Some Facts You Should Know About the History of Oxycodone

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Some Facts You Should Know About the History of Oxycodone

The history of Oxycodone dates back to 1916, and in the years since, it has certainly left its mark on society.  Oxycodone is a narcotic painkiller that treats acute, post-operative pain or in combination with other drugs for moderate pain. Prescription opioids like OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Combunox, Roxiprin, Roxicodone, Endocet, Endodan, and Targiniq ER contain Oxycodone. The reason oxycodone is called an “opioid” is because it is manufactured by modifying an organic compound called thebaine, which is found in opium.

To clarify:
  • Opiate: A drug (such as morphine, codeine or heroin) containing or derived from opium or the opium poppy, used to alleviate pain, or induce sleep or euphoria.
  • Opioid: A synthetic or semi-synthetic substance producing an opium-like effect, often prescribed for the alleviation of moderate to severe pain; a prescription painkiller in the opiate class.

NOTE: The words opiate and opioid are often used interchangeably.

The History of Oxycodone

The late 1800s and early 1900s saw an effort to create a non-addictive opioid. Heroin, marketed by the Bayer corporation of Germany in the 1890s, was initially at the forefront of this project. However, it soon became abundantly clear that heroin was incredibly addictive.

After heroin’s ban in America, two German scientists created Oxycodone as a non-addictive, semi-synthetic substitute for heroin, morphine, and opium.  Here are some interesting oxycodone facts:

The history of Oxycodone goes like this:

  • 1916: Oxycodone is created.
  • 1939: Oxycodone is first introduced to America.
  • 1950: Percodan – a combination of Oxycodone and aspirin is released to American physicians for a prescription.
  • 1963: The attorney general of California cities Percodan abuse as the source of one-third of all drug addiction in the state.
  • 1970: Oxycodone is listed as a Schedule II drug in the new Controlled Substances Act.
  • 1974: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Percocet.
  • 1989: The Texas Medical Board adopts language to support wider use of painkillers by doctors. Fourteen states follow in their footsteps.
  • 1996: Perdue Pharma releases OxyContin.

World’s Most Commonly Abused Legal Drug

The commonly prescribed painkiller OxyContin is an extended-release medication, meaning that the tablet releases small amounts of Oxycodone for up to 12 hours. The pill itself gradually dissolves in the individual’s stomach acid, releasing the drug very slowly into the system. This works well for someone who has just had an operation or has another chronic pain situation. He or she can take one tablet and experience pain relief for an extended period.

More on the History of Oxycodone

By 1998, only two years after OxyContin’s release, the drug became responsible for 80% of Perdue profits. In the same period, OxyContin became notorious among drug enforcement officers and police.

Addicts crushed the drug into a powder to snort, smoke, or inject it intravenously.  Thus, a new epidemic was born.

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Warnings Didn't Stop Recreational Use

In 2001, Perdue added warnings against the recreational use of OxyContin. In spite of this, OxyContin became hugely popular as a recreational drug throughout the US. It profoundly affected Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maine. Because many of those states are in Appalachia, OxyContin became known as “Hillbilly Heroin” among other names.

Over half of the addicts in rehab used Oxycodone, according to a government survey of 16 states.

According to the ASAM, (American Society of Addiction Medicine) in 2017, of the 21.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance use disorder, 1.9 million had a disorder involving prescription opiates.

It also states that:

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 70,022 lethal drug overdoses in 2017. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 15,482 overdose deaths related to heroin.”

ASAM also showed that the labeling probably backfired as it suggested that crushing OxyContin would cause the full impact of the drug to be felt at once. This informed the patient or user how they could abuse the drug, essentially acting as a “how-to” for the potential addict.

In 2010, pharmacies dispensed an equivalent of 69 tons of pure Oxycodone. Per capita, Oxycodone sales increased five to six-fold in Tennessee in ten years. Florida also had a similar problem. In 2000, Oxycodone sales centered in one particular area of Florida; by 2010, the drug was flowing all through the state. New York City and its suburbs also saw a huge leap in Oxycodone sales between 2010 and 2017; in Staten Island, sales had jumped by 1200 percent.

Pill Mills: Candy Stores for Addicts

That powerful statement reflected a big problem specifically in Florida but also around the United States.  Specifically,  “Pill Mills” are locations where uncaring and unethical “doctors” prescribe bottle after bottle of pain meds to their patients, no matter the real or imagined malady.

During this time in the history of Oxycodone, many addicts (and drug dealers) came to Florida’s pain clinics complaining of a trumped-up illness so they could lay their hands on addictive pain pills like OxyContin. Doctors gave prescriptions out like candy. This got so bad that Interstate 75, which runs through Florida, became known as the “Oxy Express.”

The Sheriff of Broward County, Florida said:

We have more pain clinics than McDonald’s.

Consequently, Florida’s overdose deaths increased by 61% in seven years. Significantly contributive to this was the abuse and illegal prescriptions of pain pills. Also, overdose deaths decreased by 16.7% after legislation was enacted and police enforcement increased.

“Tamper Proofing” Causes Users to Switch to Other Drugs

A “tamper-proof” version of OxyContin was introduced in 2013. This pill is harder to crush and turns into a gel when it has been compromised. Thus, the new pill is hard to inject and cannot be snorted.

Perdue released the new pill type, but the FDA required all time-release Oxycodone manufacturers (those companies creating the drug in a generic version) also provide a tamper-proof pill. Subsequently, the FDA withdrew all crushable OxyContin from the market.

Although the new, tamper-proof pill does not eliminate the ability to abuse the drug, anecdotal evidence indicates that those who have been addicted to OxyContin are no longer interested in the drug in its tamper-proof form.

While this reduces the likelihood of new addicts to the drug, it means that those already addicted are turning to other opiates, some of which are even more potent and addictive, including Opana (oxymorphone) and the illicit drug heroin.

Getting Help for Oxycodone Addiction

As concerned individuals, groups and governments work to prevent future addicts; it’s also important for everyone to realize that people already addicted need treatment.  Hopefully, in the future, the history of Oxycodone will include an end to the addictions.  If you or someone you know are suffering from addiction to Oxycodone or any other drug, contact A Forever Recovery today.


  • – Overdose Death Rates

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