The most serious risk of OxyContin® abuse is overdose. What makes OxyContin® especially useful for patients with severe pain is its timed-release feature: patients can take one dose that will last 12 hours, rather than having to take three or four pills in that same period. Each pill contains 10, 20, 40 or 80 milligrams of oxycodone, appropriate amounts for certain patients to be taking over twelve hours’ time, but very large amounts for anyone to take all at once.
OxyContin® abusers have found a way to get around the timed-release aspect of the drug in order to feel the total effect of the large amount of oxycodone all at once. The drug was not tested for safety when taken in this way. Many abusers have overdosed on their first use, or when trying a larger amount than they are used to taking. Oxy overdoses can kill, just as any other drug overdose can kill.
Symptoms of opioid overdose include pinpoint pupils, very slow heart rate, slow, shallow breathing, noticeably low body temperature, seizures, and coma. If not treated in a hospital immediately, people overdosing on opioids die of respiratory depression.
Since OxyContin® was introduced in 1996, deaths related to oxycodone have increased 100%, and emergency room visits have increased 400%!