Oxycodone: Physiological effects

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 2:34 pm

Opioid analgesics such as oxycodone act directly on the central nervous system by stimulating opioid receptors in the brain. This action affects how the pain is perceived and can alter the user’s emotional response to the pain.
Oxycodone is absorbed by the liver, skeletal muscles, intestinal tract, spleen, lungs, and central nervous system. The drug is broken down in the liver and passes out of the body via the kidney into urine.
Oxycodone’s effects on the central nervous system produce pain relief, euphoria, and slowed breathing. It also decreases the activity of the intestinal tract, often leading to constipation. To combat this, patients are advised to drink six to eight full glasses of water per day and increase the amount of dietary fiber they eat.
Other side effects of oxycodone can include: nausea, dizziness, vomiting, itchy skin, weakness, and headache. Oxycodone should not be given to patients who have significant breathing problems such as asthma, emphysema, or chronic lung disease, or patients with intestinal abnormalities or blockages.
Harmful side effects
Taking more than the recommended dose of oxycodone can lead to serious health problems including convulsions, coma, or even death.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed oxycodone in pregnancy category B because although some studies in animals show an increase in birth defects and other problems, there is no evidence that taking oxycodone when pregnant causes birth defects in people. However, it is possible for the infants of mothers who took the drug during pregnancy to be born with addiction and withdrawal symptoms, as well as breathing difficulties resulting from the drug’s effect of slowing down respiration. The Physician’s Desk Reference advises that oxycodone only be given to pregnant women if the benefits significantly outweigh potential risks to both the mother and her fetus.
Similarly, caution is advised for women who are breastfeeding, as oxycodone may pass through the breast milk in large enough quantities to cause addiction, withdrawal, and breathing problems in a nursing infant. Women should be sure to tell their doctors they are breastfeeding if they are in need of a strong prescription pain medication such as oxycodone.
Oxycodone also should be used cautiously by people who have a head injury or have abnormally increased pressure in the brain, or by people who have had convulsions or seizures.
People with the following medical conditions also should avoid taking oxycodone or any oxycodone-combination drug:
• kidney disease
• liver disease
• underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
• enlarged prostate
• Addison’s disease (a disease of the adrenal glands)
• colitis
• gallbladder disease or gallstones
Long-term health effects
The greatest long-term effect on health from oxycodone is addiction. NIDA warns that people who are addicted are at increased risk of overdose and death.
Oxycodone can be addictive when taken in dosages higher than those prescribed by a doctor or when taken for nonmedical purposes (i.e., recreational drug use). For these reasons, people with a prior history of other drug abuse may be advised not to take oxycodone.

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