependency. After using oxycodone for a few days, a larger dose is needed to achieve the same effects.
  • Those who have never done opiates or without a tolerance need to exercise extreme caution when dosing. It is not recommended that any individual take oxycodone without a proper prescription. Users beware, what one person can tolerate may kill another person—big or small, tall or short, male or female.

Pharmacology & Pharmacokinetics

Route Bioavailability
(Median)
Intranasal 2 46-47%
Oral 3 60-87%
Rectal 60-87%

Legal Status

In the United States, this drug is a Schedule II substance, making it illegal to use or possess without a prescription. Schedule II substances, such as dextroamphetamine, morphine, oxycodone, and cocaine, meet the following criteria according to the Controlled Substances Act:

Side Effects

  • Pain relief
  • Euphoria or dysphoria
  • Mood changes
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Sedation
  • Itching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Decreased libido (sex drive)
  • Constipation
  • Facial flushing
  • Vertigo

Withdrawal

Oxycodone in any form is highly addictive, and many users eventually end up becoming mentally and physically dependent. Oxycodone withdrawal typically begins within 24-36 hours after the last dose, though it can begin sooner for chronic users. Oxycodone withdrawal peaks in intensity after 72-96 hours. Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms may include, but are not limited to, gooseflesh, restless legs and arms, severe anxiety, nausea, vomiting, depression, muscle and bone aches, insomnia, diarrhea, headache, and dilated pupils.

Sources

[1] Drew Pinsky, M.D., Marvin D. Seppala, M.D., Robert J. Meyers, Ph.D., John Gardin, Ph.D., William White, M.A., Stephanie Brown, Ph.D. When Painkillers Become Dangerous. Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden, 2004. pg 6.
[2] Takala A, Kaasalainen V, Seppala T, Kalso E, Olkkola KT. Pharmacokinetic comparison of intravenous and intranasal administration of oxycodone. Entrez PubMed [9062618]. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 1997 Feb;41(2):309-12. Accessed: October 25, 2006.
[3] Oxycontin (Oxycodone HCl) Drug Information. RxList. 2006. Accessed: October 25, 2006.