How Does Oxycodone Work?
Oxycodone helps to reduce a person’s perception of and emotional response to pain by acting on the central nervous system (CNS). Opioids such as oxycodone bind to naturally occurring opioid receptors located in the spinal cord, brain, gastrointestinal tract and organs throughout the body to reduce a person’s sensation of pain.
Prescription opioids such as oxycodone can produce powerful pain-relieving effects. When abused by taking high doses or larger doses than prescribed, oxycodone can produce effects similar to heroin, including euphoria, pleasure and a sense of well-being in users. Common side effects of oxycodone include dizziness, lightheadedness, depressed breathing, nausea and vomiting, constipation, dry mouth, itching, sweating and headaches.
More serious side effects of oxycodone include:
- Irregular heart rate
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Depressed or irregular breathing
- Heart attacks
- Cardiac arrest
- Increased pressure of cerebral and spinal fluid
- Overdoses, which can lead to hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), permanent brain damage, coma and death)
Hydrocodone Versus Oxycodone
Hydrocodone and oxycodone are both opioid analgesics used to treat patients with moderate to severe pain. Unlike hydrocodone, oxycodone is intended to be taken around the clock and has a lower risk of dependence. Hydrocodone is also more likely to cause stomach pain and constipation compared to oxycodone.
Due to its high abuse and addictive potential, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified oxycodone as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). In 2010, a new formulation of oxycodone became available to reduce the abuse potential of the drug, yet people have continued to find ways to bypass the time-release function. For example, people who abuse oxycodone destroy the time-release of the tablet or capsule by diluting it in water.
People who abuse oxycodone can affect the body’s natural pain-reducing abilities and can cause the death of nerve cells (neurons). Oxycodone can cause attention problems, restlessness and hyperactivity when abused over time. It can also contribute to judgment lapses, loss of coordination and low testosterone levels, and increase a person’s sensitivity to pain, called hyperalgesia.
Other long-term consequences of oxycodone abuse include:
- Physical dependence
- Compromised immune system
- Increased risk of overdose
Oxycodone is highly addictive and can lead to physical dependence on the drug. When people who have oxycodone dependence try to reduce their dosage or try to stop taking the drug, they can experience unpleasant, and sometimes severe, withdrawal effects such as:
- Watering eyes
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches and pain
- Flu-like symptoms