Oxycodone is a pain-reliever available by prescription for the management of moderate to severe pain, such as that experienced following injury or surgical procedures. PubMed Health explains that oxycodone is a type of drug called an opioid because it is made from natural precursors found in the opium poppy. It is sometimes combined with other non-opioid pain-relievers such as Tylenol.
The Schaffer Library of Drug Policy explains that the flower Papaver somniferous, or opium poppy, is the source for all drugs called opiates. The substances extracted from the plant to manufacture of opioid drugs include morphine, thebaine and codeine. Thebaine is the chemical precursor that is synthesized to create oxycodone hydrochloride, the active analgesic and, therefore, the possibly addictive agent in oxycodone.
How Oxycodone Works
The text "Molecular Neuropharmacology" explains that oxycodone and related drugs work to relieve pain by targeting specific proteins on the surfaces of cells called receptors. There are three different receptors known to bind opiates: mu, kappa and delta. When an opiate drug communicates with a cell, it is able to change the way the cell communicates painful messages to the brain.
The text "Essential Psychopharmacology" explains that the opioid receptor that appears to be targeted the most by drugs like oxycodone is the mu receptor. This particular receptor is found on cells that are responsible for communicating messages of pain; it is also found on cells that are responsible for communicating reward. The rewarding feelings that oxycodone conveys to users reinforces the patient's impulse to continue taking the drug.