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Information for patients being discharged from hospital on short-acting oxycodone for moderate to severe pain

Patient information A-Z

Oxycodone- short-acting (immediate release)
Other names – Oxynorm® liquid or capsules

Who is the leaflet for? What is its aim?

This leaflet is for patients (and their relatives or carers) who have been discharged from hospital with short-acting oxycodone. Its use will have been explained to you before you left hospital. Do not hesitate to ask for more information or to have it repeated, if needed.

Oxycodone is a strong painkiller from the same family of drugs as morphine. It works in a similar way to morphine. Short-acting oxycodone is commonly used for moderate to severe pain from many different causes. It can be used on its own or with long-acting pain relief (known as background pain relief). These medications are safe and effective when used properly and will be helpful in controlling your pain.

Pain control may be an ongoing process and health professionals will work with you to adjust the medication doses as needed. Health professionals (including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and opticians) will need to know that you are taking these medications, so do inform them, even if you are seeing them for an unrelated matter.


The medication you have been prescribed will help to manage your pain, enabling you to be more comfortable and active at home. Short-acting oxycodone should reduce your pain within approximately 30 minutes, and last for about four hours.

How to take short-acting oxycodone

You can take short-acting oxycodone either regularly (every four to six hours) or when needed for episodes of pain. Your doctor or nurse will have assessed and advised what is best for you, and worked out the correct dose for you. If you are still in pain an hour after you have taken your dose, you may take another dose. If you find that you are regularly needing extra doses (two or more in a day), tell your doctor or nurse. It may be helpful to review your pain medication at this time.

If you are taking short-acting oxycodone regularly and you miss a dose, take the dose as soon as you remember. Do not take a double dose to make up for the missed one. If you vomit shortly after taking the medicine, repeat the dose as soon as you feel better. If this happens again tell your doctor or nurse.

Side effects

Oxycodone may cause you to feel sick (nausea) or to vomit when you first start taking it. Taking the medicine with food may help. It is likely that you will have been given an anti-sickness medication (anti-emetic) to take regularly when the painkiller is started. For most patients, symptoms of nausea fade within a few days as the body gets used to the new drug. If the symptoms persist or are not controlled by an anti-emetic, please speak to a doctor or nurse as alternatives are available.

Oxycodone may increase the risk of constipation and you may have been prescribed a laxative to take regularly. Maintaining a good fluid intake, being active and having fibre in your diet will also help.

Some mild drowsiness is common and will usually resolve over a few days while your body is getting used to the new medication, or after a change to a higher dose. Please avoid driving and operating heavy machinery if you are affected. If the drowsiness stops you from reading a newspaper, following the plot of a television programme or does not improve after a few days, please seek medical advice promptly. It may be best to avoid alcohol whilst taking oxycodone as you're more likely to get side effects, such as feeling sleepy.

These medications can be dangerous if they are taken by those they are not prescribed for. Please keep them out of the reach of children or anyone else who might take them inadvertently. If this happens seek medical advice immediately. They should be stored in the original container to protect from light and below 25°C.

Common questions asked about oxycodone

I thought oxycodone was only used at the end of life?

No. Oxycodone is used for different sorts of moderate and severe pain. If you have cancer, treatment with oxycodone may be needed to allow you to live as comfortably as possible. Oxycodone can be taken for as long as it’s needed and the dose can be changed over time.

What do I do if I forget to take a regular dose?

Take the dose as soon as you remember. Do not take a double dose to make up for the missed one. If you vomit shortly after taking the medicine, repeat the dose as soon as you feel better.

What do I do if certain things like movement bring on pain?

Some people find that doing certain activities, such as having a bath or going for a walk, bring on the pain. Your doctor or nurse may suggest that you try taking a dose of short-acting oxycodone 30 minutes before starting an activity that brings on the pain.

Will oxycodone always relieve my pain completely?

Although oxycodone is a very good pain killer, it is not helpful for all types of pain and may require adjustments by your doctor or nurse. Sometimes other treatments are needed and suggested by your medical team.

If you still have pain and feel unwell in one or more of the following ways:

  • Feeling more sleepy than usual
  • Feeling sick more of the time
  • Experiencing bad dreams

tell your doctor or nurse. Your doctor may reduce your dose of oxycodone and suggest other treatments to help the pain.

Can I drive whilst taking oxycodone?

Once you get used to taking oxycodone and do not feel sleepy or unwell, you may be able to drive. You must not drive if you feel that your driving may be impaired. The Department for Transport advises patients to carry evidence that you have been prescribed oxycodone by a doctor in case you are stopped by the Police.

Can I drink alcohol whilst taking oxycodone?

It may be best to avoid alcohol whilst taking oxycodone as you're more likely to get side effects, such as feeling sleepy.

What do I do with the medicine if I stop taking oxycodone?

Tablets or liquids which are no longer needed, or past their expiry date, should be returned to a pharmacy.


The team looking after you will continue to manage your pain as well as possible, using a combination of drug and non-drug treatments. If your pain continues despite these treatments, please inform your medical team who will explore this further and consider alternative options. Being completely pain-free is not always possible, but bringing your pain into comfortable levels is the main priority of all treatments. While you are awaiting advice do not alter the amount of your medication that you are taking or stop taking it suddenly.

Contacts and further information

Once you are discharged, your GP or community specialist palliative care nurse will provide support to help you manage your pain and to help you use the short-acting oxycodone as effectively as possible.

References and Sources of evidence

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

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Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
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