Oxycodone is also known by the trade names of Tylox®, Percodan®, and OxyContin®.  Oxycodone is a schedule II narcotic analgesic and is widely used in clinical medicine.  The introduction in 1996 of OxyContin®, commonly known on the street as OC, OX, Oxy, Oxycotton, Hillbilly heroin, and kicker, let to a marked escalation of its abuse as reported by drug abuse treatment centers, law enforcement personnel, and health care professionals.

Oxycodone is an opioid analgesic medication often prescribed for use in treating moderate to severe, and chronic pain.  It is available as a single ingredient product, or may be combined with other products such as acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.  OxyContin is the brand name for a time-release version of oxycodone.

Some, but not all, of the side effects of taking oxycodone include nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, a sense of euphoria, headache, and dry mouth.  There is also the possibility of withdrawal effects if the drug is abruptly discontinued.

Reported use of oxycodone as a recreational drug in the United States began in the 1990s.  Although oxycodone has a similar high to heroin, many young or newer drug abusers prefer it because of the negative reputation of heroin.  Although it does not have the taboos associated with it, oxycodone abuse may lead to an addiction similar to heroin, and may lead to a fatal overdose.

Oxycodone is popular among young and new drug users because it is easy to use (either by mouth or snorting), it is easily accessible, and because it is a prescribed drug, therefore its contents are known, unlike heroin or other “street” drugs whose contents and purity are unknown.  Oxycodone may also be covered by some user’s health insurance plans.

According to the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, OxyContin® use is increasing and is behind a growing number of crimes.  Some jurisdictions report a 75% increase in crimes that they attribute to the use of OxyContin® and one county in Virginia has reported that OxyContin® addiction results in 80% to 95% of the crimes committed there.

Oxycodone has been marketed in combination products with aspirin and acetaminophen (Percodan® and Percocet® ) for many years. Diversion and abuse of these products continue. However, because they contain these other ingredients and only 5 to 10mg of oxycodone, they are primarily abused orally. While prescriptions for oxycodone combination products have increased during the period from 1996 to 2000, prescriptions for oxycodone single entity products (such as OxyContin® ) have increased over fourteen-fold.

OxyContin® has become a target for diverters and abusers of controlled substances because of the larger amounts of the active ingredient in relation to other previous oxycodone products and the ability of abusers to easily compromise the controlled release formulation. Simply crushing the tablet can negate the timed effect of the drug, enabling abusers to swallow, inhale, or inject the drug, which is water soluble, for a powerful morphine-like high.

Common means of OxyContin® diversion are fraudulent prescriptions, doctor shopping, over-prescribing, and pharmacy theft. There have been many instances of pharmacies being robbed strictly for their supply of OxyContin® . Investigations have uncovered organized rings of individuals diverting, selling and abusing OxyContin® . Intelligence has also shown that foreign diversion is another source of the OxyContin® being sold and used illegally in the United States.

Sources:

Oxycodone, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Oxycodone&oldid=451633940 (last visited Sept. 21, 2011).
Action Plan to Prevent the Diversion and Abuse of OxyContin, http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drugs_concern/oxycodone/abuse_oxy.htm (last visited Sept. 21, 2011).