The Federal Drug Administration approved OxyContin in late 1995 and the drug was put on the market in early 1996. Between that time and 2000, prescriptions for the drug have increased by 2,000 percent. Abusers discovered that they could get a powerful heroin-like high by crushing the pill and injecting, swallowing and inhaling the powder.
Abuse of OxyContin, the nation's best selling prescription painkiller, began in Maine and Virginia, spread to Kentucky and West Virginia and moved into Ohio about two years ago. Narcotics and health officials now say that OxyContin has become the pill of choice for many addicts. OxyContin is designed to treat moderate to severe, chronic pain. The drug's classification requires patients to present a written prescription to a pharmacist. Its time-released form allows patients to take it once every 12 hours.
Abuse of the drug has led to higher rate of overdose deaths and narcotics crimes. Oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin, was detected in 56 cases where toxicology tests were performed in 2000 and 2001. Of those people, 23 took fatal doses of the drug.