Seeking Drug Treatment for Oxycontin Abuse: A Chart Review of Consecutive Admissions to a Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Kentucky

Authors: Lon Hays MD1, Kenneth L. Kirsh PhD1, and Steven D. Passik PhD1
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  • 1 From the Psychiatry Service, and Symptom Management and Palliative Care Program, Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.

The abuse of prescription opioids has been reported to be on the rise and has gained much public attention, especially given the recent media coverage devoted to the abuse of sustained-release oxycodone (OxyContin, Purdue Pharma LP, Stamford, CT). We tracked admissions to our substance abuse program to put OxyContin abuse into perspective as a presenting problem in the region. A total of 258 admissions to a psychiatric facility for opioid dependence over a 15 month period, for the treatment of prescription opioid abuse, were examined in this chart-review study. A total of 162 patients (62.8%) were admitted for problems related to OxyContin, and the remaining 96 (37.2%) were admitted for abusing other prescription opioids (not including OxyContin). Those abusing OxyContin were found to be younger, more often from a rural background, and more likely to be male compared with those abusing other prescription opioids. In addition, more than half met the criteria for an additional chemical dependency diagnosis and had an additional psychiatric diagnosis. Polysubstance abuse, including OxyContin abuse, was a significant presenting problem to our Addictive Disease Unit between October 2000 and December 2001. Although this chart-review study is not designed to be indicative of the epidemiology of OxyContin abuse, it offers some insight into the nature of this phenomenon in a particular region during the height of public attention paid to it. A follow-up prospective study to examine this phenomenon in multiple regions, further away chronologically from the increased media attention, is underway.

Correspondence: Steven D. Passik, PhD, Symptom Management and Palliative Care Program, Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, 800 Rose Street, CC453, Lexington, KY 40536-0093. E-mail:
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