Narcotic pain medications are commonly prescribed for severe episodes of back pain, but their potentially addictive nature can be a concern for doctors and patients alike. In small doses, narcotic medications can be highly effective in treating pain; however, the body quickly builds a natural tolerance to the medications and they lose effectiveness. To help maximize relief and minimize the risk of physical dependence, narcotic medications are typically only used as a short-term solution (less than two weeks).
OxyContin, with the active ingredient oxycodone, is one of the most commonly used and highly abused forms of narcotic pain reliever. The time-release formula slowly distributes the opiate oxycodone to moderate around-the-clock pain relief. Due to the controlled-release, each pill contains a large amount of oxycodone so that patients can take the drug less often.
Narcotics like OxyContin are popular with drug-abusers, who crush or dissolve the pills to receive the entire dose all at once and achieve an immediate high. The FDA recently approved a new formulation of the drug that is designed to decrease the likelihood of abuse through tamper-resistant features. One feature prevents the dissolution of tablets in liquid by turning them into a gummy substance that cannot be drawn into a syringe to be injected.
There is still some risk for abuse of the new formulation, likely through ingestion of higher-than-recommended doses. In order to monitor these effects, the FDA is requiring the manufacturer of the drug, Purdue Pharma LP, to conduct ongoing studies on use and misuse. In addition, the manufacturer is required to provide education and an informational guide to physicians and patients on the appropriate use of opioid analgesics for the treatment of pain.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug AdministrationOxycontin: Questions and Answers