You can overdose. You can get hooked. You can get infected. You can even get busted.
"And no, we're not talking about an illegal narcotic like heroin. OxyContin is a legal narcotic drug available in Canada as well as the U.S. and is prescribed for the relief of intense and chronic pain.
The problem with OxyContin, which is sold in capsule form and is taken orally, is what's in it, what's not, and the way the entire capsule is formulated.
The primary ingredient in Oxycontin is oxycodone, which is an opioid drug along the lines of morphine, codeine, heroin and methadone. Oxycodone is in other painkillers too, such as Percocet - a prescription medication also assigned to patients in need of pain relief after surgery, an injury, or other chronic illness.
But the difference between the two makes all the difference in the world.
Percocet, for comparison, contains 5 mg of oxycodone, and is designed for pain relief for about five hours. It also contains acetaminophen, which is what you'll find in Tylenol. Acetaminophen has a tendency to make you ill, if you take too much of it.
OxyContin, on the other hand, contains nothing BUT oxycodone; the genuine article in its purest form. There is nothing in OxyContin to make you sick; to serve as a red flag that you may have abused it. What's more, you can be prescribed OxyContin in 10, 20, 40 or even 80 mg of oxycodone, which packs a powerful punch if taken all at once.
Of course, the active (and lone) ingredient in OxyContin wasn't designed to be taken all at once, and the time-release characteristic of the capsule was meant to control the flow of oxycodone into your body. Hence the promise of slow-release, continuous pain relief for up to 12 hours.
Problem is, even the best ideas can go off the rails. Not that OxyContin was a good idea to begin with, given how easy it is to do an end-run around Perdue Pharma's much-heralded time-release system.
In other words, all you have to do is grind the capsule up, and you get the full impact of oxycodone all at once. The druggies call it getting a rush, and it didn't take long for word to spread on the street that there was a legal prescription narcotic that could make you high.
They even gave it a name: 'Oxy' or 'OC,' and some people have been known to shoot it directly into their veins like heroin.
This so-called 'Hillbilly Heroin' that runs rampant through mostly economically-depressed and rural regions in the U.S., is an equally serious problem in the Great White North. In 2003, for example, 2.8 million prescriptions were written for oxycodone drugs in Canada; most of those prescriptions filled in Ontario. That same year, CTV.ca reported that more than 100 deaths were registered in the province among individuals with oxycodone present in the bloodstream, a ten-fold increase from a decade earlier.
The problem is especially apparent in the Atlantic provinces, where a task force in 2004 recommended various initiatives ranging from youth education programs, to tamper-proof prescription pads.
Two of those Atlantic provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador, are considering a lawsuit against the makers of OxyContin, Perdue Pharma, in an effort to recover tax dollars spent treating Oxy addicts, and other provinces are said to be weighing their options.
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How wrong were they? U.S. $600 million wrong - the monetary settlement in the Perdue Pharma case that saw three of its most-senior executives plead guilty to misbranding, which is a criminal offence.
Meantime, in Canada the CMAH continues its' quest to bring Canadians up to speed on OxyContin, and its addictive qualities. How addictive is it?
Addictive enough to put you in withdrawal, and potentially ruin your life.
And the makers of OxyContin knew it all along.