The Politics Surrounding OxyContin

OxyContin can provide much-needed relief for people who are suffering from moderate to severe, around-the-clock pain. This powerful prescription analgesic is an opiate, however, and has become one of the most abused drugs out there. OxyContin is often used recreationally and abused for the rapid, heroin-like high it can produce.

This popular street drug commands a premium on the black market, and many people who start off abusing OxyContin switch to heroin, which is a cheaper alternative. Some people mistakenly feel that prescription opiates are somehow safer because a doctor prescribes them. Opiate addiction can develop swiftly and is very hard to kick without help.

Diversion Of OxyContin Is Major Problem

OxyContin is a Schedule II Controlled Substance and carries a black box warning because of potential dangers such as abuse, addiction and overdose. Some people argue that doctors overprescribe this medication, allowing it to be diverted in many ways. Avenues from which OxyContin ends up on the street include:

  • People who obtain a legitimate prescription and sell it
  • Theft from patients, pharmacies
  • "Doctor shopping," or obtaining multiple supplies by visiting multiple doctors
  • Illegal Internet websites
  • Prescription forgery
  • Doctors who prescribe this medication in an illicit manner
  • "Pill mills" that dole out pills, sometimes in large amounts and without a prescription

OxyContin Marketing Gets Manufacturer In Hot Water

Unlike many other prescription drugs, OxyContin is not directly marketed to the masses. Purdue Pharma, which manufactures the drug, does advertise to medical professionals, however. The company has been chastised in the past by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which argued the company minimized the drug's risks and made unsubstantiated claims in marketing materials.

In 2007, three of the company's top executives pleaded guilty to misleading the public about risks and paid $634 million in fines.

OxyContin Abuse Shows No Signs Of Slowing

OxyContin abuse has affected nearly every community in the country. No area has been hit harder than states in the Appalachian region, such as Kentucky. The number of people with coalmine injuries here means the drug is in high demand. Efforts to treat or quell this growing problem have made little impact throughout the country. These efforts include breaking up OxyContin trafficking rings, adding more treatment centers and the adoption of prescription drug monitoring databases in many states.

The drug's controlled-release mechanism can be disabled by chewing or crushing the pill. Many people who abuse it then snort or inject it. Overdose deaths attributed to OxyContin have also skyrocketed in the last several years.

It's uncertain how officials will tackle this epic issue, but one plan calls for breaking up so called "pill mills," many of them in Florida, that fuel the interstate trade of OxyContin. Many argue the problem has become so out of control that resolving it won't be easy.