Oxycontin® (the brand name for a time-release formula of oxycodone) is an opiate similar to morphine in its pain relieving power and addiction potential.
The active ingredient is oxycodone, and the drug was first marketed as a safer alternative to morphine because it comes in a time release tablet. The problems seen with morphine are at least partly due to how quickly it acts, making a time-release product a rational choice.
The difference between Oxycontin and other formulations is that Oxycontin doesn't contain other active ingredients that may interfere with its use/abuse. Percocet and other opioids have acetaminophen added.
Prescribed as a pain reliever
When used properly, this is the case. However, those who use the drug illegally find ways to defeat the time-release formulation and get more of the drug very quickly. But even when used correctly, Oxycontin is addictive. Physicians who prescribe it have to weigh the pain-reliving benefits against the possibility of an Oxycontin addiction and the withdrawal that will come when the medication is stopped.
Oxycontin addiction on the rise
Oxycontin (and oxycodone) addiction is on the rise all over the United States. While it is unknown exactly why this is, some suggestions are a consequence of enforcement against other drugs in the opiate class (heroin as an example) and the availability through legitimate medical supply. Another factor in Oxycontin addiction may be that users think a manufactured drug will be safer than a "street drug." Enforcement is made more difficult as well because there are legitimate users of the drug.
Oxycontin addiction follows the same pattern as addiction to heroin. Users increase their doses over time in an attempt to recapture the euphoria that they originally experienced. Eventually, the drug only returns them to a "normal" state and the full addiction becomes a battle to keep withdrawal symptoms away.
All doses of the drug come through legal manufacturing and are diverted into illegal use. Because of this, a regular supply of Oxycontin may be unavailable and addicts will often switch between drugs in the same class to prevent withdrawal. Some will "discover" heroin as a cheap alternative and harden their addictions even more. Oxycontin addiction will also commonly progress from oral dosing to snorting and then to injection in an attempt to get a faster, more powerful high.