National Institutes of Health

Painkiller (Oxy, Vike) Facts

Painkillers relieve pain from surgery or injuries. You need a doctor's note (called a prescription) to buy some strong kinds of painkillers. Prescription painkillers are legal and helpful to use when a doctor orders them to treat your medical problem.

But people sometimes take these painkillers without a doctor's prescription to get high or to try to treat themselves or their friends. Drug dealers sell these pills just like they sell heroin or cocaine. Some people borrow or steal these pills from other people.

Prescription painkillers aren't safer to abuse than "street" drugs because they are medicines. Prescription painkiller abuse can be as dangerous as heroin or cocaine abuse.

Oxycodone is one painkiller people often abuse. Sometimes it goes by the brand names OxyContin® or Percocet®. Another painkiller that is often abused is hydrocodone. One of its brand names is Vicodin®.

Painkillers are usually white, round, or oval pills. They can be taken whole, smoked, or crushed into a powder which is snorted or injected.

Like heroin, pain pills can cause a rush of good feeling when they're first taken, but they can also make you want to throw up. They can make you very sleepy.

Some slang names for oxycodone are:

  • Oxy
  • Cotton
  • Percs

Some slang names for hydrocodone are:

  • Vikes
  • Vikings
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"I didn't want to do anything besides get
more painkillers."

Sad young man wearing T-shirt and cargo pants

Max talks about his addiction to prescription drugs. The addiction slowly took over his life. (Photo information)

arrow Read Max's story