OxyContin is a well-known prescription painkiller.
It contains oxycodone, an opium derivative. Oxycodone has been available for decades. Doctors and government officials have recognized its dangers for nearly as long.
People began to voice concerns about oxycodone as early as the 1960s. The United Nations labelled it a dangerous drug. The United States classified it as a Schedule II substance.
These are substances the Drug Enforcement Agency considers, “drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.” Governments around the world acknowledged that oxycodone can create health and addiction issues.
Awareness didn’t spread far beyond policing bodies at first, as the drug wasn’t used much for medical or recreational purposes.
This changed when OxyContin entered the market.
Purdue Pharma began making and marketing OxyContin in the early 1990s. They combined oxycodone with a time-release ingredient, making OxyContin the only opiate that promised multiple hours of pain relief.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved this formula in 1995. While it provided extended relief for some, it created greater problems for others.
The drug was not as effective as hoped, leaving some in pain and others struggling with new substance abuse and addiction problems.
The Center for Substance Abuse Research explains, “Prolonged use and abuse of oxycodone medications eventually change the brain in such a way that a user cannot quit on his or her own, a typical sign of addiction.”
When a person takes oxycodone for extended periods of time or in larger doses than recommended, addiction develops. This isn’t a sign of personal or moral weakness. It is a normal biological and psychological response to opiate drug use.
Addiction isn’t the only risk associated with OxyContin use. OxyContin contributed to rapidly increasing overdose deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control shares, “In 2014, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving natural and semisynthetic opioids (e.g., morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone), 3.8 per 100,000, was the highest among opioid overdose deaths, and increased 9% from 3.5 per 100,000 in 2013.”
Every year, more people overdose on OxyContin and similar drugs.