REDWOOD TOXICOLOGY LABORATORY

Oxycodone Drug Information

Classification

Opioids refer to a class of drugs, natural and synthetic, with morphine-like actions. Oxycodone is an opioid reported to have equivalent potency to that of morphine. Oxycontin® is the trade name of one of numerous Schedule II prescription drugs that contain oxycodone as the active ingredient. Other prescription drugs that contain oxycodone include Percodan® and Percocet®. Schedule II drugs are those which are approved for medical use and have a high potential for abuse and may lead to severe physical and psychological dependence. Oxycontin® was first introduced by Purdue Pharma in 1996 as a controlled sustained release formulation for pain relief. It was estimated that almost 6 million prescriptions for Oxycontin® were filled in the year 2000 and sales reached 1 billion dollars. It is legitimately prescribed for moderate to severe chronic or long-lasting pain. Abusers of the drug often crush the pills and dissolve them in water prior to injection for a rapid intense high.

Metabolism

A large portion of oxycodone is converted to the inactive metabolite noroxycodone during first-pass metabolism. Oxymorphone, also formed during oxycodone metabolism, is a strong narcotic that is also marketed as Opana®. The metabolism of oxycodone to oxymorphone is highly dependent on genetics with individuals being classified as slow metabolizers, extensive metabolizers, or ultra-fast metabolizers. Noroxycodone, oxycodone, and conjugated and free oxymorphone are excreted in human urine within hours of oxycodone ingestion and account for over 40% of the administered dose.

Abuse

The widespread availability of Oxycontin® tablets and the large amount of dose have made oxycodone one of the most commonly abused drugs. Oxycontin® tablets are to be taken whole to allow for the controlled release of oxycodone. However, abusers destroy the controlled release capabilities of Oxycontin® by either chewing the tablets prior to swallowing, crushing the tablets and snorting the powder, or crushing the tablets, dissolving in water and injecting. This allows for a rapid and large absorption of oxycodone into the blood stream producing a powerful euphoric high. The rapid, bolus absorption is also thought to be responsible for an apparent increase in oxycodone related overdoses in the United States. Oxycontin tablets can also be diverted and sold on the street for high profits.

Often users become addicted to oxycodone while under the care of a physician. Once they can no longer obtain the drug legally, they turn to heroin, which has seen a drop in price in recent years.

Laboratory drug testing: Methods of Analysis

Oxycodone does not produce a positive response to routine immunoassay screens for opiates, which generally target morphine and/or codeine; therefore, Redwood Toxicology Laboratory utilizes an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) screening method which specifically targets oxycodone at a cutoff of 100 ng/mL. Confirmation of presumptive positive urines should be performed by specific methods such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) or liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).


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Drug information data is not definitive and should be used for reference guidelines only.

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