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What is OxyContin?

OxyContin (“Oxy” or “OC” on the street) is a time-released pain medication. It was developed in 1995 for people needing around-the-clock pain relief, so they don’t have to take pills as often. OxyContin contains oxycodone, which is an opioid drug, like morphine, codeine, heroin and methadone.

Oxycodone is the same opioid that’s in Percocet, Oxycocet and Endocet.

What’s the difference between Percocet and OxyContin?

Both Percocet and OxyContin relieve pain, but while Percocet gives relief for about five hours, the effects of OxyContin last for about 12 hours.

Percocet contains five milligrams of oxycodone, which is all released when the pill is taken. Percocet also contains acetaminophen (the drug in Tylenol), which makes people sick if they take a lot of it.

OxyContin doesn’t contain acetaminophen. It is pure oxycodone in amounts much larger than in Percocet. In Canada, OxyContin pills come with 10, 20, 40 or 80 mg of oxycodone. Just one OxyContin pill can have the same amount of oxycodone as 16 Percocet pills.

With OxyContin, only part of the oxycodone is released when the pill is taken. The rest of the oxycodone has been coated so that it is released into the body slowly. This is how OxyContin relieves pain for so many hours.

What will taking OxyContin do?

When taken as prescribed, OxyContin is safe, but when it is taken in other ways, it can be very dangerous.

The problems start when people looking for a “rush” get around OxyContin’s slow release of oxycodone by crushing or chewing the pill. When OxyContin is crushed or chewed, all the oxycodone is released at once, as happens with Percocet. But with OxyContin, there is much more oxycodone, and no acetaminophen to make you sick if you take a lot.

When you take OxyContin without a prescription or not as prescribed, you could:

  • Overdose. Signs of overdose include difficult or slow breathing, and extreme sleepiness. The risk of overdose increases if you take OxyContin with other opioids, alcohol or tranquillizers. An overdose of OxyContin can lead to brain damage or death. If you think someone has overdosed on OxyContin, call 911!
  • Get hooked. If you take OxyContin regularly to get high, soon it gives you less and less pleasure. And if you stop taking it, you go into withdrawal and feel terrible. Before long, getting the drug to avoid sickness takes over your life. How long it takes to reach this point varies from person to person, but it can be quick.
  • Feel lousy. Apart from withdrawal sickness, taking OxyContin can have side-effects such as constipation, sexual problems, swelling, nausea, sweating, itching and sleepiness.
  • Get infected. Injecting OxyContin has the same risks as injecting heroin—people who share needles can get HIV, hepatitis and other life-threatening infections, or they can infect other people.
  • Get busted. Just having someone else’s OxyContin is a crime - you risk arrest, conviction and a criminal record.
  • Make things worse. Taking OxyContin to “self-medicate” for physical pain or to numb emotions only adds to your problems. OxyContin seems to make things better at first, but once you’re hooked on it, your life will be much worse. Covering up what you’re feeling with OxyContin prevents you from dealing with your problems, and gets in your way of finding help when you need it.

If I take OxyContin that isn’t prescribed to me, what can I do to be safer?


Taking OxyContin without a prescription, or not as prescribed, is always risky. But if you are going to take it, you can reduce the risk of overdose if you:

  • don’t crush or chew OxyContin before swallowing it
  • don’t crush and snort OxyContin
  • don’t dissolve OxyContin in water and inject it
  • don’t take OxyContin if you aren’t used to taking opioids
  • don’t take OxyContin with other opioids, alcohol or tranquillizers (such as Valium)
  • don’t take OxyContin by yourself, with no one to help you if you overdose
  • don’t take OxyContin soon after you withdraw from opioids.

If you take OxyContin, you can be safer if you avoid taking it in these ways, but the only safe way to take it is as your doctor prescribes it to you.

If I take OxyContin that isn’t prescribed to me, I’m only hurting myself, right?


Buying OxyContin on the street gives money to people who commit crimes. They may steal OxyContin from drugstores or from family members or others who are sick, or may sell OxyContin that was prescribed to them. Prescribed OxyContin is often paid for with tax dollars or by private health insurance. Buying OxyContin that was prescribed to someone, and paid for by our health care system, wastes money spent on medication for sick people.

The effects of OxyContin make it harder to drive or operate machinery safely. If you drive a motor vehicle after taking OxyContin, you are more likely to crash, and hurt someone.


