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The History of OxyContin

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pillsOpiate drugs are a part of modern culture. They are woven into our history, are a troublesome part of our present, and are included in plans for the future. Opium and opiates have always been closely tied to medicine and pain management.

They still have important medical roles. This creates some confusion and controversy when it comes to addressing addiction. The history of opiates makes it difficult for some people to recognize the importance of treatment or their need for recovery. It makes it difficult for some people to speak up and ask for help. Anyone can find recovery through the right treatment and support. Understanding the history of opiates helps individuals, friends, and families see the truth about substance abuse and step free from addiction.

OxyContin’s Early Years

OxyContin is a well-known prescription painkiller. It contains oxycodone, an opium derivative. Oxycodone has been available for decades. Doctors and government officials have recognized its dangers for nearly as long. People began to voice concerns about oxycodone as early as the 1960s. The United Nations labeled it a dangerous drug. The United States classified it as a Schedule II substance. These are substances the Drug Enforcement Agency[1] considers, “drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.” Governments around the world acknowledged that oxycodone can create health and addiction issues. Awareness didn’t spread far beyond policing bodies at first, as the drug wasn’t used much for medical or recreational purposes. This changed when OxyContin entered the market.

medical formulasPurdue Pharma began making and marketing OxyContin in the early 1990s. They combined oxycodone with a time-release ingredient, making OxyContin the only opiate that promised multiple hours of pain relief. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved this formula in 1995. While it provided extended relief for some, it created greater problems for others. The drug was not as effective as hoped, leaving some in pain and others struggling with new substance abuse and addiction problems.

The Center for Substance Abuse Research[2] explains, “Prolonged use and abuse of oxycodone medications eventually change the brain in such a way that a user cannot quit on his or her own, a typical sign of addiction.” When a person takes oxycodone for extended periods of time or in larger doses than recommended, addiction develops. This isn’t a sign of personal or moral weakness. It is a normal biological and psychological response to opiate drug use.

Addiction isn’t the only risk associated with OxyContin use. OxyContin contributed to rapidly increasing overdose deaths. The Centers for Disease Control[3] shares, “In 2014, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving natural and semisynthetic opioids (e.g., morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone), 3.8 per 100,000, was the highest among opioid overdose deaths, and increased 9% from 3.5 per 100,000 in 2013.”

Every year, more people overdose on OxyContin and similar drugs. Purdue Pharma responded to the growing addiction and overdose crisis by changing the drug.

As[4] explains, “Because of widespread OxyContin abuse during the first decade and a half of the drug’s popularity, Purdue reformulated OxyContin in 2010, making it far more difficult to abuse by crushing and snorting the pills.”

More difficult doesn’t mean impossible. The drug also doesn’t have to be misused to cause overdose. Users found themselves switching to other substances or finding ways to work around the changes. They found themselves facing health crises resulting from taking too much of the drug or taking it in combination with other substances like alcohol, sleep aids, or anti-anxiety medications.

OxyContin Today

OxyContin is still a widely prescribed drug. Many people take it for medical and recreational purposes. Controversy and crises relating to OxyContin aren’t past history. Addiction continues to be a problem. Overdose rates continue to rise. A drug that promises relief continues to create problems instead. Luckily today there are resources for recovery.

There are options for managing pain and stress without using addictive substances. Modern science views addiction as a disease, and effective treatment methods stem from this understanding. Call Michael’s House to learn about your options. We can help you or a loved one create a future free from OxyContin.


[1] “Drug Scheduling.” Drug Enforcement Agency. Web. 21 Apr 2017.

[2]  “Oxycodone.” Center for Substance Abuse Research. 28 Oct 2013. Web. 21 Apr 2017.

[3] “Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2000–2014.” Centers for Disease Control. 1 Jan 2016. Web. 22 Apr 2017.

[4] “Fortune Of Family Behind OxyContin Drops Amid Declining Prescriptions.” 9 Jun 2016. Web. 21 Apr 2017.