Much of the information that’s available about OxyContin is negative. For example, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration suggests that this specific painkiller was involved in a whopping 464 overdose cases in a two-year time span. This makes this drug one of the most dangerous substances available. But the drug wasn’t designed to be dangerous. In fact, it wasn’t made for recreational use at all.

A Solution to a Problem

In 1995, administrators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved OxyContin for prescription use. A number of people in the United States were dealing with very serious medical problems that caused intense, long-lasting pain, and they just weren’t getting relief from the products that were available in pharmacies. OxyContin was designed to change that, as it provided a potent dose of an opiate over an extended period of time. This meant that people could get the relief they needed by only taking one or two pills per day.

Unfortunately, users quickly discovered that they could work around the time-release function in these pills by crushing the pills and:

  • Inhaling the powder
  • Rubbing the powder into their gums
  • Mixing the powder with water and injecting the solution
  • Swallowing the powder

These methods allowed all of the power of the drug to hit the user’s body at one time, and when that happened, users could get remarkably high very quickly. Users could also overdose, as the strength of the medication was hard to predict. Someone accustomed to taking the pills by mouth might be surprised when injection delivers a bigger high in seconds, and that surprise could lead to overdose.

Changing Formulas

OxyContin manufacturers responded to concerns about addiction by changing the formula in the pills in 2010. The new pills are harder to abuse, as they don’t burst into powder when they’re crushed, and they don’t dissolve in water. The pills are also much harder, so they’re difficult to break apart at all. The FDA suggested that the new pills could still be abused, but that the new formulas might force users to choose a different focus for abuse, or stop their habits altogether, and no generic formulations that don’t include an abuse deterrent would be approved by the FDA.

It’s too early to tell what the future of OxyContin might bring, as the formulation change has only been in use for a few years at the time of this writing. It could be that users will develop new and innovative techniques they can lean upon in order to continue abusing this specific drug, or they might move to different drugs and different habits due to the changes in formula the developers have created. This is an issue addiction professionals are watching closely, so they’ll know how to respond in order to assist their clients.

At Michael’s House, we continue to monitor any changes to painkiller prescription rates and abuse statistics. We look forward to the day when people won’t have access to the drugs they can abuse, but until then, we’ll keep working to treat people who have addictions and provide them with the help they’ll need to stay clean in the future. If you’d like to discuss how we can help with one of our admissions coordinators, please call.