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OxyContin is a trade name product for the generic narcotic oxycodone hydrochloride, an opiate agonist. Opiate agonists provide pain relief by acting on opioid receptors in the spinal cord, brain, and possibly in the tissues directly. Opioids, natural or synthetic classes of drugs that act like morphine, are the most effective pain relievers available. Oxycodone is manufactured by modifying thebaine, an alkaloid found in opium. Oxycodone has a high abuse potential and is prescribed for moderate to high pain relief associated with injuries, bursitis, dislocation, fractures, neuralgia, arthritis, and lower back and cancer pain. It is also used postoperatively and for pain relief after childbirth. Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox are other trade name oxycodone products.
Oxycodone is a central nervous system depressant. Oxycodone's action appears to work through stimulating the opioid receptors found in the central nervous system that activate responses ranging from analgesia to respiratory depression to euphoria. People who take the drug repeatedly can develop a tolerance or resistance to the drug's effects. Thus, a cancer patient can take a dose of oxycodone on a regular basis that would be fatal in a person never exposed to oxycodone or another opioid. Most individuals who abuse oxycodone seek to gain the euphoric effects, mitigate pain, and avoid withdrawal symptoms associated with oxycodone or heroin abstinence.
OxyContin is an oral, controlled-release oxycodone that acts for 12 hours, making it the longest lasting oxycodone on the market. Patients taking shorter acting oxycodone products, such as Percocet, may need to take the product every 4 to 6 hours. While drug doses vary by individual, the typical OxyContin dose prescribed by physicians ranges from two to four tablets per day. OxyContin was developed and patented in 1996 by Purdue Pharma L.P. and was originally available in 10 milligram (mg), 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg tablets. A 160 mg tablet became available in July 2000. By comparison, Percocet and Tylox contain 5 mg of oxycodone and Percodan-Demi contains just 2.25 mg. The strength, duration, and known dosage of OxyContin are the primary reasons the drug is attractive to both abusers and legitimate users.
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