OxyContin®, a narcotic pain reliever produced by Purdue Pharma, was approved by the FDA in 1995 as the brand name of a time-release formula of oxycodone. Oxycodone is an opioid analgesic (pain reliever) derived from thebaine, an opium derivative. Oxycodone was produced as a semi-synthetic opioid in Germany in 1916.
Percocet® is also a narcotic pain reliever, marketed by Endo Pharmaceuticals. Comprised of a combination of oxycodone and paracetamol (acetaminophen), Percocet® can be used to treat moderate to severe pain. Percocet® was approved by the FDA in 1976.
Oxycodone is very similar to hydrocone as they are both narcotic analgesics and antitussives (cough suppressants). However, oxycodone is considerably more potent than hydrocodone. The main differences between the two main types of oxycodone, OxyContin® and Percocet®, are related to their potencies, effects and their chemical mixtures. Firstly, OxyContin® is far more potent than Percocet® for a number of reasons. Percocet® provides pain relief for approximately 5 hours, while the effects of OxyContin® last up to 12 hours. This is due to several factors. OxyContin®, unlike Percocet®, is a time-released narcotic analgesic and the dose of oxycodone found in one OxyContin® pill is released periodically throughout a time period of approximately 12 hours. Furthermore, OxyContin® is comprised of pure oxycodone, while Percocet® contains acetaminophen. One OxyContin® pill contains as much oxycodone as in 16 Percocet® pills. Because Percocet® contains acetaminophen, it can make people sick if they consume too much of it. Consuming as little as 4 grams of acetaminophen a day can result in very harmful side effects. Consuming 10 to 15 grams a day can lead to hepatotoxicity (liver damage), jaundice or even liver failure. Consuming 15 to 20 grams can be fatal. However, many patients and drug abusers avoid the risk of hepatotoxicity by also consuming large amounts of water because acetaminophen is water-soluble.
OxyContin® and Percocet® are considered major drugs of abuse. The abuse of oxycodone has consistently escalated since OxyContin® was approved by the FDA in 1995 and introduced to the United States in 1996. This high level of abuse has been reported and is widely known by health care professionals, law inforcement personnel and drug abuse treatment centres throughout North America. Due to its extreme potency and staggering list of harmful side effects, the distribution of oxycodone, and especially OxyContin®, is highly regulated and monitored. For example, a physician can fill hydrocodone prescriptions verbally over the phone. Whereas prescriptions for oxycodone can only be filled with a written prescription, thus making it harder for oxycodone abusers to attain oxycodone illegally. Despite these efforts, oxycodone is highly trafficked on the illicit market and distributed illegally all over the country.
Short-term side effects of oxycodone include pain relief, euphoria, feelings of relaxation, constipation, swelling, itching, drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting, dry mouth, sweating, weakness, nausea, headache and papillary constriction. A large single dose can lead to severe respiratory depression that can lead to death. Behavioural effects can last up to 5 hours. As is with injecting most drugs of abuse, users run the risk of contracting life threatening infections such as HIV or hepatitis.
Similar to most opiates, long-term abuse can lead to dependence and tolerance. An overdose is also possible and can result in cold a clammy skin, reduced blood pressure and heart rate, severe drowsiness, a comatose state, respiratory depression or arrest, skeletal muscle flaccidity and death. Long-term use can also result in addiction and severe withdrawal symptoms can occur if long-term use is stopped abruptly. It is not advisable to self medicate with oxycodone. If used exactly as it is prescribed, it can be effective in treating moderate to severe pain.