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OxyContin as a Legitimate Drug and a Drug of Abuse

OxyContin is the brand name used to sell the extended-release form of oxycodone. It describes a semi-synthetic prescription opioid used to manage severe pain (Cheng and Coplan 568). Like all opioids, OxyContin carries the risk of psychological and physical dependence (United States Department of Justice 39). In addition to pain relief, it produces “euphoria and feelings of relaxation”, contributing to the likelihood of abuse and addiction (United States Department of Justice 47). Because of its value for pain relief and the high potential of misuse with severe consequences for the individual, OxyContin is classified as a Schedule II drug (United States Department of Justice 9, 23). It is typically abused by being crushed and sniffed as a powder or injected as a water-based solution, resulting in effects including weakness, confusion, fainting, and death (United States Department of Justice 47). While OxyContin is an invaluable analgesic, its addiction potential creates a pharmaceutical dilemma.

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As oxycodone has no direct replacement, and OxyContin is its only available extended-form release, healthcare providers cannot overlook it as an option in some cases. Attempts to mitigate its harm have led to an abuse-deterrent reformulation introduced in 2010, which makes OxyContin tablets harder to break or dissolve in water (Cheng and Coplan 568). While this reformulation has resulted in noticeably lower rates of extra-medical use and addiction, it has not removed the fundamental problem (Cheng and Coplan 574). OxyContin is recommended only when continuous long-term pain management is needed and cannot be provided by alternate means (Cheng and Coplan 568). Pharmacists and physicians should check their patients for addiction or abuse risks, such as a past personal or family history of substance abuse, before prescribing OxyContin to them. Prolonged use can also lead to respiratory depression and liver damage, making problems in those areas significant contraindications (United States Department of Justice 47). It is critical to ensure the correct dosage based on prior opioid exposure and other patient characteristics. With the right precautions, OxyContin’s current formulation may still be an optimal solution for chronic severe pain.

Works Cited

Cheng, Hui G., and Paul M. Coplan. “Incidence of Nonmedical Use of OxyContin and Other Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers Before and After the Introduction of OxyContin with Abuse Deterrent Properties.” Postgraduate Medicine, vol. 130, no. 6, 2018, pp. 568-574.

United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration. Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide. Drug Enforcement Administration, US Department of Justice, 2017.

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StudyCorgi. "OxyContin as a Legitimate Drug and a Drug of Abuse." February 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/oxycontin-as-a-legitimate-drug-and-a-drug-of-abuse/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "OxyContin as a Legitimate Drug and a Drug of Abuse." February 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/oxycontin-as-a-legitimate-drug-and-a-drug-of-abuse/.

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