OxyContin and Oxycodone—Are They the Same?

OxyContin and oxycodone have both become well known in the addiction treatment field as profoundly addictive drugs of abuse. They have also become well known in the public eye due to the opioid addiction epidemic of recent years. People often ask are they the same drug? The answer depends on from what perspective you ask. For example:

  • Is OxyContin oxycodone? Yes.
  • If I have a prescription drug that contains oxycodone, is that OxyContin? Not necessarily.


What Exactly is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is what we commonly call a pain killer or analgesic. It is a prescription drug commonly used in the treatment of moderate to severe pain. It is also commonly abused and can lead to an addictive disorder. In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified oxycodone as a Schedule II narcotic. This means it is available legally only by prescription and strictly monitored; considered to have legitimate medical uses, but to also be dangerous due to a high risk of physical and psychological dependence, or what we commonly call addiction.

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic drug. It has plant origins and is derived from thebaine, an alkaloid found in the opium poppy. Heroin and morphine are perhaps the most well-known derivatives of the opium poppy and are also known for their highly addictive qualities. These types of drugs belong to the broad pharmacological class of drugs known as opioids and includes such prescription drugs as oxycodone, morphine, codeine, fentanyl, methadone and hydrocodone. Illegal substances like heroin and illegally produced, fentanyl is also included. All have similar effects but vary in potency.

Oxycodone is Marketed Various Ways

Oxycodone is marketed as a single active ingredient drug commonly known as OxyContin. There are no other pain-relieving ingredients in OxyContin. However, oxycodone is also combined with other pain-relievers in medications such as Percocet, Percodan and Tylox. All such combined formulas are also legally available by prescription only for the treatment of pain. In combination formulations, oxycodone is mixed with other active ingredients such as aspirin, Tylenol or acetaminophen. All of these medications benefit many, however all are also misused and highly addictive.

The Effects of Oxycodone Use and Misuse

prescription drug addictionAll medications containing oxycodone induce the same effects to some degree. The effects vary only because the amounts of oxycodone in various medications differ, and of course, the dosages of each medication will cause differing effects. The general effects of oxycodone are however, relieved physical pain, relaxation and a sense of well-being. When abused, one becomes intoxicated and experiences euphoria in which not only physical pain, but psychological pain is relieved temporarily, too. Consequently, even medical use when properly supervised by a physician can result in misuse, abuse and addiction. And, people without medical need for oxycodone can obtain the drug illegally for intoxication or self-medication of physical and/or psychological pain.

The consequences of misuse in heavy or prolonged use can involve the development of an Oxycodone Use Disorder. An oxycodone disorder is diagnosed when at least 2 of the symptoms below occur within a 12-month period. The symptoms of an Oxycodone Use Disorder are:

  • Oxycodone is taken often in larger amounts over a longer period than was originally intended.
  • One feels a persistent desire to reduce or stop use of oxycodone and has unsuccessful efforts to do so.
  • A great deal of time is spent obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of oxycodone.<
  • There are cravings or strong urges to use oxycodone in periods between episodes of use
  • There is recurrent oxycodone use which results in failing to fulfill major role obligations at work, home, or school.
  • Oxycodone use continues even though one has persistent or recurring social or relationship problems caused or worsened by oxycodone use.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are neglected or reduced because of oxycodone use.
  • Oxycodone is used recurrently in situations that are physically hazardous, such as driving an automobile or operating work equipment.
  • Oxycodone use continues despite knowledge that its use is causing or worsening a physical or psychological problem.
  • Tolerance develops which means that one needs more of the drug over a period of time in order to achieve the desired intoxication effects.
  • >Withdrawal symptoms occur when use has stopped, or the usual dose is reduced.

The History and Nature of OxyContin

Prescriptions containing oxycodone like Percocet and Percodan were known in the medical community to have a potential for abuse and addiction long before OxyContin was created. And, many have developed severe addictive disorders using such drugs. However, the advent of OxyContin in 1995 took the dangers of oxycodone to a new level. OxyContin contains only oxycodone as the single pain-relieving ingredient, and it is significantly stronger milligram to milligram than medications containing aspirin, acetaminophen or Tylenol along with oxycodone. In fact, some estimate that milligram per milligram, OxyContin is 1.5-2 x stronger than combination formulations of oxycodone like Percocet.

OxyContin is credited with fueling the prescription opioid epidemic in the U.S. still a major public health crisis continuing over two decades now. OxyContin is also seen as a major cause in the following heroin epidemic which also continues.

When OxyContin was reformulated in 2010 to make it less readily abusable through various methods of use, many sought a replacement such as heroin which was also a great deal cheaper in the illegal market. In fact, legislation was enacted to monitor prescribers of such highly addictive drugs and clinics in which great amounts of OxyContin were prescribed (known as ‘pill mills’) were closed, also causing addicts to look elsewhere for a substance to continue their use. Additionally, other drugs containing oxycodone and other pain-relievers were not viable alternatives for many whose tolerance for oxycodone developed in OxyContin abuse required far higher dosing.

There is Hope for Recovery from OxyContin and Oxycodone Addiction

OxyContin and oxycodone with other pain-relievers pose many medical risks and withdrawal from them should always be medically supervised and monitored. Even when used per prescription, these drugs require a gradual discontinuation for safety. Withdrawal is difficult and unsupported attempts to stop use are apt to result in returning to use to stop the distress of withdrawal.

Withdrawal can also result in medical crisis and can even be life threatening, involving organ damage, respiratory failure, cardiac problems, and coma when not medically managed. Working closely with addiction treatment professionals can best ensure withdrawal success and safety, and one should always seek detox in a medically competent program that is particularly skilled in opioid detoxification.

Countless people have overcome their addictions and if you or your loved one is addicted to a form of oxycodone, there is effective treatment available that can help you successfully overcome an Oxycodone Use Disorder. It is vital that you seek help in the right setting and with professionals who are trained in the treatment of oxycodone addiction. It is also vital that you collaborate with treatment professionals, disclosing the true nature of your problem so they can effectively and safely help.

If it is time to address your oxycodone problem, or if a loved one is ready for treatment, we can help you find an appropriate program for safe detox and effective treatment. Give us a call today. We provide free consultations in which we clarify your specific clinical needs, preferences and insurance coverage. Recovery is more than possible with the right help. We will help get you there.



Call us today and let us help you get on the road to recovery!