What is Oxycodone used for?
Oxycodone is a prescription drug used to relieve chronic pain. It has the same potency as morphine and a similar opiate effect. Misusing this prescription painkiller can bring lethal consequences, but it has grown in popularity because of the availability and relatively cheap cost of a powerful heroin-like "hit".
Is it a new designer drug?
Oxycodone is not a new drug. Its addictive and euphoric properties have been public knowledge since the 1920's. The abuse of Oxycodone is not a recent phenomenon either. It has been an issue in the United States since the early 1960s. But the recent exponential increase in the number of addicts which follows the release of a much more potent oxycodone variant, trademarked OxyContin.
Designed as a sustained-release version of the drug, OxyContin contains up to twenty times the normal amount of the active ingredient. It was soon discovered that by crushing the pills (destroying their slow-release polymer) and then swallowing, snorting or injecting the resulting powder a heroin-like high could be cheaply achieved.
What adverse effects does the drug have?
Dependence, tolerance development and liver damage. After their high, users experience 'pill sickness', severe muscular and joint ache that encourages repeat usage. Common misconceptions about the safety of prescription drugs conspire to heighten the risk of lethal overdose.
Why "hillbilly heroin"?
Oxycodone acquired its nickname due to disproportionately high addiction rates among rural communities becoming endemic in poor, sparsely populated areas such as the Appalachian valley (the poorest region of the States). As well as being relatively inexpensive, it is often much easier to misuse a prescribed drug than to secure other drugs in these areas. But the drug is increasingly rapidly spreading to US cities and to other social groups, as well as internationally.
How many people have died from using the drug?
Over 00 deaths in the States alone have been linked to Oxycodone abuse. But, beyond this death tool, there are also major concerns about the social effects. Some towns are witnessing addiction rates of up to 40% and large increases in drug-related crime. American drugs policy experts have claimed that this is potentially the most serious single-drug epidemic since opium took hold of the States in the 19th century.
How has the trend spread?
The major sources of Oxycodone to illicit users have been forged prescriptions, unscrupulous pharmacists, corrupt doctors and large-scale theft. There is no shortage of supply: critics have noted that the drug is both widely distributed and aggressively marketed. Some shopkeepers have pulled the product from the shelves but their motivation has often been as much fear of robbery as self-regulation. Doctors in the United States have, collectively failed to check the number of prescriptions they are issuing for the drug.
While there are fears that the UK could see an Oxycodone epidemic, there is some hope that stricter UK regulation of pharmaceutical companies could prevent a full-scale outbreak here.