What is Oxycodone?

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a narcotic pain reliever that is commonly used to manage moderate to severe pain. From the opiate family, it is only legally available by prescription, but it is one of the most commonly abused narcotics in the country second only to marijuana. Oxycodone effects are similar to both morphine and heroin, and these drugs are often used by the same abusers. Oxycodone is widely available on the underground market.

As a drug, oxycodone has been in use for decades and is the active ingredient in the common prescription pain relievers Percocet and Percodan. These medications also contain acetaminophen, which limits their potential for abuse because of the threat of acetaminophen’s serious side effects, including liver toxicity, liver failure, closing of throat (allergic reaction) and others. The advent of the sustained-release form of oxycodone (sold under the brand name OxyContin) has increased abuse of this drug. OxyContin does not contain acetaminophen, which makes it more attractive for substance abuse.

Oxycodone is a very effective pain reliever in part because it produces few severe side effects. It is prescribed for chronic pain and post-surgical pain. When taken as prescribed for short periods of time (no longer then a few weeks), it is generally regarded as safe. Long-term use, however, has been shown to cause both physical and psychological dependence in some. Over time, the human body can build up a tolerance to opioids. This causes users to need higher doses to obtain the same physical response. Additionally, physical addiction means users must endure potentially harsh withdrawal symptoms if they reduce or stop their usage. Most people addicted to oxycodone will need help to recover.

Click here to read the next part in the series, "Rise of Oxycontin Addiction in America." Click here to return to the first part in the series, "Introduction to Oxycodone Abuse, Addiction and Treatment."

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