Deciphering multiple names for the same prescription can be a challenge. Here’s some clarity.

OxyContin and oxycodone are two of the most common prescriptions for pain. Even though they have different names, they’re really versions of the same drug.

You may be wondering why you’ve been prescribed one instead of the other or whether taking oxycodone is really the same as OxyContin.

The fact is, these medications are different, even though they share an active compound.

The one your health professional prescribes to you has a lot to do with your individual pain management needs.

Oxycodone is the active ingredient in prescriptions like OxyContin, but it also comes in generic form.

Belonging to a family of drugs called opioids, oxycodone is a semi-synthetic drug used to treat moderate to severe pain.

It’s prescribed for short-term and chronic conditions with high pain loads, including:

  • cancer
  • bone pain
  • nerve pain
  • traumatic injury

Only a healthcare professional can determine if you need to take opioids for any of these conditions and if the benefits outweigh possible risks.

Like other opioids, oxycodone works by attaching to receptors in your brain and spinal cord. It blocks feelings of pain, anxiety, and stress.

In addition to pain relief, you may develop a feeling of relaxation and calm when taking oxycodone. At higher dosages, you may also experience euphoria.

Oxycodone’s ability to generate a “high” makes it a commonly misused prescription medication when not used under a doctor’s supervision. This gains it the label of a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States.

Schedule II controlled substances are those that may have a higher potential for misuse and use disorder.

Most forms of oxycodone aren’t approved for use in children. In 2015, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved extended-release tablets for children between the ages of 11 and 16 years of age in some cases.

How long you stay on an oxycodone prescription depends on your anticipated recovery process. Short-duration recoveries, such as from an injury or surgical procedure, may have your healthcare team giving you the drug for a few days or weeks.

If you’re living with chronic pain, however, your health professional may feel the benefits of long-term use outweigh the potential challenges.

OxyContin is a brand-name version of oxycodone.

The main difference between OxyContin and generic oxycodone is how the medication is released into your body.

OxyContin is the extended-release form of oxycodone. Also known as a time-released medication, it’s designed to be a more potent form that dissolves slowly once taken.

This allows you to receive a steady dose of pain relief throughout the day.

OxyContin is typically taken every 12 hours.

Oxycodone in generic form is usually an immediate-release medication. It starts working within minutes and needs to be taken every 4 to 6 hours.

Both of these medications can help you manage moderate to severe pain.

Oxycodone at a glance

Oxycodone can be a powerful pain medication for both acute and chronic conditions. You may be prescribed this medication for:

  • injuries
  • medical procedures
  • illnesses
  • chronic pain conditions (like arthritis)

It’s currently available in the following forms:

  • oral liquid
  • oral concentrated liquid
  • tablet
  • capsule
  • extended-release tablet
  • extended-release capsule

Depending on the brand and route of administration, oxycodone is available in doses from 5 milligrams (mg) to 160 mg.

You may see this medication in combination with other drugs and under many different brand names.

Oxycodone-only brands currently on the market include:

  • Oxaydo
  • OxyContin
  • Xtampza ER

Combination products that combine oxycodone with other active drugs include:

  • Oxycet
  • Percocet
  • Percodan
  • Roxicet
  • Xartemis XR

When taken as prescribed, some short-term effects of oxycodone that you might experience include:

  • sedation
  • relaxation
  • mild euphoria
  • reduced anxiety
  • pain relief

Over time, your body can develop a tolerance for oxycodone, and you may require higher dosages to achieve the same effects. Your health professional will work with you to adjust dosage as needed and prevent unwanted effects.

Long-term oxycodone use may lead to:

  • liver damage
  • kidney damage
  • opioid use disorder
  • chemical dependence
  • withdrawal symptoms when reducing quantity or stopping
  • mental changes, such as states of confusion

Black box warning

Whenever a medication has the potential for serious side effects, the FDA requires it to carry a boxed warning label.

Known as a “black box warning,” this is the strongest advisory the FDA issues. All forms of oxycodone come with the same black box warning.

OxyContin at a glance

OxyContin is the controlled- or extended-release tablet version of oxycodone. It’s currently produced by the company Purdue Pharma.

Like other forms of oxycodone, OxyContin is used to manage moderate to severe pain.

As an extended-release tablet, your healthcare professional may pick OxyContin for pain management that requires round-the-clock dosing, such as in cancer or degenerative bone disease.

OxyContin is available only in tablet form and comes in doses of:

  • 10 mg
  • 15 mg
  • 20 mg
  • 30 mg
  • 40 mg
  • 60 mg
  • 80 mg
  • 160 mg

The 80 mg and 160 mg tablets are approved for use in opioid-tolerant patients only. Your doctor will only prescribe these higher milligrams if you’ve developed a tolerance for your current opioid prescription and they consider it necessary.

OxyContin carries with it the same short-term and long-term effects as other oxycodone medications, as well as the black box warning from the FDA.

Both oxycodone and OxyContin are oxycodone medications, but they share more than just an active ingredient.

Both of these medications:

  • are Schedule II controlled substances
  • can be used to treat moderate to severe pain
  • may cause a sensation of euphoria
  • can be habit-forming if not used according to direction
  • are not approved for use in children under age 11 years
  • are illegal to be sold or given away in the United States
  • can have rare but serious side effects
  • may cause withdrawal symptoms

Side effects of both

By sharing the same active ingredient, OxyContin and oxycodone have a list of similar side effects.

Common side effects of both medications may include:

  • constipation
  • nausea
  • sleepiness
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • abdominal pain

Severe side effects of both medications may include:

  • trouble breathing, including shortness of breath
  • racing heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • swelling in the face, tongue, or throat
  • severe drowsiness
  • lightheadedness or vertigo when changing positions
  • feeling faint
  • agitation
  • fever
  • difficulty walking
  • stiffness
  • confusion and other mental health symptoms
  • allergic reactions

Precautions when using OxyContin or oxycodone

All oxycodone medications, including OxyContin, share the same FDA black box warning.

It states:

  • Oxycodone can be habit forming and may lead to misuse, addiction, or death.
  • Serious or life-threatening breathing issues can occur.
  • Combining certain medications, alcohol, or street drugs with oxycodone may result in serious, life-threatening side effects.
  • Accidental ingestion may result in fatal overdose, especially in children.
  • Using oxycodone during pregnancy may cause withdrawal symptoms in a newborn child.
  • The product manufacturer must participate in a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program and provide educational tools for healthcare professionals.
  • Taking oxycodone along with benzodiazepines may result in severe respiratory issues, coma, or death.

OxyContin, and some tablet forms of oxycodone, comes with an additional warning specific to tablet consumption. Because tablets are designed to be immediate- or extended-release, the warning states:

  • Tablets should be swallowed whole to avoid accidental overdose.
  • Tablets should never be broken, cut, crushed, pre-soaked, licked, or wet prior to ingestion.

Extended-released medications like OxyContin rely on their coating and structure to slow down the absorption process. By breaking the tablet, you may accidentally expose yourself to a hazardous dose of the medication.

Oxycodone is the active ingredient in both OxyContin and oxycodone.

OxyContin, a brand-name product, is oxycodone in extended-release tablet form. It’s most commonly prescribed if you need 24-7 pain management.

While immediate-release oxycodone is also used for moderate to severe pain, it can be taken when short-term pain management is indicated.

Both of these medications are potentially habit-forming when not taking according to medical direction.