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Papers of the Week

Papers: 10 Jun 2023 - 16 Jun 2023

Psychology, Review

Neurobiology, Pharmacology/Drug Development


2023 Jun 15

Pharmacol Rev


Oxycodone: A Current Perspective on its Pharmacology, Abuse and Pharmacotherapeutic Developments


Barrett JE, Shekarabi A, Inan S


Oxycodone, a semi-synthetic derivative of naturally occurring thebaine, an opioid alkaloid, has been available for over 100 years. Although thebaine cannot be used therapeutically due to the occurrence of convulsions at higher doses, it has been converted to a number of other widely used compounds that include naloxone, naltrexone, buprenorphine, and oxycodone. Despite the early identification of oxycodone, it was not until the 1990s that clinical studies began to explore its analgesic efficacy. These studies were followed by the pursuit of several preclinical studies to examine the analgesic effects and abuse liability of oxycodone in laboratory animals and the subjective effects in human volunteers. For a number of years oxycodone was at the forefront of the opioid crisis, playing a significant role in contributing to opioid misuse and abuse, with suggestions that is led to the transitioning to other opioids. Several concerns were expressed as early as the 1940s that oxycodone had significant abuse potential with the potential abuse liability similar to heroin and morphine. Both animal and human abuse liability studies have confirmed, and in some cases amplified, these early warnings. Despite sharing a similar structure with morphine and pharmacological actions also mediated by the m-opioid receptor, there are several differences in the pharmacology and neurobiology of oxycodone. The data that has emerged from the many efforts to analyze the pharmacological and molecular mechanism of oxycodone have generated considerable insight into its many actions, reviewed here, and which, in turn, have provided new information on opioid receptor pharmacology. Oxycodone, a mu-opioid receptor agonist, was synthesized in 1916 and introduced into clinical use in Germany in 1917. It has been studied extensively as a therapeutic analgesic for acute and chronic neuropathic pain as an alternative to morphine. Oxycodone emerged as a drug with wide-spread abuse. This article brings together an integrated, detailed review of the pharmacology of oxycodone, preclinical and clinical studies of pain, abuse, and also covers recent advances to identify potential opioid analgesics without abuse liability.