What is Oxycodone?
What is Oxycontin?
OxyContin is a semisynthetic 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 such as Tylox contain 5 milligrams of oxycodone and often require repeated doses 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. Abusers have compared this feeling to the euphoria they experience when taking heroin. In fact, in some areas, the use of heroin is overshadowed by the abuse of OxyContin.

Pharmacy diversion: Pharmacy workers take the drug directly from the shelf. People create fraudulent prescriptions.

Doctor Shopping: People with or without true illness visit several doctors, perhaps even in several states to obtain a large quantity of the drug.

Improper Prescribing Practices: Dishonest doctors write improper prescriptions for money or favors.

Street Value: On the street, the drug sells for 50 cents to over a dollar per milligram. Some pharmacies have stopped selling the drug and posted signs indicating they do not carry the drug, in an effort to thwart robberies and criminal activity brought on by OxyContin abuse

Nicknamed "hillbilly heroin", the first known reports of OxyContin abuse were in rural areas with common characteristics such as job scarcity and high unemployment, isolation, and a large elderly and disabled population. However, abuse of the drug has since spread.

The states with the highest abuse rates are West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia. According to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 975,000 persons were reported using OxyContin for nonmedical use. Abuse and potential abuse of the drug, especially among young people, has raised great concern. Another national survey reported that 1% of 8th graders, 3% of 10th graders and 4% of 12 graders had used the drug recreationally. The estimated street value of one 40-milligram OxyContin pill is about $40.

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials say that the drug may have played a role in 464 overdose deaths from the years 2000 and 2001. Most OxyContin deaths are the result of first-time, large dose illicit use.
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 and either ingesting or snorting it, or by injecting diluted OxyContin, abusers feel the powerful effects of the opioid in a short time, rather than over a 12-hour span. Second, great profits are to be made in the illegal sale of OxyContin. A 40-milligram pill costs approximately $4 by prescription, yet it may sell for $20 to $40 on the street, depending on the area of the country in which the drug is sold.(1)

OxyContin can be comparatively inexpensive if it is legitimately prescribed and if its cost is covered by insurance. However, the National Drug Intelligence Center reports that OxyContin abusers may use heroin if their insurance will no longer pay for their OxyContin prescription, because heroin is less expensive than OxyContin that is purchased illegally.(2)
Why are so many crimes reportedly associated with OxyContin abuse?
Many reports of OxyContin abuse have occurred in rural areas that have housed labor-intensive industries, such as logging or coal mining. These industries are often located in economically depressed areas, as well. Therefore, people for whom the drug may have been legitimately prescribed may be tempted to sell their prescriptions for profit. Substance abuse treatment providers say that the addiction is so strong that people will go to great lengths to get the drug, including robbing pharmacies and writing false prescriptions.
What are the short-term effects?
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.
What are the long-term effects?
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.