Abuse and addiction of powerful opioid painkillers have become rampant across the country, devastating families and communities from every background. OxyContin, in particular, seems to make the news just about every day. Millions of people hold prescriptions for this painkiller, and some become quickly dependent upon it. When taken correctly, this medication can provide relief for serious pain and suffering.
OxyContin has been on the market since the mid 1990s and is the brand name for oxycodone hydrochloride, a narcotic painkiller available by prescription. It's meant to treat moderate to severe pain that is around-the-clock. There is a huge demand for this drug on the black market, fueled by forged prescriptions, theft, fraud, over prescribing, the Internet and so-called "pill mills." These are pain management clinics, some which hand out medication with few questions asked.
Dangers of OxyContin Abuse
OxyContin has effects that are similar to those caused by heroin. The medication has a high abuse potential and has caused a number of overdoses and deaths. It is a central nervous system depressant so it's especially dangerous when combined with other substances that have this effect, such as alcohol. This medication is a controlled-release formula and is meant to be taken orally twice a day. Some people crush or chew the tablets in order to snort or inject the medication and experience a "high." This is dangerous and could cause overdose.
Recent statistics are sobering. Examples include:
*The U.S. Department of Justice's National Drug Intelligence Center comes out with a National Drug Threat Assessment each year. The report from 2010 said the threat posed by the diversion of drugs such as OxyContin is influenced by the increase in availability of these drugs. *The assessment report cites a DEA statistic that shows a 53 percent increase in the amount of prescription opioids such as OxyContin distributed to retail registrants between 2003 and 2007. *The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that in 2009, there were 7 million U.S. residents ages 12 and older who abused prescription painkillers such as OxyContin within the past month. The agency said this represents a 13 percent increase over the previous year. *The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse says that nearly 1 million people in the U.S. have taken OxyContin for non-medical reasons at least once in their lifetime.
OxyContin Misuse Can Lead to Bigger Problems
Some people are naïve about the dangers of OxyContin use. Many believe that a prescription medication is safer than illegal drugs purchased on the street. It's important to remember that OxyContin can be highly addicting and has effects like those produced by heroin. OxyContin pills purchased on the street can fetch upwards of $20 per pill. This has contributed to a rise in the number of people using heroin, which is much cheaper.