Oxycodone has the greatest potential for abuse and the greatest dangers. It is as powerful as heroin and affects the nervous system the same way. Oxycodone is sold under many trade names, such as Percodan, Endodan, Roxiprin, Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet and OxyContin. It comes in tablet form.
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opiate manufactured by modifying the chemical thebaine, an organic chemical found in opium. It is the active ingredient in a number of commonly prescribed pain relief medications such as Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox. Each of these contains oxycodone in small doses combined with other active ingredients like aspirin.
OxyContin, another prescription form of oxycodone, is available in doses ranging in strength from 10mg to 80mg tablets. Intended use of OxyContin is for long-term relief (up to 12 hours) of moderate to severe pain associated with conditions such as cancer and arthritis.
A unique property of OxyContin is that the tablets are time released, that is the effects of the drug and its analgesic properties take effect over a set period of time rather than all at once. It is similar to codeine and methadone in its analgesic (pain-killing) properties.
Currently, oxycodone products and all of the medications containing it, are Schedule II controlled substances. OxyContin, which may be the most recognized form of oxycodone, is a drug with a high abuse potential, and in the past few years it has been linked to a number of overdose deaths. In 1996 for example, data from the federal government linked oxycodone to 49 deaths, but in 1999 that number rose to 262.
The use of OxyContin and oxycodone products also continues to increase, and though nobody knows exactly how many people are abusing them, a research study in 2000 found that more than 8% of teenagers reported having abused pain relievers at least once in their lifetime.
Use is not limited to adolescents and teenagers; every age group has been affected by illicit use of oxycodone and its perceived safety. Sometimes seen as a “white collar” addiction, oxycodone abuse has increased among all ethnic and economic backgrounds.
OxyContin can be rather expensive. A 40mg tablet (prescribed from a doctor) costs approximately $4, but the street value (the cost when illegally obtaining the drug) can range in price from $25 to $40.
Oxycodone is often mixed with other analgesics, including acetominophen and asprin, to make short-acting pain medications. There are up to 50 different drugs that include oxycodone as an active ingredient.