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Oxycodone is a potent painkiller meant to control moderate to severe pain, and it is classified as an opioid analgesic. This medication affects the brain and central nervous system (CNS), and affects brain cells called neurons that are responsible for the conscious perception and interpretation of pain. Neurons in other regions of the brain can be affected by this drug as well, giving rise to side effects such as depression. There are some known associations between oxycodone and depression in a physical sense, as well as with the emotional condition known as depression.
The link between oxycodone and physical depression pertains to its binding of certain neurons in the brain stem that help to regulate automatic processes like breathing and heart rate. A lowering of the breathing rate can result in respiratory depression, where breathing becomes shallow and the rate of respiration slows to the point that oxygen deprivation becomes a danger. Respiratory depression can be fatal if it continues for a prolonged period of time, and requires medical attention in the event that it occurs.
This drug shows a potential to cause respiratory depression in larger doses, much like any opiate. In smaller, therapeutic doses of 5 milligrams (mg) to 20 mg, however, little respiratory depression is seen. Therefore, oxycodone and depression does not have as close of an association as compounds such as morphine do; morphine can actually be hazardous at therapeutic doses comparable to oxycodone in some individuals.
A link may exist between oxycodone and depression as an emotional state, according to anecdotal accounts. Initially, this drug was studied as a potential treatment for major depression, but safer, less-addictive compounds eliminated the need to use opiates to treat emotional disorders. There continues to be a connection between this compound and emotion for some individuals, however, and some users claim that the euphoric effects of the compound occasionally manifest as dysphoria, a form of mild depression.
Other individuals that have taken oxycodone for recreational purposes, rather than for pain management state that withdrawal from oxycodone and depression have a strong association. These people tend to enjoy the experience of abusing the drug, but when they do not have it for prolonged periods of time, they begin to enter a state of depression. Some individuals report that this depression can be so severe that it requires the use of antidepressants or psychotherapy in order to function in daily life.