OxyContin® is a prescription painkiller used for moderate to high pain relief associated with injuries, bursitis, dislocations, fractures, neuralgia, arthritis, lower back pain, and pain associated with cancer. OxyContin® contains oxycodone, the medication’s active ingredient, in a timed-release tablet.
Oxycodone is a Schedule II narcotic analgesic and is widely used in clinical medicine. It is marketed either alone as controlled release (OxyContin®) and immediate release formulations (OxyIR®, OxyFast®), or in combination with other nonnarcotic analgesics such as aspirin (Percodan®) or acetaminophen (Percocet®).Oxycodone-related adverse health effects increased markedly in recent years. In 2004, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for marketing generic forms of controlled release oxycodone products.
Pharmacological effects include analgesia, sedation, euphoria, feelings of relaxation, respiratory depression, constipation, papillary constriction, and cough suppression. A 10 mg dose of orally-administered oxycodone is equivalent to a 10 mg dose of subcutaneously administered morphine as an analgesic in a normal population. Oxycodone’s behavioral effects can last up to 5 hours. The drug is most often administered orally. The controlled-release product, OxyContin®, has a longer duration of action (8-12 hours).
Short Term Effects-The most serious risk associated with opioids, including OxyContin®, is respiratory depression. Common opioid side effects are constipation, nausea, sedation, dizziness, vomiting, headache, dry mouth, sweating, and weakness. Taking a large single dose of an opioid could cause severe respiratory depression that can lead to death.
Long Term Effects-As with most opiates, oxycodone abuse may lead to dependence and tolerance. Acute overdose of oxycodone can produce severe respiratory depression, skeletal muscle flaccidity, cold and clammy skin, reduction in blood pressure and heart rate, coma, respiratory arrest, and death.
Chronic use of opioids can result in tolerance for the drugs, which means that users must take higher doses to achieve the same initial effects. Long-term use also can lead to physical dependence and addiction — the body adapts to the presence of the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced or stopped. Properly managed medical use of pain relievers is safe and rarely causes clinical addiction, defined as compulsive, often uncontrollable use of drugs. Taken exactly as prescribed, opioids can be used to manage pain effectively.
Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin®, has come under fire recently for its aggressive, off-label marketing practices. The drug maker has been sued for failing to adequately disclose abuse and diversion risks associated with the drug.