A.) OxyContin is an opium derivative made from oxycodone, the same active ingredient in Percodan and Percocet. OxyContin is intended for use by terminal cancer patients and chronic pain sufferers. It has been linked to at least 120 overdose deaths nationwide. Oxycodone is a very strong narcotic pain reliever similar to morphine. OxyContin is designed to slowly release the oxycodone over time.
OxyContin provides pain relief by acting on opioid receptors in the spinal cord, brain, and possibly in the tissues. Opioids are natural or synthetic classes of drugs that act like morphine. They are the most effective pain relievers available. Oxycodone is manufactured by modifying thebaine, an alkaloid found in opium. Oxycodone has a high abuse potential.
People who take the drug repeatedly can develop a tolerance or resistance to the drug’s effects. Thus, a cancer patient can take a dose of oxycodone on a regular basis that would be fatal in a person never exposed to oxycodone or another opioid. Most individuals who abuse oxycodone seek to gain the euphoric effects, mitigate pain, and avoid withdrawal symptoms associated with oxycodone or heroin abstinence.
Q.) How is OxyContin used?
Sometimes called “Hillbilly Heroin,” the powerful painkiller OxyContin is being abused by more and more people across the nation. Many well-known celebrities have found themselves hopelessly addicted to Oxycontin over the past few years.
When used properly, OxyContin’s time-release mechanism spreads the release of the drug over a 12-hour period. This time-release mechanism can be circumvented by crushing the tablet and the drug can be used in one of the following ways:
- The tablets can be chewed
- The tablets can be crushed, then snorted like cocaine
- The tablets can be crushed, dissolved in water, then injected like heroin
OxyContin abuse is spreading for a variety of reasons:
- It’s highly addictive
- Dosage is consistent, so it’s easy to monitor
- It’s covered by most health plans, so it’s cheap to acquire
Q.) What are the effects of OxyContin?
A.) Respiratory depression is the chief symptom of all opioid usage. This most frequently occurs in elderly or debilitated patients. Common opioid side effects are constipation, nausea, sedation, dizziness, vomiting, headache, dry mouth, sweating, and weakness.
Oxycodone should be used with extreme caution in patients with significant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and in patients with substantially decreased respiratory reserve, hypoxia, hypercapnia, or preexisting respiratory depression. In such patients, even usual therapeutic doses of oxycodone may decrease respiratory drive to the point of apnea. In these patients alternative non-opioid analgesics should be considered, and opioids should be employed only under careful medical supervision at the lowest effective dose. Oxycodone causes miosis, even in total darkness. Pinpoint pupils are a sign of opioid overdose but are not pathognomonic. Marked mydriasis rather than miosis may be seen due to hypoxia in overdose situations.
Gastrointestinal Tract and Other Smooth Muscle
Oxycodone causes a reduction in motility associated with an increase in smooth muscle tone in the antrum of the stomach and duodenum. Digestion of food in the small intestine is delayed and propulsive contractions are decreased. Propulsive peristaltic waves in the colon are decreased, while tone may be increased to the point of spasm resulting in constipation. Other opioid-induced effects may include a reduction in gastric, biliary and pancreatic secretions, spasm of sphincter of Oddi, and transient elevations in serum amylase.
Oxycodone may produce release of histamine with or without associated peripheral vasodilation. Manifestations of histamine release and/or peripheral vasodilation may include pruritus, flushing, red eyes, sweating, and/or orthostatic hypotension.
Concentration–Efficacy Relationships (Pharmacodynamics)
Studies in normal volunteers and patients reveal predictable relationships between oxycodone dosage and plasma oxycodone concentrations, as well as between concentration and certain expected opioid effects. In normal volunteers these include pupillary constriction, sedation and overall “drug effect” and in patients, analgesia and feelings of “relaxation.” In non-tolerant patients, analgesia is not usually seen at a plasma oxycodone concentration of less than 5 – 10 ng/mL.
As with all opioids, the minimum effective plasma concentration for analgesia will vary widely among patients, especially among patients who have been previously treated with potent agonist opioids. As a result, patients need to be treated with individualized titration of dosage to the desired effect. The minimum effective analgesic concentration of oxycodone for any individual patient may increase with repeated dosing due to an increase in pain and/or the development of tolerance.
Q.) Is OxyContin addictive?
Yes! OxyContin has become a hot new street drug, resulting in more than 100 deaths nationwide. It produces a high similar to heroin but with worse consequences. 5mg of OxyContin has as much oxycodone as one Percocet.
So if you can imagine chewing or snorting a 40mg OXY tablet, that would be similar to ingesting eight Percocets at once.