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Oxycodone vs. OxyContin: Is One More Addictive?

Oxycodone is the active ingredient in the prescription medication, OxyContin.  It is derived from opium, and it is a powerful pain-relieving medication.[1] OxyContin and oxycodone have many important and beneficial uses, though their use is also associated with a high risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose.

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What Are Oxycodone & OxyContin?

Opioids like oxycodone and OxyContin are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Their use is most recommended for short-term pain management, as both drugs are known to be highly addictive. 

Oxycodone is one of the most prescribed prescription opioids. Likewise, it is a commonly abused medication.[5]

Oxycodone and OxyContin are misused for the pleasurable and euphoric effects they can quickly produce. Any time the medications are taken in any way other than as prescribed, taken by someone who was not prescribed the medication, or taken with the aim to get high, it is considered misuse.[5]

Oxycodone vs. Oxycontin

Oxycodone and OxyContin are essentially the same drug, though there are a few key differences between the two. OxyContin has a time-release format that delivers oxycodone over a long period for extended pain relief.

Both drugs can be legally obtained through a doctor, while being misused for recreational purposes. Review the chart below to discover how oxycodone and OxyContin are similar and in which ways they differ:[2,3]

Legal Status Legal as a prescriptionLegal as a prescription
Drug ScheduleSchedule IISchedule II
Forms5 mg immediate-release tablets; 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, or 80 mg extended-release tablets; as a liquid solution10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, or 80 mg extended-release tablets
UsesTo treat moderate to severe painTo treat moderate to severe pain in people who need around-the-clock care
Common Street NamesHillbilly heroin, kicker, OC, ox, roxy, perc, oxyBlue, hillbilly heroin, kicker, oxycotton
Addiction PotentialVery high Very high
Short-Term EffectsPain relief, relaxation, sleepiness, cough suppression, respiratory suppression, sense of euphoria, and muscle relaxationPain relief, sense of euphoria, relaxation of the body, and cough and respiratory suppression 
Long-Term EffectsLiver damage, dependence, and addiction Liver damage, dependence, and addiction
Common Drug CombinationsAs Percodan when mixed with aspirin; as Roxicet when mixed with acetaminophen; as Combunox when mixed with ibuprofenOnly marketed alone as OxyContin

When abused, oxycodone and OxyContin tablets may be crushed and snorted, or the powder can be mixed with liquid and injected. Misusing the drugs like this exposes users to significantly increased risk of contracting diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, as well as suffering an accidental opioid overdose, which can be fatal.[3]

How Are These Drugs Classified?

Oxycodone products are all classified as Schedule II drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning they have a recognized medical purpose, as well as a high potential for abuse.[2]

Painkillers containing oxycodone are prescribed for people who need severe pain relief that can’t be addressed by other medications. Extended-release oxycodone (OxyContin) is made for people who need this kind of relief around the clock.[4]

For people with severe pain, these medications can be helpful, but they can also be harmful. Even when used as directed by a doctor, use of oxycodone and OxyContin can lead to physical and psychological dependence, followed by addiction.[4]

The Major Differences Between Oxycodone & Oxycontin

One of the major differences between oxycodone and OxyContin is that OxyContin is the marketed version of oxycodone in a time-release format. Oxycodone is a generic medication, while OxyContin is the brand name.[4]

When abused, OxyContin may pose a higher risk of negative side effects and overdose than oxycodone. This is because OxyContin is formulated as an extended-release version of oxycodone. The tablets are meant to be swallowed whole, so the active ingredient can be slowly released over time. When crushed, the tablets no longer maintain their controlled release, and the user is exposed to a high dose of oxycodone all at once, increasing the risk of overdose.[3] If not treated promptly with an overdose reversal medication, such as naloxone (Narcan), this can be fatal.

Due to its formulation, oxycodone can be safely combined with other medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin. Combination products like these can be prescribed by a doctor for more effective pain management. However, it is essential not to combine medications on your own due to risk of adverse side effects, and always inform your doctor about all medications you are taking. 

OxyContin is not combined with other medications. Oxycodone and OxyContin can interact negatively with other medications, leading to severe health complications.[4]

Understand Overdose Risks

Like all opioid painkillers, oxycodone and OxyContin can cause an overdose. People who take too much of their medication or combine it with another sedating drug can dip into a sleep-like state. Without quick treatment, they can die.

Signs of an overdose include the following:[6]

  • Pale or clammy skin
  • Limpness
  • Purple or blue fingernails and lips
  • Vomiting or gurgling noises
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slow or absent heartbeat

If someone is experiencing an overdose, take these steps:[6]

  • Call 911.
  • Administer naloxone (Narcan), an opioid reversal agent. It’s typically provided as a nasal spray, and anyone can give it safely. Follow the package instructions.
  • If the person doesn’t wake up, begin CPR.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.
Updated March 15, 2024
  1. Oxycodone (marketed as Oxycontin) information. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Published July 7, 2016. Accessed January 24, 2024.
  2. Drug fact sheet: Oxycodone. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration. Published April 2020. Accessed January 24, 2024.
  3. Oxycontin fast facts. National Drug Intelligence Center. Accessed January 24, 2024.
  4. Oxycodone. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Published May 15, 2023. Accessed January 24, 2024.
  5. Prescription opioids drug facts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published June 2021. Accessed January 24, 2024.
  6. Opioid overdose. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Published February 1, 2024. Accessed February 20, 2024.
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