1. The pharmacokinetics and metabolism of oxycodone were studied in nine healthy young volunteers in a cross-over study. Each subject received oxycodone chloride once intramuscularly (0.14 mg kg-1) and twice orally (0.28 mg kg-1) at intervals of 2 weeks. A double-blind randomized pretreatment with amitriptyline (10-50 mg a day) or placebo was given prior to oral oxycodone. 2. The concentrations of oxycodone, noroxycodone and oxymorphone in plasma and the 24 h urine recoveries of their conjugated and unconjugated forms were measured by gas chromatography. 3. No differences were found between treatments in mean Cmax and AUC values of oxycodone which varied from 34 to 38 ng ml-1 and from 208 to 245 ng ml-1 h, respectively. The median tmax of oxycodone was 1 h in all groups. The bioavailability of oral relative to i.m. oxycodone was 60%. The mean renal clearance of oxycodone was 0.07-0.08 l min-1. The kinetics of oxycodone were unaffected by amitriptyline. 4. The mean ratio of the AUC(0.24 h) values of unconjugated noroxycodone to oxycodone was 0.45 after i.m. oxycodone and 0.6-0.8 after oral oxycodone. Plasma oxymorphone concentrations were below the limit of the assay. Eight to 14% of the dose of oxycodone was excreted in the urine as unconjugated and conjugated oxycodone over 24 h. Oxymorphone was excreted mainly as a conjugate whereas noroxycodone was recovered mostly in an unconjugated form.