Prescription drugs, including common opioid medications, can cause a variety of side effects, even in prescribed doses. Oxycodone, more commonly known as the brand names OxyContin and Percocet, is an opioid medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is a highly potent and addicting drug that affects how the brain responds to pain.

Although effective, oxycodone comes with a number of side effects including:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Itching

Another common but unusual side effect, specifically of opioid users, is an itching sensation. There are typically two reasons for this itching — neurotransmitter stimulation, or allergic reaction.

Does Oxycodone make you itch?
People respond to medications differently and may develop mild to life-threatening allergic reactions, if any at all. When using oxycodone or any other prescription drug, it is important to know whether or not you are allergic to the drug and be able to identify tell-tale signs of a reaction.

Allergy symptoms are a reflection of how the immune system defends the body. When a person has an allergic reaction to a medication like oxycodone, the immune system produces antibodies that release chemicals into the body and immediately cause symptoms in the nose, lungs or sinuses. The medication may also influence a delayed immune response more commonly affecting the skin. This delayed response is what may cause a rash, hives or itchy sensation.

Although mild allergic reactions are common, developing a more severe allergic reaction to oxycodone is rare. Other than chronic itching, signs of a severe allergic reaction to oxycodone include:

  • Rash
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Hives

Over-the-counter remedies are available to treat allergic reactions. However, if you experience any of these more rare symptoms, or you take over-the-counter drugs that do not help with the symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Most allergy symptoms from oxycodone can be treated with topical creams and medication. The itching sensation, however, is still being researched. There is no definite cure for the itch other than finding an alternative drug, but researchers are close.

When people consume oxycodone and other opioid drugs, the medication triggers an itch receptor in the spinal cord called the gastrin-releasing peptide receptor — also referred to as GRPR, or the itch gene. This receptor transmits itching sensations from one neuron to the next.

Researchers tested GRPR functionality in lab mice, further discovering the mice lacking significant GRPR genes scratched and itched less than other mice. With this finding, researchers confirmed a connection between GRPR and itching, and will soon be able to zone in on treating the itch without affecting the pain-killing properties of opioid medication.

If you or a loved one live with addiction or are using drugs recreationally and want to stop, The Recovery Village® can help. Reach out to one of our representatives today to learn how you can start on your path to recovery.
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Dryden, J. (2011, October 13). Researchers block morphine’s itchy side effect. Retrieved from

Ericson, G. (2007, July 25). Scratch no more: Gene for itch sensation discovered. Retrieved from

Gromisch, M. (2015, September 10). Drugs That Cause Itching Skin. Retrieved from  

Pongdee, MD, T. (n.d.). Medications and Drug Allergic Reactions. Retrieved from

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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