Oxycontin is a prescription opioid used for treating pain that is not well managed by non-opioid pain medicines. Misuse of opioids such as Oxycontin can be habit-forming, addictive and even fatal. In fact, more than 100 Americans die from opioid overdose every day. It is important to learn about Oxycontin to use it safely and to recognize misuse.
What Is Oxycontin?
The main ingredient in Oxycontin is a long-acting formulation of oxycodone. However, the names Oxycontin and oxycodone are often used interchangeably. Oxycodone, also referred to as the “oxy drug,” is a morphine-like chemical derived from part of the opium plant. Oxycodone works by interacting with the central nervous system to trigger relaxation and pain relief.
The difference between Oxycontin and oxycodone is that Oxycontin only refers to the extended-release formulation. Oxycontin is meant to treat chronic pain. Oxycodone, the active ingredient in Oxycontin, is available by itself as an immediate-release (IR) formulation or in combination with other pain medications. Immediate-release formulations, such as Oxycontin IR, are for treating pain on an as-needed basis. Oxycodone 30 mg is the highest dose of IR oxycodone available. There is also an Oxycontin 30 mg dose, and the brand’s highest dose is Oxycontin 80 mg.
What Does Oxycontin Look Like?
Oxycontin pills are small and round with numbers etched on them that indicate the strength of the pill. They may come in different colors, such as white, green and brown. If not in their original bottle, Oxycontin pills can be virtually impossible to tell apart from other medications by appearance alone, so people can disguise them easily.
Street Names for Oxycontin
Oxycontin goes by several other names. Sometimes it is called oxycodone, which is the generic name for the drug. People selling or buying Oxycontin on the street (without a prescription) might also call it:
Oxy 30, Oxy 40s, Oxy 80s
30s, 40s, 80s
Oxycodone vs. OxyContin
OxyContin is a brand-name version of the extended-release form of . They are different versions of the same drug. OxyContin and immediate-release oxycodone belong to a drug class called opioids. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way and are often used to treat similar conditions. Immediate-release oxycodone and OxyContin both bind to receptors in your brain and spinal cord. When they do this, they block pain signals and stop pain.
Side by side: Drug features
Immediate-release oxycodone is used to treat moderate to severe pain, such as from surgery or an injury. OxyContin is usually reserved for longer-lasting pain from the late stages of a long-term disease, usually cancer. Doctors may sometimes add immediate-release oxycodone to treatment with OxyContin during brief moments when the pain becomes severe.
Cost, insurance coverage, and availability
Oxycodone immediate-release tablets are available as generic drugs. They usually cost less than OxyContin. Your insurance plan may also prefer generic oxycodone over OxyContin. This means they may cover only one of the drugs or only generic forms. You should call your insurance company to ask if one drug is preferred over the other. You should also call your pharmacy to see if they keep these drugs in stock. Not all pharmacies carry these drugs.
The side effects of oxycodone and OxyContin are very similar. This is because they contain the same active ingredient. The most common side effects of these drugs include:
changes in mood or behavior
Severe side effects of these drugs are less common. They include:
allergic reactions, such as rash, itching, hives, and swelling of your face, lips, or tongue
feeling faint or lightheaded, which may cause falling
trouble urinating or changes in the amount you urinate
unusual weakness or tiredness
What is the Difference Between OxyContin and Oxycodone? The Opioid Crisis in Context
Oxycodone is the generic name of a semisynthetic opioid pain medication estimated to be twice as potent as morphine. Originally developed in 1917, its immediate-release formulation is indicated for the treatment of both acute and chronic pain and is now included in a variety of branded formulations, such as Percocet, that offer a variety of administration methods. But while oxycodone is highly effective for alleviating pain, it is also highly addictive. In fact, “the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime classified it as a dangerous drug as part of The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Ordinance” in 1960 precisely due to the high risk of addiction inherent to the drug. Cognizant of this, the medical community generally approached oxycodone and other opioid prescriptions with some degree of caution for decades. When OxyContin was released in 1995, however, that changed.
OxyContin is an extended-release version of oxycodone developed by Purdue Pharma ostensibly to create a safer opioid that offered patients long-lasting relief from pain while minimizing the risk of addiction. In order to set OxyContin up for optimal success, Purdue devoted significant resources to countering concerns regarding the dangers of opioids from the outset, casting their drug as a viable solution to a plethora of conditions that went far beyond traditional therapeutic opioid use. “The company funded research and paid doctors to make the case that concerns about opioid addiction were overblown, and that OxyContin could safely treat an ever-wider range of maladies,” writes Patrick Radden Keefe in The New Yorker. “Sales representatives marketed OxyContin as a product to ‘start with and to stay with.’”
The strategy worked; in its first four years of release, sales of OxyContin would increase by over 2,000 percent, accounting for $1.1 billion in sales in 2000 alone. But OxyContin as a product wasn’t the only thing Purdue was selling; where Purdue really succeeded was in marketing the idea that opioids as a class could be used safely and effectively by a wide variety of users, for a wide variety of conditions, without significant risk of addiction. Their campaign fundamentally changed attitudes of both clinicians and patients, creating an extraordinary shift in prescribing practices that many believe to be the genesis of the opioid crisis. “If you look at the prescribing trends for all the different opioids, it’s in 1996 that prescribing really takes off,” says Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University. “It’s not a coincidence. That was the year Purdue launched a multifaceted campaign that misinformed the medical community about the risks.”
Both Oxycodone and Oxycontin contain the same active ingredient with differences primarily in their dosage forms. While both drugs share the same side effects, they also carry similar risks of abuse, dependence, and addiction. However, the risk of side effects and overdose may be greater with extended release Oxycontin, especially if it is taken improperly. In instances of more severe pain, Oxycontin may be a more potent option in relieving pain due to its longer duration of action. Because these drugs are Schedule II controlled medications with specific instructions for use, it is important to consult with a physician regarding individualized dosing and drug interactions.