What’s the difference between Oxycontin and Oxycodone?

The two most prominent painkillers at the center of the opioid epidemic are Oxycontin and oxycodone. These substances are potent and dangerous. Despite these risks, these medications are still prescribed to treat acute and chronic pain. Here are a few things to know about the differences between Oxycontin and oxycodone.

Oxycodone vs. Oxycontin

Oxycontin and oxycodone are similar but have a few differences. They are absorbed differently in the body and are used to treat various ailments. Oxycodone is an immediate-release formula that an individual must take four to six times daily to prevent pain. Oxycontin is a controlled-release tablet that will stay in the body for several hours.

Oxycontin is also a brand name and does not come in a generic form. The narcotic analgesic is used to treat pain and is a time-released version of oxycodone. This medication is often used to treat long-term pain, such as arthritis or cancer. The average doses can range from 10 to 80 mg, providing up to 12 hours of pain relief. Oxycontin can quickly manage pain symptoms, unlike other options in the market. The main ingredient in Oxycontin is oxycodone.

Oxycodone is the primary ingredient in many prescribed pain relievers. It is derived from the Persian poppy and is considered a semi-synthetic opioid. This drug is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone may be used in combination with other medicines or as a single-ingredient pain reliever. Sometimes, this medication can be paired with acetaminophen to boost its pain-fighting qualities. Along with Oxycontin, Percodan and Percocet are other brand names that use oxycodone.

Despite the differences, many people refer to Oxycontin and oxycodone as the same drugs. They work by attaching to specific receptors in the brain known as endogenous opioid receptors. These brain receptors contain neurotransmitters like enkephalins and endorphins. When they are activated, it can change how someone responds to pain, anxiety, and stress.

These drugs can readily attach to the receptors. Since these artificial substances are more potent than natural endogenous neurotransmitters, they can create more intense experiences. Taking these medications can activate other neurotransmitters in the brain, especially those associated with pleasure, like dopamine. With those increases, a person can feel more euphoria, satisfaction, and other positive feelings. In turn, some individuals may start to associate the drug with these pleasurable effects. With that, the cycle of addiction can begin. An individual will need a higher dose to continue to achieve those pleasant feelings.

Both Oxycontin and oxycodone are powerful pain relievers. They are effective at treating different types of pain. Oxycodone is used to treat moderate to severe pain, primarily after surgery. Oxycontin is prescribed more for chronic to acute conditions.

Oxycodone vs. Oxycontin

Cost and Availability

As previously mentioned, oxycodone is available in tablet form as a generic drug. These tablets do cost less than the brand name Oxycontin. Many insurance plans will cover the generic oxycodone over Oxycontin. However, all insurance plans are different. In some cases, only certain pharmacies will keep these drugs in stock.

Side Effects

Oxycontin and oxycodone can also have similar side effects because they contain the same active ingredient in the formula. Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Itchiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

There are other severe side effects of these drugs. They include:

  • Allergic reactions, such as hives, itching, rashes, and face swelling
  • Breathing problems
  • Confusion
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Trouble with urination
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness


When a particular substance changes how other drugs work, that is known as an interaction. Some of these reactions can be mild, while others can lead to deadly consequences. Any type of interaction can cause both drugs not to work as intended.

Anyone taking oxycodone or Oxycontin should never drink alcohol. Taking other pain-relieving drugs with these medications is never recommended without consulting a doctor. Medicines for mental disorders, including sleeping pills and tranquilizers, can also lead to severe interactions with these drugs. Also, a person should not use skeletal muscle relaxers in combination with Oxycontin or oxycodone. Using these drugs together can lead to severe breathing issues, low blood pressure, tiredness, or a coma.

While many people may want to double their pain relief with similar medications, it is not advisable to use pain drugs that work the same way as Oxycontin or oxycodone. Taking these drugs together can increase the risk of severe side effects. Anyone experiencing pain should reach out to their medical provider to find the ideal pain relief plan for their needs.

Even certain antibiotics, antifungal, heart, seizure, and HIV medications can cause a reaction when combined with Oxycontin or oxycodone, increasing the risk of severe side effects.

People who have certain medical conditions should not take Oxycontin or oxycodone. These drugs can all aggravate kidney disease, liver disease, asthma, and breathing problems.

Also, breastfeeding individuals should not take these drugs as they are known to pass from a mother’s breast milk to her child. Pregnant women should ask their doctors about taking Oxycontin or oxycodone. Side effects can include breathing problems, changes in mood or behavior, constipation, and lightheadedness. Some research has even suggested a link between opioid use and specific birth effects.

Abuse Rates

Many people who abuse oxycodone or Oxycontin are initially prescribed the drug by a doctor. However, their body will develop a tolerance, requiring them to take higher doses to get the same pain relief. The manufacturer warned about crushing the tablets and snorting them when the medications became available. While that was meant as a warning, it caused some individuals to abuse the drugs in that manner.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), around 2 million Americans have an issue with these drugs and other opiates. Since Oxycontin and oxycodone usage is usually hidden from others, there are no exact estimates about how many people abuse the substances. Using these drugs can lead to addiction to other substances, such as heroin. With many medical practitioners limiting the prescription of Oxycontin and oxycodone, heroin has become a cheaper and more accessible option for many individuals.

If you know someone suffering from the effects of Oxycontin or oxycodone abuse, you need to find the right drug rehab program for them. At Recreate Life Counseling, we offer individualized addiction treatment programs in Boynton Beach, Florida. We use a solution-focused approach to our programs. If you need a drug or alcohol rehab program for yourself or a loved one, schedule a consultation by calling us today!