OxyContin: Hillbilly Heroin Or Effective Painkiller For Chronic Pain?

OxyContin abuse and OxyContin addiction are issues in spite of abuse deterrents.

In 2010, Purdue Pharma implemented a new abuse-deterrent mechanism in the OxyContin time-release pill. The updated OxyContin contained a gel-matrix made up of a special polymer that made certain methods of OxyContin abuse difficult or impossible. These methods included snorting crushed OxyContin tablets and injecting the liquified contents of an OxyContin tablet. Unfortunately, this new abuse-deterrent technology did not stop the abuse of OxyContin. As noted by the CDC in their 2016 opioid report, most abuse of prescription pain pills involves the drug user simply swallowing pills intact. 

OxyContin a painkiller for chronic, intractable, non-malignant pain.

In the early 2000s, Purdue began to market OxyContin for use in the treatment of chronic pain. Patients who were prescribed long-acting opioids for significant, ongoing severe pain were able to function better in their activities of daily living. OxyContin, a controlled-release form of the semi-synthetic opioid oxycodone was effective in making chronic pain more manageable for many patients. As an extended-release drug, OxyContin uses a special hardshell coating, containing tiny holes, to gradually release oxycodone as it travels through the intestines.

Physical dependence and opiate withdrawal symptoms.

As prescribing of OxyContin became more widespread, some doctors and patients were not aware of the issue of physical dependence on opioids. Hence, when patients would discontinue OxyContin abruptly, they would experience withdrawal symptoms. To make matters worse, some doctors confused physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms with addiction. Patients who might not have been addicted to the drug were labeled as being junkies. Furthermore, there were also patients who developed a use disorder, actually becoming addicted to oxycodone.

Understanding OxyContin addiction.

The makers of this drug have been disciplined in the past and for good reason. They promoted the oxycodone extended-release tablet as being minimally addicting. What we have learned over the years is that OxyContin addiction is possible and happens at a significant rate. Yet, the majority of patients treated by doctors with this medication for chronic pain did not become addicted. Hence, while careful monitoring of patients is important, it is also important to have a balanced view of prescription painkillers in that they carry the risk of addiction, yet they are also an important part of the treatment of chronic severe pain.

OxyContin Addiction Treatment using Suboxone therapy.

During the course of long-term pain relief from OxyContin, some patients may become addicted. The treatment of OxyContin addiction with Suboxone has a high rate of success. This can be done as part of a comprehensive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. If these patients continue to also suffer from chronic pain, the Suboxone may provide adequate pain relief in addition to treating the symptoms of opioid use disorder. If you are concerned about OxyContin addiction, ask your doctor about Suboxone treatment for opioid addiction.

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