Is OxyContin an Opiate?
OxyContin is a prescription drug that’s frequently talked about and also very often given to patients to manage pain ranging from moderate to severe. People often wonder what OxyContin is, whether or not OxyContin is an opiate and what the effects of the drug are.
The following provides an overview of OxyContin, and also answers specifics like “is OxyContin an opiate.”
The term opiate refers to drugs that are derived from opium found in the poppy plant. In the past, the term opiate was used to describe only naturally derived substances from this class, but in more recent years the terms opiate and opioid have started to be used interchangeably with one another.
For the most part now opioid is a blanket term that refers to all opiates, including those that are natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic. In strictest of terms, however, opioid would refer to synthetic opiates which were manufactured to replicate the action of opiates.
Opiates or opioids are substances that bind to opioid receptors in the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract, and whether they’re synthetic, semi-synthetic, or naturally-derived, they act on the brain and body in the same ways.
When opioids attach to receptors in the CNS, they block pain, they slow the activity of the central nervous system including respiration, and they can create a sense of euphoria or a high, particularly at large doses. Opioids also make people feel relaxed and drowsy.
The respiratory depression that they create can be one of the biggest risks of using these drugs because breathing can slow to the point that a person overdoses or dies. Other significant risks of opiates and opioids are addiction and physical dependence. Physical dependence means that your body becomes used to the presence of opiates or opioids and then if they stop using them suddenly they go through withdrawal.
Some opioids include prescription painkillers, as well as buprenorphine and the illegal street drug heroin.
First, OxyContin is a prescription drug that’s considered a controlled substance by the DEA in the U.S. This means that it does have a high potential for abuse and addiction. OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone in its pure form, and it’s an extended-release version of the drug. This means that it can be used to treat around-the-clock pain, rather than used as an as-needed pain treatment.
It does do well for treating pain, but with OxyContin people often abuse it and try to get the full effects of this time-release drug all at one time. This can occur by taking it in ways other than how it’s prescribed, such as crushing it and snorting it, or dissolving it in a liquid and injecting it. This creates a euphoric high, and thus the common abuse of OxyContin. Oxycodone can also be taken in immediate-release formulations and is often included in combination drugs like Percocet, which contain the oxycodone as well as acetaminophen.
Is OxyContin an opiate?
Yes, however, it would be considered a semi-synthetic opiate. More commonly OxyContin is classified using the term opioid, although as was described below, the terms are often used in place of one another and interchangeably.
So, is OxyContin an opiate or opioid? We can say both, but in if we’re following the strictest definition of this terminology, Oxycontin is a semi-synthetic opiate.
Since OxyContin is an opiate or opioid, it has all the risks of these drugs including the potential for respiratory depression, addiction, and physical dependence.
While OxyContin is considered an opiate, the structure is different to an extent, so it isn’t detected by a standard opiate test unless it’s taken in very high doses. A standard opiate test strip would show drugs like morphine and codeine at much lower doses, and oxycodone at an extremely high level only. Low levels of OxyContin usually aren’t going to be picked up in a urine test, although even if not, they may be picked up in hair testing.
However, other specific drug tests may be positive for oxycodone use.
For example, there are differences in drug tests that classify them as 5-panel, 9-panel, and 12-panel. A basic 5-panel test can determine things like cocaine and opiates, but a 12-panel test specifically includes screening for oxycodone. Unless you’re given that 12-panel test, you may not test positive for opiates if you’re just using OxyContin. Again, this isn’t always true.
What can also happen is that someone’s use of OxyContin might show up on the 5-panel test as something else like morphine, so it’s a false positive in that instance. There are also various false positives that occur not just with OxyContin, but a variety of other synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids.
Drug testing can come up with varied results, and if you’re asking will OxyContin test positive for opiates it ultimately depends on things including the dose you take, as well as the type of drug test panel that you’re given.
Have more questions about OxyContin abuse?Read the most frequently asked questions
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