European Views on Oxycodone

European Views on Oxycodone

Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller that has been used in Europe for nearly a century

Oxycodone, which was originally developed in Germany, is one of the most commonly abused prescription substances in the United States, where the rate of prescription drug abuse is higher than the rate of illicit drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse in the United States continues to increase, as more and more Americans suffer from chronic illnesses and manage their symptoms with medication. The abuse of prescription drugs such as oxycodone is not as prevalent in Europe as in the US. However, prescription drug abuse continues to increase throughout Europe.

Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise in Europe

Europe Against Drugs (EURAD) has noted the alarming increase of prescription drug abuse in the United States and Canada, as well as recent increases in Europe. EURAD notes that “Europe may not be far behind” in the prescription drug epidemic. According to EURAD, prescription drugs are the second or third most abused substances in many European countries.

History of Oxycodone Use in Europe

Oxycodone has been available in Europe since 1917. Since the 1920s, the European public has recognized oxycodone as an addictive substance with the ability to induce euphoria. Oxycodone was not released in the US until the 1950s, where it was first abused in the 1960s. Oxycodone abuse became a much more prominent problem in 1996, when Purdue Pharma developed OxyContin, a formulation of oxycodone that allowed for as many as 12 hours of pain relief.

Due to its potency, OxyContin quickly became a widely abused substance. OxyContin abuse escalated so quickly in the United States that the original formulation of OxyContin has been outlawed and replaced by what is intended to be a safer alternative. When OxyContin was introduced to Europe, problems with oxycodone diversion increased, but not on the same level as in the United States. However, exact statistics are not readily available, as many European countries do not have a systematic method of collecting data on substance abuse.

Oxycodone Abuse in the United Kingdom

While oxycodone abuse has been present in the United States since the 1960s, oxycodone was not abused in the UK until the early 2000s. In 2002, the first known death due to oxycodone overdose occurred in the UK. An eighteen-year-old girl overdosed on OxyContin after taking several pills at a party. In the UK, oxycodone is classified as a Class A drug according to the Misuse of Drugs Act, which means that it is considered one of the substances “most likely to cause harm.” Illegal possession of oxycodone is punishable with unlimited fines, up to seven years in prison, or both.

European Views of Opioid Pain Relief

The European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) reports that in many European countries, especially in Eastern Europe, fear of diversion and substance abuse often prevents patients in need from receiving adequate pain relief through the use of opioids. Perhaps a widely held distrust of opioids is the reason oxycodone abuse has not been as prevalent in Europe as it has been in the US. Western European countries, such as the United Kingdom (UK), allow easier access and availability to medications such as oxycodone. Even so, oxycodone abuse in the UK remains relatively rare.

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