In a double-blind randomized crossover trial, oxycodone or placebo was given in divided night-time doses to 11 patients with idiopathic restless legs syndrome (RLS) for 2 weeks prior to appropriate polysomnographic studies. Under double-blinded conditions, patients were asked to do daily ratings of their leg sensations, motor restlessness and daytime alertness on a 1-4 scale for the 2 weeks prior to the polysomnographic studies and for the nights of the polysomnographic studies as well. Leg sensations (p < 0.009), motor restlessness (p < 0.006) and daytime alertness (p < 0.03) were significantly improved on oxycodone as compared to baseline or placebo. Patients were studied polysomnographically under double-blinded conditions for 2 nights in each phase of the protocol. On an average dose of 15.9 mg oxycodone (equivalent to approximately three 5-mg tablets of commercial preparation), there was a statistically significant reduction in the number of periodic limb movements in sleep [(PLMS)/hour sleep (p < 0.004)] and in the number of arousals/hour sleep (p < 0.009) on drugs as compared to baseline or placebo. A statistically significant improvement was also noted in sleep efficiency (p < 0.006) and 10 of the 11 patients preferred oxycodone over placebo. We conclude that oxycodone is an effective treatment for RLS and PLMS.