Oxycodone’s Unparalleled Addictive Potential: Is it Time for a Moratorium?
Purpose of Review
This study and literature review were carried out to investigate whether oxycodone is the most addictive prescription opioid.
This was a cross-sectional survey from a pain management practice in south-central Alaska and review of the literature involving 86 patients diagnosed with opioid dependence/opioid use disorder from 2013 to 2018. Patients were given a list of prescription opioids and asked to identify the one (1) most desirable to themselves, (2) most desirable among drug-using associates or community, and (3) they deemed most addictive. Patients with a history of heroin use were asked which, if any, served as their gateway drug to heroin. The literature was reviewed using a PubMed search for articles containing the words “oxycodone” and “abuse,” “addiction,” “dependence,” “disorder,” and “euphoria.” Oxycodone was ranked most highly in all four questions (n = 50, 60.2%; n = 46, 75.4%; n = 38, 60.2%; n = 14, 77.8%, respectively) by a wide margin.
Numerous observational studies performed over the past few decades have demonstrated the supreme “likability” and abuse and dependence liability/addictiveness of oxycodone, with more recent mechanistic studies illuminating biological underpinnings including markedly increased active transport across the blood-brain barrier, increased phasic dopaminergism in the ventral tegmental area, nucleus accumbens and related striatal reward centers, and possibly increased kappa opioid receptor-mediated withdrawal dysphoria. Oxycodone possesses pharmacologic qualities that render it disproportionately liable to abuse and addiction and the risks of any long-term prescription outweigh the benefits.
KeywordsOxycodone Heroin Addiction Dependence Active transport Phasic dopamine
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Heath McAnally and Daniel Remillard declare no conflict of interest. Alan Kaye is on the speaker bureau for Merck and Depomed, Inc.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
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