Trends in abuse of OxyContin® and other opioid analgesics in the United States: 2002-2004

Theodore J. Cicero, James A. Inciardi, Alvaro Muñoz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

401 Scopus citations


OxyContin® (Purdue Pharma L.P., Stamford, Conn) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995 as a sustained-release preparation of oxycodone hydrochloride and was thought to have much lower abuse potential than immediate-release oxycodone because of its slow-release properties. However, beginning in 2000, widespread reports of OxyContin® abuse surfaced. In response, Purdue Pharma L.P. sponsored the development of a proactive abuse surveillance program, named the Researched Abuse, Diversion and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS®) system. In this paper, we describe results obtained from one aspect of RADARS - the use of drug abuse experts (ie, key informants) - as a source of data on the prevalence and magnitude of abuse of prescription drugs. The results indicate that prescription drug abuse has become prevalent, with cases reported in 60% of the zip codes surveyed. The prevalence of abuse was rank ordered as follows: OxyContin < hydrocodone > other oxycodone > methadone > morphine > hydromorphone > fentanyl > buprenorphine. In terms of the magnitude of abuse (<5 cases/100,000 persons in a 3-digit zip code), modest growth was seen with all analgesics over the 10 calendar quarters we monitored, but was most pronounced with OxyContin and hydrocodone. These results indicate that OxyContin abuse is a pervasive problem in this country, but that it needs to be considered in the context of a general pattern of increasing prescription drug abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-672
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • Opioid analgesic abuse
  • OxyContin abuse
  • Postmarketing surveillance
  • Prescription drug abuse
  • Risk management program
  • Trends in prescription drug abuse


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