Oxycodone the active ingredient in OxyContin and hydrocodone are the most
popular drugs among Americans who abuse prescription painkillers, a new study
OxyContin and Percocet are brand names for drugs containing oxycodone. Brand
names of drugs that contain hydrocodone include Vicodin and Lortab.
Researchers surveyed more than 3 500 prescription painkiller abusers in 160
drug-treatment programs across the United States. They found that 45% of
participants favoured oxycodone and 30% favoured hydrocodone.
Both drugs come in pill form, but almost 64% of oxycodone abusers and just
over one-quarter of hydrocodone abusers crushed the tablets and inhaled the
drug. One in five abusers said they sometimes dissolved oxycodone in water and injected
it. Less than 5% said they injected hydrocodone.
Gender, personality and age were all factors in drug preferences. OxyContin
was favoured by those who like taking risks and prefer to inject or snort drugs
to get high. Young males are likely to fit that profile, the researchers noted.
Hydrocodone was more popular among women, older people, people who didn't
want to inject drugs, and those who prefer to deal with a doctor or friend
instead of a drug dealer, according to the study in the December issue of the
Both drugs are opioids, a class of narcotics.
Oxycodone in pure form
"Opioids are prescribed to treat pain, but their misuse has risen
dramatically in recent years," principal investigator Theodore Cicero, a
researcher at Washington University, St Louis, who studies prescription drug
abuse, said in a university news release. "Our goal is to understand the
personal characteristics of people who are susceptible to drug abuse, so we can
detect problems ahead of time."
The survey found that 54% of respondents preferred the high they got from
oxycodone, while 20% said the high from hydrocodone was better.
"Among the reasons addicts prefer oxycodone is that they can get it in
pure form," said Cicero, a professor of neuropharmacology in psychiatry.
"Until recently, all drugs with hydrocodone as their active ingredient
also contained another product such as acetaminophen, the pain reliever in
Tylenol. That turns out to be very important because addicts don't like
When injected, acetaminophen causes considerable irritation. When swallowed
in large amounts, it can cause severe liver damage.
"Interestingly, addicts, while they're harming their health in one
respect by taking these drugs, report being very concerned about the
potentially negative side effects of acetaminophen," Cicero said.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has more about prescription
(Picture: Prescription pills from Shutterstock)