How do I know if I’m hooked on OxyContin?


If you take OxyContin every day, your body will get used to the drug. You may be hooked if:

  • you need to take more and more OxyContin to get the same effect
  • you have withdrawal symptoms - such as shakes, cramps, vomiting, muscle pain, trouble sleeping and agitation - if you stop taking OxyContin all at once
  • you spend so much time and money getting OxyContin that you don’t take care of important things in your life
  • you keep using OxyContin despite the problems it causes in your life.

If these things happen, you will probably need help getting off OxyContin.


What should I do if I can’t stop taking OxyContin?


There is help!

A doctor can prescribe medication to help ease withdrawal. You can withdraw from OxyContin at home or, if needed, in a withdrawal centre.

After withdrawal, you can get help to keep you from going back to using OxyContin (relapsing), through group support, counselling or a stay at a drug treatment centre. Staying off all other mood-altering drugs (including alcohol) is important in preventing relapse. People who relapse over and over, and who don’t have success with other treatments, may need methadone maintenance treatment.

OxyContin may not be right for you. Before taking OxyContin, tell your doctor if you:

  • have trouble breathing or lung problems
  • have had a head injury
  • have liver or kidney problems
  • have adrenal gland problems, such as Addison's disease
  • have severe scoliosis that affects your breathing
  • have thyroid problems
  • have enlargement of your prostate or a urethral stricture
  • have or had convulsions or seizures
  • have a past or present drinking problem or alcoholism
  • have hallucinations or other severe mental problems
  • have past or present substance abuse or drug addiction
  • have any other medical conditions
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. If you take OxyContin regularly before your baby is born, your newborn baby may have signs of withdrawal because their body has become used to the medicine. Signs of withdrawal in a newborn baby can include:
    • irritability
    • crying more than usual
    • shaking (tremors)
    • jitteriness
    • breathing faster than normal
    • diarrhea or more stools than normal
    • sneezing
    • yawning
    • vomiting
    • fever

    If you take OxyContin right before your baby is born, your baby could have breathing problems at birth.

  • are breast-feeding. You should not take OxyContin if you are nursing. Some oxycodone from OxyContin passes into breast milk. A nursing baby could become very drowsy or have difficulty breathing or feeding well.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Sometimes the doses of medicines that you take with OxyContin may need to be changed if used together.

  • See "What is the most important information I should know about OxyContin?"
  • Be especially careful about taking other medicines that make you sleepy such as:
    • pain medicines
    • sleeping pills
    • anxiety medicines
    • antihistamines
    • anti-depressants
    • tranquilizers
    • anti-nausea medicine

Do not take other medicines without talking to your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will tell you if it is safe to take other medicines while you take OxyContin.

Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of your medicines to show your healthcare provider and pharmacist.

How should I take OxyContin?

  • See "What is the most important information I should know about OxyContin?"
  • Take OxyContin exactly as prescribed. Do not change your dose unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
  • Swallow OxyContin tablets whole. Do not cut, break, chew, crush, or dissolve before swallowing.
  • Take OxyContin every 12 hours.
  • You can take OxyContin with or without food.
  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. Take your next dose 12 hours later. Do not take more than your prescribed dose of OxyContin. Call your healthcare provider if you are not sure about your dose of OxyContin or when to take it.
  • If you take more OxyContin than prescribed, or overdose, call your local emergency number (such as 911) or your local Poison Control Center right away, or get emergency help.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider regularly about your pain to see if you still need to take OxyContin.

What should I avoid while taking OxyContin?

  • Do not drink alcohol while using OxyContin. See "What is the most important information I should know about OxyContin?" Do not drive, operate heavy machinery, or do other dangerous activities, especially when you start taking OxyContin and when your dose is changed, until you know how you react to this medicine. OxyContin can make you sleepy, and also cause you to feel dizzy. Ask your healthcare provider to tell you when it is okay to do these activities.

What are the possible side effects of OxyContin?

OxyContin can cause serious side effects, including:

  • See "What is the most important information I should know about OxyContin?"
  • OxyContin can cause serious breathing problems that can become life-threatening, especially if OxyContin is used the wrong way. Call your healthcare provider or get medical help right away if:
    • your breathing slows down
    • you have shallow breathing (little chest movement with breathing)
    • you feel faint, dizzy, confused, or
    • you have any other unusual symptoms

    These can be signs or symptoms that you have taken too much OxyContin (overdose) or the dose is too high for you. These symptoms may lead to serious problems or death if not treated right away.

