Sounds like 'ox-ee-KOH-doan"

Oxycodone is used for pain relief. Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects. Oxycodone is also called Oxynorm, Oxycontin or Oxydone.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Belongs to a group of medicines known as analgesics (pain killers)
  • Opioid pain reliever
  • Oxynorm®
  • Oxycodone controlled release®
  • Oxycontin®
  • Oxydone®

What is oxycodone?

Oxycodone is used for the relief of moderate to severe pain such as after an injury, or operation or pain caused by a terminal illness such as cancer. It is usually used when other milder painkillers such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) don’t work well enough.

  • Oxycodone belongs to a group of medicines called opioid painkillers. They act on your brain and nervous system to reduce pain.
  • Other pain relievers such as paracetamol and NSAIDs (ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen) may also be used with oxycodone.
  • Oxycodone is not very effective for nerve pain.
  • In New Zealand, oxycodone is available as capsules, tablets and in a liquid form.
  • Read more about painpain-relief medicationopioid painkillers.


  • The dose of oxycodone will be different for different people.
  • Always take your oxycodone exactly as your doctor has told you. Depending on the reason you are taking it, your doctor may advise that you take regular doses or take oxycodone only when you need it for pain relief. Make sure you know which is right for you.
  • The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much oxycodone to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

My dose is:

Morning Lunch Tea time Night

How to take oxycodone

  • You can take oxycodone with or without food.
  • Oxycodone is available as tablets and capsules. There are also oral liquid and injections but these are mostly used in hospital. 
  • Some types of oxycodone are short-acting or immediate release and others are long-acting or slow release. Ask your pharmacist if you are not sure about the type you are taking.
Formulation How to take it
  • These are usually taken every 4 to 6 hours.
  • The capsules start working quickly to ease pain.
  • Swallow the capsules whole with a glass of water. 
  • The tablets work slowly over several hours to give a constant and more even pain control – these are called modified-release or controlled-release tablets.
  • These are usually taken twice daily (12 hours apart) or once daily (at the same time each day).
  • Swallow the tablets whole – do not break or chew them; otherwise, they may release the medicine too quickly and cause side-effects.
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking oxycodone. Taking oxycodone with alcohol can make you more sleepy, drowsy or dizzy.
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the amount.

Precautions before starting oxycodone

  • Do you have liver or kidney problems?
  • Do you have breathing problems such as asthma, COPD or sleep apnoea?
  • Do you have epilepsy?
  • Have you had an accident or a head injury?
  • Do you have problems with your bowel such as constipation?
  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • Are you taking any other medicines? This includes any medicines you buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.

If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start oxycodone. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.

What are the side effects of oxycodone?

Like all medicines, oxycodone can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.


Addiction is an excessive craving. If you are addicted to oxycodone, it means you are not able to control your use of it. It is unusual for people who are prescribed oxycodone for a short time or for a terminal illness to become addicted to it.

Some people are more likely to develop addiction than others and seem to be very sensitive to the cravings. You may be at risk for addiction if you have mental health problems such as depression or a history of substance abuse, including alcohol and recreational drugs.

To reduce your risk of addiction, oxycodone for short-term pain relief should be used for the shortest possible time, at the lowest effective dose, with a plan in place to reduce and withdraw treatment.

Other side effects

Side effects What should I do?
  • Feeling sleepy, dizzy or tired
  • Reduced concentration
  • This is common when starting oxycodone or after increasing the dose
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you
  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or vomiting
  • This common when you first start taking oxycodone
  • Mostly this settles and goes away
  • Tell your doctor if this is troublesome
  • You may need an anti-sickness tablet at times
  • Constipation
  • Ask your doctor to prescribe a suitable laxative, which you need to take on a regular basis 
  • You also need to eat more fruit, vegetables, brown bread, bran-based breakfast cereals and drink plenty of water. Read more about how to ease and prevent constipation.
  • Headache, dry mouth, altered vision
  • These are quite common when you first start taking oxycodone and usually go away with time
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Frequent mood changes, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, abnormal behaviours
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rashes, itches, swelling of the face, lips, mouth, or difficulty breathing  
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product


Oxycodone interacts with some other medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting oxycodone or before starting any new medicines. It may interact with medicines available without a prescription such as cough suppressants (for example, Benadryl Dry Forte®, Duro-Tuss®) and sedating antihistamines (such as Phenergan®).

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer Information sheets: Oxycontin; Oxycodone; Oxynorm capsules 
New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: oxycodone (short acting)
oxycodone (long acting)


  1. Oxycodone: how did we get here and how do we fix it? BPAC, 2014
  2. Oxycodone hydrochloride New Zealand Formulary

Additional resources for healthcare professionals

Oxycodone hydrochloride NZ Formulary
Oxycodone modified release tablet Medsafe, NZ
OxyNorm capsule and liquid Medsafe, NZ
OxyContin modified release tablet Medsafe, NZ
Oxycodone — sometimes more pain than gain? Medsafe, NZ, 2015
Upfront – oxycodone – did we fix it? BPAC, NZ, 2020
Oxycodone – how did we get here and how do we fix it? BPAC, NZ, 2014
Making strong opioids safer for patients OPEN Health Quality & Safety Commission, NZ, 2016

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 17 Apr 2018