Know the facts, connect with resources, and get one-on-one support to help you address known or suspected OxyContin misuse with your child.

What is OxyContin?
OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone hydrochloride, an opioid (narcotic) analgesic (pain reliever). OxyContin is a controlled-release oral formulation of oxycodone hydrochloride. It is available by prescription only and is used to treat moderate to severe pain when around-the-clock pain relief is needed for an extended period of time. It works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain.1

What are some slang terms?
O.C., Oxycet, Oxycotton, Oxy, Hillbilly Heroin, Percs

Signs of Use:
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Mood changes
  • Flushing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
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What does it look like?
OxyContin is available in tablet form in eight doses: 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg, 80 mg, 160 mg.

How is OxyContin used?
As pain medication, OxyContin is taken every 12 hours because the tablets contain a controlled, time-release formulation of the medication. Most pain medications must be taken every three to six hours. People who misuse OxyContin remove the sustained-release coating to get a rapid release of the medication. When misused, OxyContin tablets are crushed and snorted, chewed, injected or smoked.2

What do young people hear about it?
Taking OxyContin after removing the sustained-release coating causes a rush of euphoria similar to heroin.

What are the risks of OxyContin use and misuse?
The most serious risk associated with opioids, including OxyContin, is respiratory depression — slowed breathing. Common opioid side effects are constipation, nausea, sedation, dizziness, vomiting, headache, dry mouth, sweating, mood changes, flushing, loss of appetite, and weakness. Taking a large single dose of an opioid could cause severe respiratory depression — slowed or difficulty breathing that can lead to death.2

Recent research suggests that, as a whole, opioids are not significantly better than non-opioid pain relievers in relieving acute and chronic pain.3 This means that alternative options should first be explored with healthcare providers. If those first-line options are not effective, taken exactly as prescribed, opioid pain relievers can manage pain effectively.

Chronic use or misuse of opioids can result in physical dependence and addiction. Dependence means that the body adapts to the presence of the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced or stopped. Tolerance to the drugs’ effects also occurs with long-term use, so a person misusing prescription opioids must take higher doses to achieve the same or similar effects as experienced initially. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use.

The epidemic of prescription opioid misuse and abuse has led to increased use of heroin.

1Drugs of Abuse | A DEA Resource Guide: 2017 Edition. “Oxycodone.” Drug Enforcement Agency, 2017. Web. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/sites/getsmartaboutdrugs.com/files/publications/DoA_2017Ed_Updated_6.16.17.pdf#page=47. Accessed 26 Oct. 2018.
2MedlinePlus. “Oxycodone.” US National Library of Medicine, 15 March. 2018, https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682132.html. Accessed 26 Oct. 2018.
3Shah A, Hayes CJ, Martin BC. Characteristics of Initial Prescription Episodes and Likelihood of Long-Term Opioid Use — United States, 2006–2015. MWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:265–269. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6610a1
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); U.S. National Library of Medicine
Reviewed & Updated: August 15, 2018

Next Steps

Look for Warning Signs

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Talk with Your Kids

Take action by having frequent conversations with the teens and young adults in your life about the dangers of medicine abuse. Learn how.