Up to one-fourth of people entering drug rehabilitation programs say they have abused the newer version of OxyContin, which has been reformulated to make it harder to abuse, a new study finds.
The original version of OxyContin contained highly concentrated levels of the opioid oxycodone, which was designed so small amounts of the drug were released over a long period. A person who wanted to abuse the drug could crush and then snort it, or dissolve it in liquid and inject it.
The Food and Drug Administration approved an abuse-deterrent version of OxyContin almost five years ago, which is more difficult to crush, according to CBS News.
It turns into a gooey gel if it is crushed, making it almost impossible to snort or inject, the article notes.
"There are still some people who have figured out how to circumvent abuse-deterrent formulation," said lead researcher Theodore J. Cicero, PhD of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He notes some people take the pills orally, while others "cook" the pills in order to make them easier to crush.
The new study included 11,000 people being treated at 150 drug treatment facilities in 48 states. It was published this week in JAMA Psychiatry. Researchers found at the time the drug's abuse-deterrent formulation was introduced in 2010, 45 percent of study participants entering drug treatment said they had used OxyContin to get high at least once in the last month. Two years later, 26 percent said they got high using the abuse-deterrent formulation of the drug in the month before entering treatment.
Cicero acknowledged the newer version of OxyContin has helped reduce the number of people abusing the drug. "We found that the abuse-deterrent formulation was useful as a first line of defense," he said in a news release. "OxyContin abuse in people seeking treatment declined, but that decline slowed after a while. And during that same time period, heroin use increased dramatically."