OxyContin & Oxycodone

Since the mid-1990s, a sharp increase of prescription drug abuse among youth, including college students, has been documented in numerous sources. In conjunction with this increase, the abuse of oxycodone has also grown. Oxycodone is an opioid'a prescription narcotic'used medically to control pain. Oxycodone acts on the brain, affecting the way a person experiences both pain and pleasure; because of this latter effect, use sometimes results in an initial euphoria. The marketed form of OxyContin (or in other forms, Percocet or Percodan) is a controlled-release tablet or capsule.

Abuse

People abuse oxycodone as a substitute for heroin, looking for the high or euphoria it can induce. Abuse is considered to be the use of prescription medications for nonmedical purposes and without medical supervision. Seeking to enhance the effects of oxycodone, abusers may crush the tablets to compromise the controlled-release function, which may lead to extreme and potentially lethal doses. Repeated or long-term use raises an user's tolerance to the drug, leading to increased use which can result in physical dependence and addiction.

Abuse of all prescription drugs increased markedly during the early years of the 21st century, with OxyContin garnering headlines for its rapid growth in abuse. The Monitoring the Future study and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health both include data on oxycodone abuse in their regularly published studies, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse includes information on abuse rates in its published Fact Sheets.

Consequences

In addition to inducing an initial high, oxycodone can cause drowsiness and constipation, as well as depress breathing. A single large dose can bring on respiratory distress or even death. Combining oxycodone with other drugs, such as alcohol and other depressants, including barbiturates, benzodiazapines, or antihistamines, can amplify the effects, in some cases to dangerous levels.

Effective Prevention

Because many people have valid reasons for being prescribed OxyContin and OxyCodone, it is important not to stigmatize the drugs, but rather to limit availability to the drugs. To help prevent students from obtaining the drugs from online pharmacies without a prescription, campuses can block access to online pharmacies and use spam-blocking programs to prevent online pharmacy advertisements from reaching students' campus e-mail addresses. Because many students get these drugs from friends and acquaintances who have valid prescriptions, campus health professionals can help limit availability be being very selective in prescribing OxyContin and OxyCodone to students. They can work with students' regular physicians to confirm the drugs are a medical necessity, and be especially watchful for students who ask for these drugs by name, ask to increase their dosage, or who repeatedly 'lose' pills.

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