Oxycodone Side Effects

Oxycodone provides muscle relaxation and pain relief twice as potent as morphine. Oxycodone is a white, odorless crystalline powder derived from the opium alkaloid, thebaine.

Oxycodone, like all medicine, has the potential to cause side effects. Many people experience no, or minor, side effects from taking this medication. Most side effects are not serious and disappear after a few days. A few side effects are serious and require the attention of a medical professional.

Potential for abuse, physical dependence or addiction are possible side effects from taking this drug. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, classifies substances according to the potential for abuse. The DEA has classified this drug as a Schedule II narcotic, which means it carries a high potential for abuse and mental or physical dependence.

Physical dependence means the individual will suffer withdrawal symptoms after the level of opioid drops in his system, because either he has stopped taking opioids or he has taken a medication to reduce the amount of this drug in his system rapidly. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred Vision
  • Goose Bumps
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Restlessness
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Sweating
  • Tremor
  • Vomiting

Withdrawal from oxycodone may rarely cause psychosis.

The adverse reactions to this drug are typical of any opioids. These side effects usually decrease in intensity or stop altogether with continued use at proper doses. The most serious side effect is respiratory problems potentially leading to stopped breathing, circulatory depression, dangerously low blood pressure and shock. Physicians should expect side effects and treat patients accordingly.

The most common side effects associated with this medication are not serious and disappear after taking this drug for a few days. Continue taking this medication but contact the prescribing physician if the following side effects become intolerable or if they do not go away on their own:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Some side effects are serious, requiring immediate medical attention. Stop taking this medication immediately and contact a doctor if you experience serious side effects, including:

  • Chest Pain
  • Confusion
  • Difficult or Painful Urination
  • Fainting
  • Fast, Slow or Irregular Heartbeat
  • Fever, Chills or Persistent Sore Throat
  • Mental or Mood Changes
  • Numbness of an Arm or Leg
  • Seizures
  • Severe or Persistent Dizziness or Light-Headedness
  • Slowed or Difficult Breathing
  • Sudden, Severe Headache or Vomiting
  • Swelling of the Hands, Ankles or Feet
  • Tremor
  • Unusual Tiredness or Weakness
  • Vision Changes

Do not take oxycodone if you are allergic to other opioids, such as morphine or codeine. Immediately discontinue oxycodone and seek emergency medical care if you suspect you or someone you know is suffering an allergic reaction to oxycodone. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Tightness in the Chest
  • Swelling of the Mouth, Face, Lips or Tongue
  • Unusual Hoarseness

Some formulas of oxycodone are associated with additional side effects. For example, persons taking oxycodone extended-release tablets may be at risk for many of the severe side effects associated with oxycodone tablets as well as abnormal snoring or sighing, hallucinations, severe or persistent stomach pain, nausea, or constipation. Stop taking extended-release oxycodone and contact the prescribing physician if you experience of these symptoms.

By body system


In general, the side effects associated with oxycodone are similar to those produced by other opioid pain relievers. These adverse effects are dose-dependent, which means an individual who takes high doses of oxycodone are more likely to experience side effects as compared to someone who has taken low doses. A person who is already tolerant of opioids is less likely to experience these adverse reactions, except for constipation, than someone who has not been taking opioids.

Nervous System

Side effects involving the central nervous system, or CNS, are common. Drowsiness affects 23 to 24 percent of oxycodone consumers while dizziness affects 13 to 16 percent of users. About 7 percent of consumers experience headache or dry mouth. Other CNS effects include sedation and lightheadedness. Many of these CNS side effects are minimized by taking oxycodone in smaller, more frequent doses.


Respiratory depression can occur with oxycodone, as with other opioids. Respiratory depression is a condition where the lungs do not adequately exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. Symptoms of respiratory depression include slow, shallow or stopped breathing. The individual may also show signs of cyanosis, or a bluish color around the eyes, lips and fingertips.

Respiratory depression is a serious condition requiring immediate medical care. Emergency department doctors and nurses will administer 1mg to 2mg of naloxone every five minutes as necessary to reduce the amount of oxycodone in the system. Physicians will also monitor the patient's blood gasses and administer oxygen as necessary to help the patient breath. Life-saving measures will be taken as necessary, as respiratory depression is potentially fatal.


Oxycodone can affect the digestive system. Nausea is a problem for 24 to 27 percent of oxycodone consumers, while 23 to 26 percent of oxycodone users experience constipation. Rarely, patients have reported difficulty swallowing oxycodone pills, intestinal obstructions and diverticulitis, a condition commonly affecting the large intestine. Some cases have required surgery to correct the problem. Patients with an underlying digestive problem, such as cancer, have a higher risk for experiencing gastrointestinal side effects.


Taking large doses of oxycodone, or using this opioid for a long time, may cause physical dependence that result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms once the amount of opioids drop below a certain level. Suddenly discontinuing oxycodone will cause withdrawal symptoms in dependent individuals who stop taking this opioid suddenly or who receive an antagonist drug, such as naloxone, which chemically reduces the level of opioids in the system.


Oxycodone may cause psychiatric side effects such as paranoia or hallucinations. It may also cause psychosis, or the loss of contact with reality.


Hydrocodone rarely causes skin problems such as itching. Physicians may prescribe 25mg to 50mg of diphenhydramine to reduce itching.


Oxycodone may cause a rise in chemicals produced by the liver, known as enzymes. Elevated liver enzymes may indicate liver damage.


Oxycodone may cause a dangerous form of irregular heartbeat, known as a QTc prolongation. Oxycodone may also stimulate the production of histamines which causes itchy, watery eyes.