Available by prescription only, oxycodone is a narcotic of the opioid family indicated in the management of moderate to severe pain that is often post-operative or cancer-related in nature. Oxycodone is sometimes prescribed in combination with acetaminophen, and there are potent versions such as instant release tablets and controlled release pills designed for long-term pain control. Although oxycodone is a widely prescribed drug, it isn't the only option for managing debilitating pain.
Controlled-release oxycodone, or OxyContin, is a widely used prescription drug for managing moderate to severe pain over the course of 8 to 12 hours. However, there are alternatives when it comes to powerful round-the-clock pain management. Extended-release morphine pills -- brand names MS-Contin and Kadian -- may be effective for some individuals. Morphine is considered by many in the medical community as the "strongest of pain relievers," according to Stanford University. Additionally, a medication called fentanyl -- brand name Duragesic -- is available in a transdermal patch that adheres to the skin, allowing the drug to slowly absorb and providing strong pain relief. Fentanyl is a very potent narcotic, reports MedlinePlus, and is generally only prescribed when a patient is unresponsive or tolerant to medications such as morphine and oxycodone.
Other Short-Term Narcotics
Morphine and hydromorphone -- Dilaudid -- are two powerful narcotic medications available in immediate-release pills for short-term or "breakthrough" pain -- that is, pain which extends through the effects of a primary, controlled release pain medication. Also, synthetic opioid drugs such as meperidine -- Demerol -- and propoxyphene -- Darvon -- may work better than oxycodone if a physician makes this determination, although their effectiveness is not as well-established as that of morphine and hydromorphone, reports Stanford University.
Medications such as oxycodone with acetaminophen -- oxycodone/APAP, Percocet, Roxicet -- are often prescribed for post-operative pain or pain due to mild injuries such as broken bones. A viable alternative to this oxycodone mixture is hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen -- brand names Vicodin and Lortab. While hydrocodone is less potent as a narcotic than oxycodone, it is also an opioid drug which is available in a variety of potencies that can provide a similar level of pain management depending on the individual.
Often, minor pain -- such as that following a routine orthodontic procedure such as wisdom teeth removal -- can be managed with a non-narcotic medication. A physician can determine if a non-narcotic alternative to oxycodone will provide sufficient pain relief in a particular case. Examples of non-narcotic pain relievers are acetaminophen, aspirin and the anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and naproxen. Although non-narcotic pain medications are not as potent as their opioid counterparts, they are not habit-forming -- a major benefit if an alternative for oxycodone needs to be taken for a long period of time.
- Stanford University: Easing the Pain of JCAHO Accreditation Standards: Focus on Post-op Pain Gregory Holmquist, Oncology & Pain Management Pharmacist Specialist Palliative Care Strategies
- Johns Hopkins Point of Care Information Technology Center: Narcotic Analgesics
- Mayo Clinic: Morphine (Oral Route)
- MedlinePlus: Fentanyl Transdermal - MedlinePlus
- Elmhurst College: CNS Narcotics