  • Central nervous system effects, including sleepiness, dizziness, passing out, becoming unconscious, or coma.
  • OxyContin may cause a worsening of seizures in people who already have seizures.
  • OxyContin can cause your blood pressure to drop. This can make you feel dizzy and faint if you get up too fast from sitting or lying down. Low blood pressure is also more likely to happen if you take other medicines that can also lower your blood pressure. Severe low blood pressure can happen if you lost blood or take certain other medicines.
  • OxyContin can cause physical dependence. Do not stop taking OxyContin or any other opioid without talking to your healthcare provider about how to slowly stop your medicine. You could become sick with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms because your body has become used to these medicines. Physical dependence is not the same as drug addiction. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any of these signs or symptoms of withdrawal while slowly stopping OxyContin:
    • feel restless
    • tearing eyes
    • runny nose
    • yawning
    • sweating
    • chills or hair on your arms "standing up"
    • muscle aches, backache
    • dilated pupils of your eyes
    • feel irritable or anxious
    • nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea
    • increase in your blood pressure, breathing faster, or your heart beats faster
  • There is a chance of abuse or addiction with OxyContin. The chance is higher if you are or have been addicted to or abused other medicines, street drugs, or alcohol, or if you have a history of mental problems.

The most common side effects of OxyContin include:

  • constipation
  • nausea
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • itching
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • weakness
  • sweating

Some of these side effects may decrease with continued use. Talk with your healthcare provider if you continue to have these side effects. These are not all the possible side effects of OxyContin. For a complete list, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Constipation (not often enough or hard bowel movements) is a very common side effect of pain medicines (opioids) including OxyContin, and is unlikely to go away without treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about dietary changes, and the use of laxatives (medicines to treat constipation) and stool softeners to prevent or treat constipation while taking OxyContin.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1–800–FDA–1088.

How should I store OxyContin?

  • Keep OxyContin out of the reach of children. Accidental overdose by a child is dangerous and can lead to death.
  • Store OxyContin at 59° F to 86°F (15° C to 30° C)
  • Keep OxyContin in the container it comes in.
  • Keep the container tightly closed and away from light.
  • After you stop taking OxyContin, flush the unused tablets down the toilet.

General information about OxyContin
Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in a Medication Guide. Do not use OxyContin for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Never give your OxyContin to other people even if they have the same symptoms you have.

Selling or giving away OxyContin may harm others, even causing death, and is against the law.

This Medication Guide summarizes the most important information about OxyContin. If you would like more information, talk with your healthcare provider. You can ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for information about OxyContin that is written for health professionals. For more information about OxyContin, go to or call 1-888-726-7535.

What are the ingredients of OxyContin?

Active ingredient: oxycodone hydrochloride
Inactive ingredients in all strengths: butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), hypromellose, polyethylene glycol 400, polyethylene oxide, magnesium stearate, titanium dioxide

  • The 10 mg tablets also contain: hydroxypropyl cellulose.
  • The 15 mg tablets also contain: black iron oxide, yellow iron oxide, and red iron oxide.
  • The 20 mg tablets also contain: polysorbate 80 and red iron oxide.
  • The 30 mg tablets also contain: polysorbate 80, red iron oxide, yellow iron oxide, and black iron oxide.
  • The 40 mg tablets also contain: polysorbate 80 and yellow iron oxide.
  • The 60 mg tablets also contain: polysorbate 80, red iron oxide and black iron oxide.
  • The 80 mg tablets also contain: hydroxypropyl cellulose, yellow iron oxide and FD&C Blue #2/Indigo Carmine Aluminum Lake.

Always check to make sure that the medicine you are taking is the correct one. The dosage strength and appearance of each OxyContin tablet are as follows:

  • 10 mg: white-colored with "OP" on one side and "10" on the other
  • 15 mg: gray-colored with "OP" on one side and "15" on the other
  • 20 mg: pink-colored with "OP" on one side and "20" on the other
  • 30 mg: brown-colored with "OP" on one side and "30" on the other
  • 40 mg: yellow-colored with "OP" on one side and "40" on the other
  • 60 mg: red-colored with "OP" on one side and "60" on the other
  • 80 mg: green-colored with "OP" on one side and "80" on the other

This Medication Guide has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at] or by phone [1-800-332-1088]

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