What is OxyContin?
OxyContin is a semi synthetic opioid analgesic prescribed for chronic or long-lasting pain.  The medication’s active ingredient is oxycodone, which is also found in drugs like Percodan and Tylox.  However, OxyContin contains between 10 and 160 milligrams of oxycodone in a timed-release tablet.  Painkillers contain 5 milligrams of oxycodone and often require repeated does to bring about pain relief because they lack the timed-release formulation.

How is OxyContin used?
OxyContin, also referred to as “Oxy,” “O.C.,”and “killer” on the street, is legitimately prescribed as a timed-release tablet, providing as many as 12 hours of relief from chronic pain.  It is often prescribed for cancer patients or those with chronic, long-lasting back pain.  The benefit of the medication to chronic pain sufferers is that they generally need to take the pill only twice a day, whereas a dosage of another medication would require more frequent use to control the pain.  The goal of chronic pain treatment is to decrease pain and improve function.

How is OxyContin abused?
OxyContin abusers either crush the tablet and ingest or snort it, or dilute it in water and inject it.  Crushing or diluting the tablet disarms the timed-release action of the medication and causes a quick, powerful high. 

How does OxyContin abuse differ from abuse of other pain prescriptions?
Abuse of prescription pain medications is not new.  Two primary factors, however, set OxyContin abuse apart from other prescription drug abuse.  First, OxyContin is a powerful drug that contains a much larger amount of the active ingredient, oxycodone, than other prescription pain relievers.  By crushing the tablet, the powerful effects of the opioid are released in a short time, rather than over the 12-hour time span.

What is the likelihood that a person for whom OxyContin is prescribed will become addicted?
Most people who take OxyContin as prescribed do not become addicted.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports: “With prolonged use of opiates and opioids, individuals become tolerant…require larger doses and can become physically dependent on the drugs…Studies indicate that most patients who receive opioids for pain, even those undergoing long-term therapy, do not become addicted to these drugs.”

In short, most individuals who are prescribed OxyContin, or any other opioid, will not become addicted, although they may become dependent on the drug and will need to be withdrawn by a qualified physician.  Individuals who are taking the drug as prescribed should continue to do so, as long as they and their physician agree that taking the drug is a medically appropriate way for them to manage pain.  

People who abuse OxyContin, not taking the pills for a medical condition and under doctor’s care or alter the effects by crushing the time-release function, do report symptoms of addiction.  

Information provided by: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

Call MAWSAC at 203-294-3591 for more information or assistance.