There are many, many mind-altering substances that have proven to be problematic on a societal level. Of course, we often associate substances like alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine with problematic intoxicants, but many of the most dangerous substances are ones that are synthetic and man-made, created in a lab to be helpful rather than harmful. A prime example exists in the various pharmaceuticals that exist. In fact, we’ve only recently seen a decline in the abuse of and addiction to pharmaceutical drugs after over a decade of high rates of prescription drug addiction. However, even though rates of prescription drug abuse are down, substances like oxycodone remain a nuisance today. But what, exactly, is oxycodone? Where did it come from and what are its effects? And how do you overcome oxycodone addiction?
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WHAT EXACTLY IS OXYCODONE?
Narcotics on a mirror. Out of focus reflection of a drinking businessman.
Before discussing oxycodone, it’s necessary to look back on the development of opiate drugs as a whole as well as of opium in particular. According to records, opium — the powerful narcotic obtained from the seeds of the opium poppy — has been used by humans for approximately seven thousand years or perhaps even longer. Having originated in the Mediterranean area, opium use was had several key uses, including as a painkiller during primitive surgical procedures, for spiritual practices and ‘enlightenment’, and even recreationally. Over time, these uses of opium spread through many other populations in the Mediterranean, North African, Eastern European, and Western Asian areas, but it wasn’t until opium made its way to China that it began cementing its place in human history.
In China, opium quickly became a hot commodity. It didn’t take long for the Chinese to develop a major opium addiction problem with so-called ‘opium dens’ emerging throughout the region. Sure enough, Chinese emigrants brought opium to the United States as they traveled westward, often spurred by the availability of jobs and other opportunities. Once it reached the U.S., opium became a problem for Americans, too. As in China, many opium dens appeared throughout North America, prompting research into alternative versions of opium that had similar therapeutic benefits without the addictive potential or side effects. This led to the discovery that the active ingredients in opium were two main alkaloids: codeine and morphine.
Morphine became a major commodity in the U.S., particularly for its medicinal and surgical uses. In fact, morphine was instrumental in treating wounded soldiers throughout the American Civil War; however, morphine still had addictive properties, so additional research sought to find alternatives to the addictive drug. In fact, it was experimentation with morphine that would eventually lead to the development of heroin in Germany. Following heroin’s creation, it was initially marketed and sold as a cough suppressant until finally being made illegal in the early 1900s. Although heroin was quite effective, it was even more powerful and addictive than morphine, so researchers returned to the search for a newer and safer opiate. The result of this search was the creation of oxycodone in 1916.
Oxycodone was first developed in Germany during World War I as part of the search for morphine-like substances that didn’t have such high potential for abuse and addiction. However, like other opiates, oxycodone binds to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, which is how the drug is able to achieve its pain-killing properties. Percodan — a combination of oxycodone and aspirin — was released in 1950 and quickly became one of the most-prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. By 1963, it was discovered that Percodan accounted for more than one-third of all drug addiction in the state of California, eventually leading to the classification of oxycodone as a Schedule II drug in 1970. However, it was the release of OxyContin — an extremely potential form of oxycodone — in 1996 that would trigger the greatest opiate addiction epidemic ever seen; the effects of the OxyContin are still felt today in the form of the heroin epidemic.