OxyContin Addiction Addressed by Tablet Redesign

OxyContin Addiction Addressed by Tablet Redesign

In an effort to combat OxyContin addiction and abuse, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given approval to Purdue Pharma for a new OxyContin formula. This new version of OxyContin is the first in what the FDA hopes is a long line of enhanced abuse prevention features in narcotic drugs.

The new formulation will be controlled-release and each pill will contain more OxyContin, requiring less doses of the drug. The pill will have a plastic-like coating that should reduce an OxyContin addict’s ability to cut, break, chew, crush, dissolve or snort the dose. In its current form, OxyContin abusers have been able to obtain high levels of oxycodone all at once. This high dosage of oxycodone can result in a fatal overdose, and contributes to OxyContin addiction.

Approval for the new, harder to abuse, OxyContin tablet was recommended by federal health advisors last fall. The medical experts voted resoundingly in favor of the new formulation, and recommended that Purdue Pharma be required to conduct a long-term study determine its efficacy on the reduction of OxyContin addiction and abuse.

Because of the severe withdrawal symptoms associated with sudden cessation of OxyContin use, medical supervision of the termination of OxyContin use is strongly recommended. Symptoms of withdrawal include anxiety, nausea, insomnia, muscle pain, muscle weakness, fevers and other flu-like symptoms. Further, pregnant women who suffer from OxyContin addiction should notify their obstetricians; newborn babies have been known to experience OxyContin withdrawal after birth by an OxyContin addict.

Addiction to OxyContin ingredient has long history

Oxycodone, the major ingredient in OxyContin, has a rather long history. Up until the early 1900’s, the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer mass-produced heroin, which was then used as a painkiller. Once medical professionals discovered its hazardous addictive properties, production was halted and research into a safer replacement was initiated

First synthesized from thebaine at the University of Frankfurt in 1916, researchers hoped that oxycodone would have the same pain management effects as heroin and morphine, but without the accompanying addiction. Studies found that both the strength and length of Oxycodone’s analgesic effects are less than that of heroin and morphine. Whether oxycodone addiction would be less severe than addiction to heroin or morphine remained to be seen. Oxycodone was introduced to the United States in 1939.

Recognizing the addictive nature of the intense, immediate high that could be attained by oxycodone abuse, time-released OxyContin was first introduced for patient use in 1996. It was revolutionary in its handling of chronic pain, providing relief for up to twelve hours per dose. Unfortunately, drug addicts quickly realized that crushing the OxyContin pills and snorting them gave them a heroin-like high.

While oxycodone has been successful at reducing heroin and morphine addiction in sick patients, there has been an alarming rise in its production (ten tons vs. seventy-five tons) over the last decade. The United States is currently the largest consumer of oxycodone. In 2008, almost one hundred years after its first discovery, Purdue Pharma had $2.5 billion in sales of the time-release version of oxycodone, OxyContin.


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