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Am J Psychiatry. 2007 Nov;164(11):1750-6.

Prescription OxyContin abuse among patients entering addiction treatment.

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Treatment Systems Section, Treatment Research Institute, 600 Public Ledger Building, 150 South Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106-3475, USA.



OxyContin and other pharmaceutical opioids have been given special attention in the media, who frequently describe problematic users of the drug as previously drug-naive individuals who become addicted following legitimate prescriptions for medical reasons. The purpose of this study was to characterize the nature and origins of pharmaceutical opioid addiction among patients presenting at substance abuse treatment programs.


The authors evaluated the prevalence and correlates of OxyContin use and abuse among a population of 27,816 subjects admitted to 157 addiction treatment programs in the United States from 2001-2004. The data collected included the lifetime and past 30-day use of OxyContin and other drugs prior to admission to addiction treatment, source of drug supply, and prior treatment history.


Approximately 5% of all subjects who were admitted to the 157 addiction treatment programs reported prior use of OxyContin. Of those subjects, 4.5% reported using the drug on a regular basis for at least 1 year, and 2% reported use of the drug during the 30 days prior to admission. Seventy-eight percent of subjects who reported OxyContin use also reported that the drug had not been prescribed to them for any medical reason, 86% reported use of the drug to "get high or get a buzz," and 78% reported receiving prior treatment for a substance use disorder.


The patients in this sample did not include individuals from private therapists or pain clinics. However, among treatment-seeking individuals who use OxyContin, the drug is most frequently obtained from nonmedical sources as part of a broader and longer-term pattern of multiple substance abuse.

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