OxyContin® is a brand name for a specific formulation of oxycodone, a prescription analgesic (pain reliever) that is derived from opium. Oxycodone is a cousin of morphine, a drug used for severe pain relief -- and abused by addicts -- for almost 200 years.
In the past, oxycodone has been sold under the brand names Percodan®, Percocet®, and Tylox®.
OxyContin® is different from other varieties of oxycodone for three reasons: It contains no other active ingredients (such as aspirin or acetaminophen); it is available in 10, 20, 40, and 80 milligrams tablets, whereas the other common varieties are available in 2.5 and 5 milligram tablets; it has a timed-release coating that allows patients to take it only twice a day, avoiding many side effects. The drug is prescribed for patients with severe pain that is expected to last for an extended period, such as cancer patients.
A patient can take up to 80 milligrams of oxycodone in one dose, which enters the bloodstream gradually, over 12 hours. Other brands of oxycodone have about 5 milligrams per pill, so patients need more pills more often.
The timed-release coating, which makes OxyContin® convenient for real patients, is what Oxy abusers see as the “problem” with the drug.
Drug abusers can be creative. Whoever first decided to abuse OxyContin® learned how to “get around” the timed-release and got a large dose of oxycodone all at once. That person taught other drug abusers how to do it, and an epidemic was born.