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OxyContin is an Opioid produced by Purdue Pharmaceuticals. Like most other Opioids, OxyContin is prescribed for the management of chronic pain, injury-related pain, and surgery-related pain. Introduced in 1996, the effectiveness and marketing success of the drug exploded its popularity among prescribing doctors.

OxyContin Information

OxyContin, generically known as Oxycodone HCl, is a prescription Opioid tablet. Purdue Pharma designed the pill to release on a timed delay after ingestion in order to curb pain over a longer duration. It binds to the Opioid receptors in the brain and around the body to greatly reduce the amount of pain signals sent through the nervous system.

The reduction in signal communication in this way classifies OxyContin as a Depressant. Medication that increases certain activity in the nervous system would be considered Stimulants, such as Adderall and Steroids.

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Side Effects

  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleep apnea
  • Weak pulse
  • Confusion
  • Seizure
  • Respiratory arrest due to overdose

History Of OxyContin


1993 marked the beginning of OxyContin testing and research, which found that while the drug proved to be a powerful analgesic, it had some drawbacks. Over 80% of the participants reported adverse events during their trial use of OxyContin. Despite these startling results, Purdue pushed forward into planning their marketing campaign citing the effective analgesic (pain-killing) power of OxyContin. They chose to focus on the efficacy of the pain-killing rather than the problematic side effects.

Tapping Into A Larger Market

As a powerful and proven dangerous medication, OxyContin was only intended for use in severe, malignant health issues like cancer. In order to break out of that niche market and achieve larger success, the company developed a plan to reach doctors across the US. They met with 500 health professionals and found that over 70% were willing to prescribe OxyContin to a wide variety of pain patients, not just cancer patients.

Concerns Foreshadowing A Disaster

This “franchise” of doctors gave OxyContin a window into popular prescription practices that could allow them to explode in popularity among those in need of pain management. By 1997, prescriptions had been going well, but Purdue started receiving letters of concern about the risk of abuse that OxyContin posed.

In order to circumvent the loss in momentum these concerns started to bring, Purdue invested in an advertising campaign focusing on the chronic pain patient. Developing a new prescription drug is expensive, and Purdue wanted to ensure that they get their money back through direct and purposeful advertising. Running commercials featuring pain patients who are struggling to function without help from OxyContin was a powerful strategy for driving sales of their product.

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The Beginning Of An Epidemic

By 2000, the popularity of OxyContin grew to the point where its dangerous drawbacks became apparent. States like Kentucky began mobilizing task forces to reduce the number of illegal OxyContin use cases. Over the years, Purdue had attempted to paint a picture of OxyContin calling it safer and less prone to addiction.


The aggressive marketing tactics paired with downplaying the harm of the drug earned Purdue the largest settlement to come out of the Opioid epidemic. Now facing more than 2,000 lawsuits, Purdue has agreed to pay between $10-$12 billion. Lying about the dangers of a drug in order to secure more prescriptions over a longer period of time cost many people their lives and livelihoods.

OxyContin And The Epidemic

The introduction of OxyContin arrived just before the Opioid epidemic kicked off in the 2000s. No one brand or drug can be blamed for the damage done to millions of people throughout the country, but as one of the most popularly prescribed Opioids in the US, OxyContin certainly bears some blame.

Purdue pushed the drug as a newer, safer Opioid for prescription use. The risks of addiction were severely downplayed and in the late 90s, the talk about addiction hadn’t quite developed to the point where most people accepted use disorders as mental health issues. These factors, and more led to the rapid spread of OxyContin use and dependency in the US.

Managing An OxyContin Prescription

Given the past two decades of the Opioid epidemic, laws are more restrictive, and pharmacies have increased surveillance. Subsequently, doctors are more conscious and cautious about how many prescriptions they prescribe. Managing a prescription to OxyContin is difficult, but important in managing pain. Keeping an open line of communication with your doctor or pharmacist is a key step in avoiding long term harm.

A willingness to reach out to a medical professional not only reduces the number of dangerous consequences but makes any possible confusion less intimidating. Following the prescription exactly is ideal when you’re prescribed Opioids. Missing a dose happens from time to time with any prescription, but be sure to avoid doubling the dose the next time unless given explicit directions to do so by your doctor. The risk of overdose is still present with prescription Opioids like OxyContin.

Opioid Use Disorder

OxyContin prescriptions can lead to a dangerous dependence if left unchecked. Confronting your own substance use disorder or a loved one’s is extremely difficult, but necessary. The consequences are potentially deadly, but you don’t have to try and manage them alone. Reach out to a treatment provider and find help and information for your health.

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