11/27/2013 04:44 EST | Updated 01/27/2014 05:59 EST

Some facts about powerful painkiller oxycodone and the dangers it can pose

OTTAWA - Some facts on oxycodone:

What is it? A powerful narcotic frequently used to treat moderate to severe short-term and long-term pain, as well as to treat terminally ill patients in palliative care.

What does it do? It produces an opiate-like effect similar to morphine in all aspects, and can lead to abuse and dependence.

Brand names/formulations: OxyContin, Percocet, Endocet, Oxycocet, Percodan, Endodan, Oxycodan, Supeudol, OxyIR, OxyNEO

How is it abused? Generic forms of the drug can be chewed or crushed and then inhaled or injected. The oxycodone is then absorbed rapidly and produces a heroin-like euphoria. It's often referred to as "Hillbilly heroin."

Cross-border controversy: The U.S. has outlawed the generic, addictive formulations of the drug and is urging Canada to do the same.

Death toll: The Trust for America's Health says fatal overdoses in the U.S. involving prescription painkillers quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. In Ontario alone, as many residents now die from opioid overdoses as they do in car accidents, according to a recent study by KFLA Public Health, based in Kingston, Ont.


Source: Health Canada, Trust for America's health, KFLA Public Health