It is not always easy to separate fact from fiction when it comes to prescription painkiller use. The following OxyContin facts provide insights on the powerful opioid drug that has been blamed for the current heroin epidemic.
Is OxyContin Always Addictive?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them.” The longer you take opioids like OxyContin, the greater the risk. In fact, the agency says that up to one in four patients who are on long-term opioid therapy struggle with opioid addiction. Therefore, in light of research findings, the CDC says patients should limit their use of opioids to a shorter course — several days’ worth — and that nonpharmacologic therapy like exercise therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy “should be used to reduce pain and improve function in patients with chronic pain.” Long-term use of opioids like OxyContin is recommended only for such severe conditions as cancer pain.
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), some 92 million American adults used prescription painkillers that year and more than 12.5% of them admitted to abusing the medication.1
Can OxyContin Use Lead to Death?
Although nearly 50% of the opioid-related deaths in 2015 were attributed to prescription drugs, an overwhelming majority of these deaths involved a combination of opioids with other drugs and alcohol, rather than prescription drugs alone. The prevalence of co-occurring disorders among opioid abusers is higher than in the general population. In one study of opioid abusers seeking treatment, psychiatric comorbidity was present in 47% of participants. An analysis of opioid users in residential treatment for co-occurring substance use and mental disorders showed varying degrees of polysubstance abuse. Abused substances included alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, other opiates and sedatives. Mixing opioid painkillers with other drugs can be extremely dangerous and lead to death.1,2
How Does Reformulated OxyContin Differ From the Original?
Both versions of OxyContin contain oxycodone, an opioid agonist and Schedule II controlled substance with a high potential for abuse similar to other opioids including fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine and oxymorphone. Reformulated OxyContin is bioequivalent to the original formulation and has the same benefits and risks as original OxyContin. The difference is the new OxyContin is reformulated with inactive ingredients intended to make the tablet more difficult to manipulate for misuse and abuse. Data from clinical studies demonstrate OxyContin has physicochemical properties expected to make abuse via injection difficult and reduce abuse via the intranasal route. However, the abuse of reformulated OxyContin is still possible via these routes and when taken orally.3,4
Can OxyContin Be Used During Pregnancy?
No, it is contradicted because prolonged use of OxyContin during pregnancy can result in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. This condition may be life-threatening if not recognized and treated and requires protocol-based management developed by neonatology experts. If opioid use is required for a prolonged period during pregnancy, the woman should be advised of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and appropriate treatment must be available and offered. The Maternal Opioid Treatment: Human Experimental Research (MOTHER) trial assessed the efficacy and safety of addiction treatment in opioid-dependent pregnant women. While there were no statistical differences in the maternal outcome between buprenorphine and methadone detox, buprenorphine resulted in less severe cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome in infants.
- Reports and Detailed Tables From the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, https://www.samhsa.gov/samhsa-data-outcomes-quality/major-data-collections/reports-detailed-tables-2015-NSDUH
- Bride BE, Macmaster SA, Morse SA. A Comparison of Opioid and Nonopioid Substance Users in Residential Treatment for Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Disorders. Soc Work Public Health. 2016 Nov-Dec;31(7):678-687.
- Reformulated OxyContin FAQs. OxyContin website. https://www.oxycontin.com/frequently-asked-questions/reformulated-oxycontin/ Accessed February 14, 2017.
- Abuse-Deterrence Studies FAQs. OxyContin website. https://www.oxycontin.com/frequently-asked-questions/abuse-deterrence-studies/ Accessed February 14, 2017.
- What should I know when taking OxyContin? OxyContin website. https://www.oxycontin.com/patient/frequently-asked-questions/while-taking-oxycontin/ Accessed February 14, 2017.
- Jumah NA. Rural, Pregnant, and Opioid Dependent: A Systematic Review. Subst Abuse. 2016 Jun 20;10(Suppl 1):35-41. doi: 10.4137/SART.S34547.