OxyContin Side Effects

OxyContin is a strong, slow-release formula of the opioid pain reliever, oxycodone, available in a capsule. Doctors suggest patients take OxyContin once every 12 hours, far less frequently than other formulas of oxycodone. Recreational OxyContin abusers break apart the capsule and dissolve the contents for snorting or injection.

OxyContin abuse is on the rise; the number of people suffering side effects is bound to rise as well. A recent survey by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 598,000 people in the United States used OxyContin without a prescription for the first time in 2010. This number has remained steady for several years, with more than half a million new illicit OxyContin users each year.

OxyContin, like all medicine, has the potential to cause side effects; the side effects associated with OxyContin are typical of all opioids. Many people experience no, or minor, side effects while taking OxyContin. Most side effects are not serious and vanish after a few days. A few side effects are serious and require medical attention.

Dangerous side effects may occur when the consumer mixes OxyContin with other substances, such as alcohol or medications that depress the respiratory system.

OxyContin Potential for Abuse

Potential for abuse, physical dependence or addiction are possible OxyContin side. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, classifies substances according to their 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. Because of its status as a Schedule II narcotic, it is illegal for a physician to allow refills. The patient must return to the doctor for a new prescription each time. This measure is intended to reduce physical dependence or addiction to OxyContin.

OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical dependence means the individual will suffer withdrawal symptoms after the level of OxyContin drops in his body, because either he has quit taking OxyContin or he has taken a medication, such as naloxone, to reduce the amount of oxycodone in his system rapidly.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred Vision
  • Goose Bumps
  • Insomnia
  • Palpitations
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Tremor
  • Vomiting

Psychosis may also occur.

OxyContin Side Effects Can Range From Mild to Serious

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

Respiratory depression is a dangerous and common side effect in which the lungs do not adequately exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, characterized by slow or shallow breathing.

OxyContin Common Side Effects

The most common side effects associated with OxyContin are not serious and disappear after taking this drug as prescribed for a few days. Continue taking this medication but contact the prescribing physician if the following side effects become unbearable or if they do not go away with continued use:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Tired Feeling

OxyContin Serious Side Effects

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

  • Abnormal Snoring or Sighing
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty Urinating
  • Fainting
  • Fast, Slow or Irregular Heartbeat
  • Hallucinations
  • Mental or Mood Changes
  • Seizure
  • Severe Dizziness, Drowsiness or Light-Headedness
  • Severe or Persistent Stomach Pain, Nausea, or Constipation
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Slow or Shallow Breathing
  • Tremor
  • Vision Changes

OxyContin Side Effects By body system


Side effects associated with OxyContin are similar to those experienced with other opioids. Adverse reactions are dose-dependent in patients who are not tolerant to opioids; this means that individuals who are not accustomed to taking opioids are more likely to suffer adverse reactions after taking high doses of OxyContin. Opioid-tolerant individuals may be tolerant to the dose-related side effects, except for constipation.

Nervous System

Nervous system side effects are common among OxyContin users. Nearly a quarter of consumers experience drowsiness, while another 13 to 16 percent of people who use OxyContin suffer from dizziness. This medication gives 7 percent of users a headache and another 7 percent complained of a dry mouth. Other nervous system side effects include sedation and lightheadedness. Slow administration of OxyContin may reduce these side effects.

Respiratory System

Respiratory depression may occur with the administration of any opioid, including OxyContin. The typical treatment for respiratory depression associated with OxyContin includes the administration of naloxone. The usual naloxone dose is 1mg to 2mg every five minutes as necessary, with a maximum of 10 mg. A nurse may administer naloxone into a vein, a muscle, under the skin or beneath the tongue.

Other respiratory system side effects include breathing that stops temporarily, breathing that stops completely, and collapse of the circulatory system.

Digestive System

OxyContin makes about a quarter of consumers nauseated; 12 to 14 percent of OxyContin users complain of vomiting. Constipation is a common side effect, occurring in 23 to 26 percent of consumers. Rarely, patients have complained of difficulty swallowing OxyContin tablets, intestinal obstruction or worsening of the common digestive problem, diverticulitis; some of these patients required surgical intervention to remove the tablet. Patients suffering from underlying digestive disorders, such as cancer, are at greater risk for developing these digestive complications.


OxyContin use may result in physical dependence, especially if the consumer uses high doses or abuses OxyContin for a long time. A person who is physically dependent on OxyContin will experience uncomfortable, flu-like symptoms if the level of opioids drops below a certain level in his body. Withdrawal causes symptoms such as agitation, palpitations, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, tremor, abdominal cramps, blurred vision, vomiting, goose bumps and sweating. OxyContin withdrawal may result in psychosis in some patients.


Some OxyContin consumers experience psychiatric side effects, including paranoia, psychosis and hallucinations. Psychosis is the loss of contact with reality.


OxyContin may rarely cause itching. Doctors may prescribe 25mg to 50mg of diphenhydramine to relieve itching.


OxyContin may increase liver enzymes.


High doses of OxyContin may cause a specific type of irregular heartbeat known as QTc prolongation.