Oxycodone / OxyContin® Law
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opiate. It is the active ingredient in a number of commonly prescribed pain relief medications such as Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox. Each of these contains oxycodone in small doses combined with other active ingredients like acetaminophen.1 OxyContin is an extended release formulation of oxycodone, for long-term relief (up to 12 hours) of moderate to severe pain associated with conditions such as cancer and arthritis.2 Oxycodone is a schedule II controlled substance. Oxycodone, and particularly OxyContin has a high abuse potential, and in the past few years it has been linked to a number of overdose deaths.3 In 1996 data oxycodone was linked to 49 deaths; in 1999 that number rose to 262.4
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime classified oxycodone as a dangerous drug as part of The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Ordinance in 1960.5 But it was not until 1995, when the Food and Drug Administration approved the extended release version OxyContin®, that there was concern about widespread abuse. In 1996 when the manufacturer began to market and distribute OxyContin®, reports of illicit use and abuse began to increase.6 Substance abuse treatment facilities, law enforcement, and pharmacies in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Maine first reported increases in the abuse of OxyContin. Now, abuse of the drug is reported throughout the United States.7
OxyContin comes in four available dosages. 10, 20, 40, and 80mg tablets. A 160mg tablet was previously available but was withdrawn from the US market in May 2001 because of its severe abuse potential and the potential for lethal overdose.8 What is an appropriate dose varies by patient, but what is clear is that for patients not tolerant to opiates, or whose tolerance to opiates is unknown, a dose of OxyContin can be fatal. Crushing the pill into a fine powder or chewing it defeats the time-release mechanism of the drug, causing all of the drug to be absorbed more quickly, increasing the risk of an overdose. Mixing the drug with alcohol can be fatal.
Oxycodone works by attaching to pain receptors in the brain, which changes the pain messages being sent to the brain. Illicit users may initially use the drug to achieve a depressive, sleepy and drugged state, but once addicted, they must continue to use it to control withdrawal symptoms.
More serious complications and side effects from using oxycodone include:
- Breathing irregularity, snoring or agonal breathing, or respiratory depression
- Increased pressure of cerebral and spinal fluid
- Heart failure
- Low blood pressure
- Overdose death due to cardiac arrest or slowed breathing (especially when ingesting crushed OxyContin tablets)
Addiction & Withdrawal
When prescribed safely, side effects can be monitored by a physician. Prolonged use and abuse of oxycodone medications eventually change the brain in such a way to produce a withdrawal syndrome—and a user cannot usually quit on his or her own.9 Withdrawal symptoms may be severe and can include anxiety, nausea, insomnia, muscle pain, fevers, and other flu like symptoms.
What Happened in My Case?
If a physician prescribed too much oxycodone, OxyContin®, or Percocet to your family member, it may have resulted in an overdose, leading to death or a permanent injury, such as brain damage. If you want to speak to a lawyer about your case, contact us at http://overdoselaw.com/page/contacts
What Can I Do?
If you believe that a pharmacy or physician error resulted in an overdose for you or a family member, you should contact the Board of Pharmacy in your state for pharmacy errors, or the Medical Board in your state for physician errors.
If you believe the physician prescribing the drug was unreasonable to prescribe the quantity of drugs, or prescribed too many dangerous drugs, call the Drug Enforcement Agency and report the physician.
If you have questions about why your family member died or suffered from an overdose, and would like a free legal consultation, please contact an OxyContin attorney or submit a case review form to prescription overdose attorney at http://overdoselaw.com/page/contacts.
In many cases, we can review the relevant records, and help you understand why your family member died.
Call an OxyContin overdose attorney at 336.369.2185 or submit a case review form to an OxyContin overdose lawyer at
1Drug Enforcement Administration. March 2002. Drug Intelligence Brief: OxyContin. Retrieved January 3, 2003, http://www.dea.gov/pubs/intel/02017/02017.html
2Drug Enforcement Administration. March 2002. Drug Intelligence Brief: OxyContin. Retrieved January 3, 2003, http://www.dea.gov/pubs/intel/02017/02017.html
3 Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (W/B HIDTA). (2001). OxyContin Situation Report, 2001.
4 Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDP). OxyContin Fact Sheet. Retrieved January 28, 2001, http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/factsht/oxycontin/index.html
5 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Legal Library Document: 1961-01-27_1960-121. Retrieved January 3, 2003, http://www.undcp.org/odccp/legal_library/gm/legal_library_1961-01-27_1960-121.html.
6 Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (W/B HIDTA). (2001). OxyContin Situation Report, 2001.
7 Drug Enforcement Administration, Diversion Control Program. 2001. "OxyContin Special." DEA-Industry Communicator. Retrieved January 3, 2003, http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubs/nwslttr/spec2001/oxy_spec.pdf
8 Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (W/B HIDTA). (2001). OxyContin Situation Report, 2001.
9 Hanson, G.R. (2002). "Hearing before the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee United States Senate - 'OxyContin: Balancing Risks and Benefits'." Retrieved January 30, 2003, http://www.drugabuse.gov/Testimony/2-12-02Testimony.html.
New York Times, “Overdoses of Painkiller Are Linked To 282 Deaths,” October 28, 2001