OxyContin works as a painkiller by blocking messages to the brain, alerting of discomfort or a problem somewhere in the human body. Because of its potential for abuse, its side effects, and its propensity for addiction, OxyContin’s composition and labeling were required to change, per the FDA. As a result, demand has decreased, but the drug is still extremely dangerous.
While for most people, the idea of a dangerous drug brings to mind heroin, crack, and even methamphetamine, OxyContin is actually one of the deadliest and most addictive substances available. The fact that OxyContin is manmade and is accessible through a doctor’s prescription does not make it safer for human use than a drug like heroin. In fact, prescriptions for OxyContin are what has led to the majority of drug use progressing to abuse and addiction in the United States.
OxyContin, the brand name of Purdue Pharmaceuticals’ pill version of the painkiller oxycodone, is a narcotic, just like heroin. Along with Vicodin, Percodan, Percocet, morphine, codeine, methadone, and heroin, OxyContin and this entire classification of drugs, called opiates or opioids, have an extremely high rate of abuse, an even higher rate of addiction, and an undeniable link as the cause of thousands of overdose deaths every year.
OxyContin, created to mimic the effects of morphine, is comprised mainly of oxycodone. The drug works by blocking pain messengers in the brain via the central nervous system. Internal levels of the natural neurotransmitter dopamine are affected, making the individual feel more pleasure and even euphoria, but the whole experience is chemically created. As a result, organic dopamine production is thrown out of whack, and the drug seems to be the only way to ever have a positive experience again.
When used properly, as medically prescribed, OxyContin is a highly effective painkiller that relieves the suffering of cancer patients and those with major physical pain. In an effort to treat acute and chronic pain, the FDA approved OxyContin for medical use in 1995. Since its introduction to the medical community, OxyContin has quickly become one of the most addictive and deadly drugs available. When taking more OxyContin than medically necessary, the drug produces a euphoric feeling, but that is never why a physician has recommended the drug for use.
The pill version of oxycodone was designed with a slow-release formula so that only the appropriate amount of medication makes its way into the user’s bloodstream at any given time. With this method, ongoing pain can be properly alleviated. However, the potential for ways to abuse OxyContin was realized almost immediately. Instead of just relieving pain, OxyContin users figured out how to manipulate the drug to also get high.
After years of OxyContin sales, Purdue Pharmaceuticals was found liable for the drug’s addiction and death rates. The company entered a guilty plea to a single felony count of misbranding and paid out $600.5 million. Plus, three of the company’s top executives were each charged with misbranding misdemeanors and fined $34.5 million, which the company paid.
Changes to the Deadly Drug
As a result of the lawsuit, Purdue Pharmaceuticals reformulated OxyContin to reduce its abuse potential. Along with the changes came a new label warning of the drug’s side effects, dangers, and probability of addiction. The combined charges have proven effective in decreasing the demand for OxyContin.