Has Oxycodone Been Changed to Reduce Abuse?

Has Oxycodone Been Changed to Reduce Abuse?

Reformulations are an important step in curbing substance abuse

All opioid painkillers are made from natural chemicals in opium poppy, and the alkaloid that makes oxycodone is thebaine, a rare compound with stimulatory effects. Many drug users believe that thebaine-based oxycodone produces a more powerful high, so OxyContin, Percocet and other oxycodone-based drugs typically fall into a more restrictive control classification. According to the Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News website, OxyContin was the most-abused prescription drug of 2013, and surveys regularly find that oxycodone products are the prescription opiate of choice for painkiller addicts. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has longed sought to reduce the potential for abuse and overdose, so many pharmaceutical companies have responded by reformulating their medications.

Changes in Oxycodone Formulations

In 2010, the FDA approved a new controlled-release formulation of oxycodone hydrochloride, trade name OxyContin, which was designed to reduce its potential for nonmedical abuse. OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma retained the original potency and dosing recommendations, but the following changes were made:

  • Higher resistance to cutting, breaking, chewing, crushing and dissolving
  • The older formulations were taken off the market, so only the new drug is sold
  • The new formulation cannot be marketed as tamper resistant or safer to use

In 2012, a handful of studies presented at the American Pain Society annual meeting suggest that the new formulation had some positive effects. An in-house study conducted by Purdue Pharma found that OxyContin-related medical emergencies have dropped 18% since the reformulated product debuted in August 2010. Another study suggests a 49% reduction in the number of people abusing the new formulation, while a third study found that the street price for oxycodone dropped 22%. These findings were preliminary, so more study must be done, but early data suggests the changes yielded lower abuse rates. Forbes.com even wrote about a Boston pharmacy robbery in late 2012 in which one of the masked robbers specifically told the pharmacist that he did not want any OxyContin.

Oxycodone and Opiate Abuse

While the Purdue Pharma study shows a 49% reduction in the number of OxyContin abusers, the decline in non-oral abusers was actually 73%. One of the significant keys to the reformulation was limiting non-oral abuse in the following ways:

  • Crushing the tablets eliminates the controlled release and accesses the full potency
  • Crushed tablets can be snorted or dissolved and injected into the bloodstream
  • Intranasal and intravenous oxycodone use provides a stronger, more immediate high

While the reformulation has led to a decline in oxycodone abuse, it unfortunately did not result in a decline of opiate abuse overall. Several studies, including one by Purdue Pharma, showed a notable increase in heroin abuse after the more tamper-proof OxyContin hit the market. Rather than take the opportunity to get help, many oxycodone addicts switched to heroin or another opiate-based drug.

Opiate Addiction Help

Reformulations are an important step in curbing substance abuse, but professional treatment remains the most effective way to combat addiction. Rehab centers customize recovery plans for each patient, but common treatments include medically supervised detox, integrated mental health care, behavioral and motivational therapies, improved life skills, relapse-prevention strategies and individual, group and family counseling. Furthermore, holistic pain management therapies are available for people who initiated opiate use to deal with chronic pain.

Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day at our toll-free helpline to answer questions, make treatment recommendations and even to check health insurance policies for treatment benefits. If you need help, please call now for instant support.