We all remember the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy falls asleep among the poppy flowers, right? Opium, derived from the sap of the poppy flower, is one of the classic ancient drugs of the East. Nowadays, we have more refined forms of opium on the market. The highly-illegal drug, heroin, is a dangerous and complex drug and calls up images of “junkies” and needles for some people—but I'll get into that another week. What about prescription opiates? If you've ever been prescribed pain medication or used pills recreationally, there is a decent chance it was some form of oxycodone.

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opiate classified as an analgesic, or painkiller. This means that the drug is derived from the opium poppy plant but altered in the laboratory. Along with oxycodone, the opiate category includes heroin, morphine, and codeine among others. Thus oxycodone has similar effects, side-effects, use patterns and withdrawal symptoms.

The most obvious effect of any analgesic is that it relieves pain. Other effects, according to the book “Illegal Drugs” by Paul Gahlinger, are numbness, relaxed muscles, and elation. Recreational users describe the experience as “euphoric” and “dreamy.” With recreational use, the effects of oxycodone usually last about 4 to 5 hours.

Adverse side effects, Gahlinger mentioned, are dryness of the mouth, constipation, and sluggishness. And these effects turn into withdrawal symptoms like pain, anxiety, diarrhea and muscle cramps. Not so fun.

Severe effects of oxycodone can be delayed heartbeat, convulsions, confusion, fainting and intense dizziness. These symptoms are an indication of possible overdose, and then it's seriously time to call 911. Another serious danger of oxycodone use is the possibility of an allergic reaction, usually observed by hives or swelling.

Oxycodone, like any opiate, is extremely physically addicting and regular users do develop a tolerance over time. Because of this, one dose for a regular user can be dangerously potent for a user with less tolerance. If you decide to try oxycodone for the first time, be very cautious when deciding the dosage. It's best to start low than overestimate and to find yourself in the emergency room.

This is also a very dangerous drug to mix with other drugs, alcohol in particular. According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, among emergency visits involving opiates, two-thirds involved at least one other drug.

Popular brands of oxycodone include Percocet, which is oxycodone and acetaminophen; Percodan, which is oxycodone and aspirin; and OxyContin, which is just oxycodone.

OxyContin is a pill form of oxycodone that has a time-controlled-release function. Recreational users will crush the pill to release all of the oxycodone at once and ingest the powder sometimes orally or through the nose among other methods. This can be extremely dangerous for users with little or no tolerance as the dose is high and concentrated.

According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report, once OxyContin was released on the market in 1996, sales grew at a rapid and steady pace “and by 2001 OxyContin had become the most prescribed brandname narcotic medication for treating moderate-to-severe pain.” Recreational use of this drug greatly increased over this time. The makers of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, recently pleaded guilty to misbranding the drug in a lawsuit and are presently finding themselves in a similar case.

As for drug tests, a user of oxycodone will return a positive result on typical screens for opiates, but most often testers will then administer a confirmation test such as a GC/MS analysis. A GC/MS drug test for opiates should not detect light to moderate use of oxycodone. This is because this type of test specifically hunts for morphine and codeine and oxycodone is not usually detected. However, frequent use or recent use will register positive on this type of test. Also, sometimes a supplemental test is administered specifically for oxycodone, often if oxycodone use is suspected. Depending on the frequency of use and amount used oxycodone can be detected in urine, blood, hair, nails, and sweat for up to 72 hours.

Oxycodone is a Schedule II substance and is illegal except for with medicinal uses. It is illegal to attain a prescription while not in pain, give a prescription to someone else, seek multiple prescriptions from doctors, have a counterfeit prescription, or alter an existing prescription.

Alright, now you know. Stay safe, Western.