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Oxycodone Tablets and Opioid Addiction

Oxycodone Fact Card

What is oxycodone?

Derived from thebaine[1] oxycodone is a potent semi-synthetic opiate painkiller, belonging to the broader opioid drug family. Classified as a narcotic analgesic, oxycodone is available in the United States only by prescription and for use by licensed medical facilities. Oxycodone is prescribed for treating varying levels of pain — found in the form of oral tablets, oral capsules, and oral solutions. Prescription oxycodone is available in both monoproduct form and in combination with other drugs (coformulations), including acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. Street oxycodone is licitly manufactured oxycodone that is either a diverted prescription or the subject of another form of diversion. In 2016, the United States accounted for 69.2% of oxycodone's global manufacture and 72.9% of its global consumption. [1]

Oxycodone Tablets
Oxycodone Tablets

Oxycodone Abuse and Addiction

Oxycodone produces strong euphoric effects similar to heroin, making it the most sought-after drug among recreational users and abusers of opioids. In attempt to maximize its effects or speed of onset, many users crush the tablets into a powder form and consume the product by snorting, smoking, or injecting after liquefying. [2] In addition, many are likely to combine the drug with a benzodiazepine such as Xanax in order to enhance the effects of the oxycodone. When potent CNS drugs are combined in such fashions, or when combined with alcohol, results can be unpredictable and at worst fatal. [3] In the United States in 2011, over 151,000 emergency room incidents were estimated to be related to non-medical use of oxycodone.

Oxycodone is powerfully addictive and prone to producing strong physical dependence. Many bouts with oxycodone addiction begin with an accident or injury, followed by a prescription for the painkiller. Oxycodone users typically develop a drug tolerance quickly, often requiring higher doses to achieve the desired results. Once physical dependence develops, the patient is in a precarious position. When prescriptions are terminated, many patients have difficulty coping with the harsh withdrawal symptoms and continue using painkillers obtained through diverted sources. Due to the high cost of illicit oxycodone on the street, many turn to cheaper opioid alternatives, such as heroin or diverted buprenorphine (Suboxone). For the opioid addicted attempting abstinence, withdrawal symptoms can be debilitating and long lasting, often requiring professional assistance. [4]

Drug Addiction
Opioid Addiction

Urine Testing for Oxycodone

Oxycodone urine tests target oxycodone, with possible cross-reactivity for a list of different opiates, including hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone. Oxycodone is prominent as unchanged parent drug in the urine of those ingesting oxycodone[5] Hydrocodone is prominent as unchanged parent drug in the urine of those ingesting hydrocodone[6] Hydromorphone is prominent as unchanged parent drug in the urine of those ingesting hydromorphone[7] Oxymorphone is present in small concentrations in the urine of those ingesting oxymorphone or oxycodone. [8][5]

Oxycodone Drug Test
Oxycodone Drug Test

In a study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, volunteers received single doses of oral oxycodone tablets and subsequently submitted to urinalysis screening. A mean of approximately 8% of doses was recovered in the urine as unchanged free oxycodone, 19.2% as free noroxycodone, and 3.1% as free noroxymorphone. [5]

Related Pages


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  1. (2018). "Narcotic Drugs — 2017". International Narcotics Control Board. Retrieved from: https://www.incb.org/incb/en/narcotic-drugs/Technical_Reports/narcotic_drugs_reports.html, [PDF file]
  2. Dryden J. (2013, Nov 25). "Among Prescription Painkillers, Drug Abusers Prefer Oxycodone". Washington University in St. Louis. Retrieved Dec 21, 2018, from: https://source.wustl.edu/2013/11/among-prescription-painkillers-drug-abusers-prefer-oxycodone/
  3. Jones JD, Mogali S, Comer SD. (2012, Sep 1). "Polydrug abuse: A Review of Opioid and Benzodiazepine Combination Use". Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 125(1–2): 8–18. PMCID:PMC3454351, [PDF file]
  4. Gupta S. (2016, Jun 2). "Doctors Must Lead Us out of Our Opioid Abuse Epidemic". Cable News Network. Retrieved Dec 21, 2018, from: https://www.cnn.com/2016/05/11/health/sanjay-gupta-prescription-addiction-doctors-must-lead/index.html
  5. Cone EJ, Heltsley R, Black DL, Mitchell JM, LoDico CP, Flegel RR. (2013, Apr 21). "Prescription Opioids. I. Metabolism and Excretion Patterns of Oxycodone in Urine Following Controlled Single Dose Administration". Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 37(5): 255–264. DOI:10.1093/jat/bkt031, [PDF file]
  6. Baselt RC, Cravey RH. (1989). "Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man" (3rd ed, pp 411–412). USA: Year Book Medical Publishers, Inc.
  7. Baselt RC, Cravey RH. (1989). "Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man" (3rd ed, pp 415–416). USA: Year Book Medical Publishers, Inc.
  8. Wang P, Stone JA, Chen KH, Gross SF, Haller CA, Wu AH. (2006, Oct). "Incomplete Recovery of Prescription Opioids in Urine Using Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Glucuronide Metabolites". Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 30(8): 570–575. PMID:17132254

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