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All about: OxyContin

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Generic name: Oxycodone hydrochloride
Brand names: OxyContin

Why is OxyContin prescribed?

OxyContin is a controlled-release form of the narcotic painkiller oxycodone. It is prescribed for moderate to severe pain when continuous, around-the-clock relief is needed for an extended period of time.

Most important fact about OxyContin

Be sure to swallow OxyContin tablets whole. If broken, crushed, or chewed, the tablets quickly release a potentially fatal overdose of oxycodone. Abusing OxyContin by chewing the tablets, snorting crushed tablets, or dissolving and injecting their contents can slow down or stop breathing and lead to death. Injecting OxyContin can also kill the tissue around the injection site and trigger heart and lung problems.

How should you take OxyContin?

It is important to take OxyContin on a regular basis, every 12 hours, in exactly the dose prescribed. This drug is not intended for occasional "as needed" use, and should never be taken more often than directed. If you suffer episodes of increased pain, check with your doctor; do not change the dosage on your own.

--If you miss a dose...

Take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and return to your regular schedule. Do not take 2 doses at once.

--Storage instructions...

Store at room temperature in a secure place out of reach of children. Protect from light. Dispose of unused tablets by flushing them down the toilet.

What side effects may occur?

Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, tell your doctor as soon as possible. Only your doctor can determine if it is safe to continue using OxyContin.

  • More common side effects may include:
    Constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, headache, itching, nausea, sweating, vomiting, weakness

This side effects list is not complete. If you have any questions about side effects you should consult your doctor. Report any new or continuing symptoms to your doctor right away.

Why should OxyContin not be prescribed?

Do not take OxyContin if you have asthma or any other serious breathing problem; the drug can further diminish respiration. Also avoid OxyContin if you have an intestinal blockage or an allergy to hydrocodone.

OxyContin is not intended for the relief of postoperative pain unless you've already been taking the drug or the pain is expected to last for an extended period. OxyContin is not prescribed for brief periods or for mild pain.

Special warnings about OxyContin

The two highest-strength OxyContin tablets--80 and 160 milligrams--are dangerous for anyone who has not already developed a tolerance for narcotics. If you have been prescribed one of these strengths, do not give the tablets to anyone else; they could impair respiration and lead to death.

Follow your doctor's dosage instructions carefully. Misuse of OxyContin promotes physical dependence, abuse, and addiction. When OxyContin therapy is no longer necessary, the doctor will taper your dosage gradually in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Abruptly discontinuing the drug can cause such symptoms as restlessness, enlarged pupils, watery eyes, runny nose, yawning, sweating, chills, and muscle aches. More severe symptoms may include irritability, anxiety, joint pain, weakness, cramps, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, and a fast pulse.

OxyContin should be used cautiously by anyone with a respiratory condition. The drug is especially prone to cause breathing problems in older adults, people in poor health, and those with disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Doctors generally try to use non-narcotic painkillers for patients such as these.

OxyContin should be used with caution by people with head injuries, brain tumors, and other conditions that increase pressure on the brain. Caution is also warranted for people who are semi-conscious or in a coma, and those who suffer from acute alcoholism, adrenal or thyroid problems, spinal deformities that impair breathing, an enlarged prostate, difficulty urinating, drug-induced psychosis, pancreatitis and related disorders, or severe kidney or liver disease.

OxyContin has been known to trigger seizures or make them worse. Use it with caution if you have a seizure disorder

Like other narcotic painkillers, OxyContin can slow your reactions and make you drowsy. Do not drive, operate dangerous machinery, or undertake other hazardous activities until you know how the drug affects you.

OxyContin can cause a severe drop in blood pressure, leading to dizziness and light-headedness, especially when you first stand up.

The empty shell of the OxyContin tablet sometimes appears in the stool. This is not a reason for concern.

OxyContin is not for use in children.

Possible food and drug interactions when taking OxyContin

While using OxyContin, check with your doctor before taking any other drugs that slow the nervous system. The combined effect can impair breathing, reduce blood pressure, and lead to coma. Drugs in this category include the following:

Antipsychotic drugs such as Compazine, Mellaril, Stelazine, and Thorazine
Muscle relaxants such as Flexeril, Robaxin, and Skelaxin
Narcotic painkillers such as Demerol, Percodan, and Vicodin
Sleep aids such as Ambien, Halcion, and Sonata
Sleep-inducing antihistamines such as Benadryl and Phenergan.
Tranquilizers such as Ativan, Librium, Valium, and Xanax
Alcoholic beverages

If you are already taking such drugs, your starting dose of OxyContin will be reduced by at least half.

Certain other painkillers can reduce OxyContin's effect, or even cause withdrawal symptoms. Caution is necessary when combining OxyContin with drugs such as the following:

Butorphanol (Stadol)
Nalbuphine (Nubain)
Pentazocine (Talacen, Talwin NX)

Special information if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

OxyContin should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, inform your doctor immediately.

OxyContin makes its way into breast milk. Nursing is not recommended if you are taking OxyContin.

Recommended dosage


OxyContin is taken every 12 hours. The tablets come in strengths of 10, 20, 40, 80, and 160 milligrams. The starting dose of OxyContin is determined by your physical condition, the type of painkillers you've been taking, and your tolerance for narcotics. The doctor will adjust the dose until you have little or no pain when OxyContin is supplemented with no more than 2 doses of a second painkiller. The dose of OxyContin can be increased every 1 or 2 days. If a higher dose has excessive side effects, the doctor will adjust it downward and increase the dosage of supplemental painkillers.


An overdose of OxyContin can be fatal. If you suspect an overdose, seek emergency treatment immediately.

  • Symptoms of OxyContin overdose may include:
    Cold and clammy skin, diminished breathing, drowsiness progressing to stupor or coma, flaccid muscles, pinpoint pupils, slow heart rate

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