OxyContin: Potential for Misuse Among Patients, As Well As Those Who Obtain It Illegally

By Lois Baker

Release Date: August 2, 2001

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- OxyContin, one of the newest drugs prescribed for pain, has become a destructive drug of abuse among recreational drug users obtaining it illegally.

In its time-release pill form, OxyContin is safe taken as prescribed. When abusers crush the pill and sniff the powder, they defeat its time-release function. In this form, the opiod drug is highly addictive.

Jeffrey Lackner, Ph.D., a pain specialist at the University at Buffalo, warns that the potential for abuse also is high among patients receiving the drug legitimately if they are not monitored closely by their physicians.

"Unfortunately, narcotics for chronic pain are -- literally and figuratively -- a prescription for disaster if the physician neglects to consider abuse potential, history of self-medication, and other behavioral and psychological factors which bear on the trajectory of pain states," Lackner says.

"By the same token, patients who see 'oxy' as a 'cure' for an incurable problem without enhancing self-care skills can be a problem. This is particularly true with anxious pain patients who often misinterpret negative emotions for pain and ratchet up their use of drugs.

"The push to prescribe OxyContin started with cancer pain, but has led to misuse and misprescription of 'oxy' for benign pain," Lackner said.