Common Names: Percocet (w/acetaminophen/paracetamol), Percodan (w/aspirin), Oxycontin (time-release), Roxicodone, Oxy, OC’s, 80’s
Chemical Name: (5a)-4,5-epoxy-14-hydroxy-3-methoxy-17- methylmorphinan-6-one
Description: Oxycodone is an semi-synthetic opioid analgesic, used primarily in the treatment of pain. It saw a significant increase in recreational use when the higher-dose time-release form OxyContin was introduced in 1995.
Caution: Oxycodone preparations may contain analgesics such as acetaminophen, which can be toxic to the liver in high doses.
Basics / General Info
OxyContin is the brand name for an opioid analgesic containing the active ingredient Oxycodone
(also found in Percoset and Percodan). OxyContin is a legal narcotic (or a controlled substance) that
is available, by prescription, to treat severe pain. OxyContin is a controlled-release medication that,
when used correctly, provides extended relief of pain associated with cancer, back pain, or arthritis.
However, often when the drug is abused, the tablets are crushed and snorted, chewed, or mixed with
water and injected- eliminating the time-release factor and allowing for a quick and intense rush to the
brain. This practice can lead to overdosing on OxyContin’s active ingredient, oxycodone, by releasing
too much of the medication into the bloodstream too quickly. OxyContin is highly addictive – so higher
doses of the drug must be taken when a tolerance develops. Illicit users of the drug have risen
drastically and steadily over the last few years.
Oxycontin is an opiate drug, similar to morphine, heroin, vicodin, and so on. It is a painkiller that works by flooding the brain with opiates. When a person takes an excessive amount of opiates, they will generally just be extremely relaxed and appear to be fatigued. They might nod out after taking large amounts of Oxycontin.
The most serious risk associated with OxyContin, is respiratory depression. Because of this,
OxyContin should not be combined with other substances that slow down breathing, such as alcohol,
antihistamines (like some cold or allergy medication), barbiturates, or benzodiazepines. Other
common side effects include constipation, nausea, sedation, dizziness, vomiting, headache, dry
mouth, sweating, and weakness. Toxic overdose and/or death can occur by taking the tablet broken,
chewed, or crushed. People who abuse the drug (by removing the time-release coating) will
experience effects for up to 5 hours. The high that is felt is opiate-like – a sedate, euphoric feeling.
Using OxyContin chronically can result in increased tolerance to the drug in which higher doses of the
medication must be taken to receive the initial effect. Over time, OxyContin will be come physically
addictive, causing a person to experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not present.
Symptoms of withdrawal include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting,
cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg movements.
The origins of OxyContin
In 1995, a Stamford, Connecticut pharmaceutical company named Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin. Although the active ingredient in the new pain killer was actually nothing new at all. Oxycodone had been around for over six decades prior to the release of OxyContin. What was new about OxyContin was the way this ingredient was delivered by the drug.
For many years prior to the introduction of OxyContin, pain killers were used to relieve the suffering of those in severe pain due to cancer or major surgery recovery. Doctors advised patients to have the painkillers in their bloodstream at all times in order to stave off the pain. The problem was that the major pain killers (such as morphine and others) only worked to relieve an individual’s pain for 2-3 hours on average. This meant that individuals would have to take several pills each day in order to keep their dosage at a workable level. OxyContin removed this problem from the equation by delivering its active ingredients over a 12 hour period.
The Widespread use of OxyContin
OxyContin became an overnight sensation in the medical community, earning almost a billion dollars for Purdue Pharma in the first years of its release. In marketing the drug to physicians, Purdue raised awareness of pain management for their patients – an area on emphasis that was being largely overlooked within most of the medical community. The more doctors became aware of pain issues in their patients, the more the prescribed pain medication – and OxyContin was there to fill the bill.
Big Problems with Oxycontin
With massive sales came big problems for Pharma and their drug OxyContin. Abuse of OxyContin started spreading like wildfire across the country. Addicts – in particular those in search of their next heroin fix – discovered that if they snorted or injected OxyContin, they could remove the time release element of the drug and receive a powerful high very quickly. At this point, the “miracle drug” treatment OxyContin received in the press began to backfire as more addicts started learning about the drug and its effects.
Quickly, emergency rooms began filling up with individuals who had underestimated the power of OxyContin and were overdosing. The Drug Enforcement Agency moved in quickly, and has since responded with legal actions against many doctors who prescribed the medication – and put heavy restrictions on how it is marketed.