OxyContin is an extended-release version of oxycodone, a narcotic painkiller. OxyContin is generally considered to be the prescription drug that kick-started the opioid epidemic in the United States. OxyContin abuse results in thousands of teen opioid overdoses.
Marketed by Purdue Pharma LP, OxyContin was approved by the FDA as an extended-release prescription narcotic pain reliever. The active ingredient in OxyContin is oxycodone. Beyond pain relief, OxyContin produces the euphoric effects of opium. Both OxyContin abuse and oxycodone abuse lead to opioid addiction and fatal opioid overdoses.
Designed to slowly release the potent opioid oxycodone for around-the-clock medical management of moderate to severe pain, OxyContin’s time-release formulation proved to be very dangerous. Delivered in higher doses than older brands of prescription opioid painkillers like Demerol or Vicodin, OxyContin originally lacked deterrents within the drug formulations to prevent misuse. Thus, OxyContin pills were regularly crushed by drug users to snort and inject, leading to oxycodone abuse.
In an attempt to prevent such misuse, OxyContin introduced a crush-proof formulation in 2010. This new formulation led to an initial decline in OxyContin abuse. However, the controlled-release properties still mean that each OxyContin tablet contains a large quantity of oxycodone. Oxycodone abuse with OxyContin continues to result in opioid addiction challenges.
Sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(5):424-430.