As medical advancements find new medications to treat pain, we are also seeing an increased dependency on prescription pain drugs. One of the most habit forming pain relievers available is OxyContin, a narcotic pain reliever derived from opium. It is manufactured to be slowly released in the body to provide pain relief over a period of time. Like all narcotics, it is habit forming and should only be used for a short period of time, under the supervision of a doctor.
OxyContin can be legally obtained with a prescription and many people who are addicted to it began using it for medical purposes. It is a popular drug among those who abuse prescription painkillers because it gives a sense of euphoria.
OxyContin is also widely abused because it is so readily available. Many people who are addicted to OxyContin will try to obtain it by getting more than one doctor to prescribe it for them at one time or by forging prescriptions. It can be obtained fairly easily online or through other black market channels. In 2008 the estimated number of new, non-medical OxyContin users was around half a million. The ease of obtaining this drug and its relatively low cost make it an increasingly growing problem.
Many people who abuse OxyContin have begun to tamper with the time-release feature of the pills to produce a stronger high. They do this by crushing the pill and administering it intravenously or snorting it. Even chewing the pill before swallowing it can cause all of the drug to be released into the body at once, which can lead to overdose.
The FDA is taking strides to combat OxyContin abuse by reformulating the time-release properties of the narcotic component of the drug, oxycodone. The new version of the drug turns to a gummy substance when a user attempts to dissolve it, making it impossible to draw into a needle. This will help reduce the likelihood that the drug will be abused, but not eliminate it. It's up to individual doctors and patients to know the risks and take steps to reduce dependency and abuse.