The History of Roxy

“Roxy” is the street name for the drug oxycodone. It was derived from the brand name of oxycodone: roxicodone. Oxycodone is the active ingredient in a number of commonly prescribed pain relief medications such as Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox, which are oxycodone plus some sort of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like aspirin or acetaminophen. Oxycodone is also the active ingredient in OxyContin, a time release, long-acting form of the drug. However, the street name Roxy usually refers to pure, short acting oxycodone, as is found in Roxicodone.

Oxycodone is a powerful analgesic synthesized from thebaine, which is derived from the opium plant. It was developed in Germany in 1916 as an alternative to heroin, which had been outlawed a couple years prior. It was hoped that oxycodone would have the analgesic (pain-killing) power of heroin without the dependence issues.

Oxycodone was first introduced in the U.S in 1939, but it was not widely prescribed until the release of Percodan: an oxycodone pill cut with aspirin in 1950. As more people were prescribed oxycodone, its potential for addiction became more widely known.  In 1963, the attorney general of California publicly denounced Percodan abuse as the source of one-third of all drug addictions with the state. As a result, regulation of oxycodone in the United States was increased. In 1970, oxycodone, along with all other opiates, was made a Schedule II drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.

Since the 1970’s, abuse of oxycodone has been a continuing problem in the US. In 1995, the Federal Drug Administration approved the manufacture of OxyContin, a time-release version of oxycodone. When the drug was released, concerns and reports of illicit use and abuse began to increase exponentially. Before the release of OxyContin, all formulations of oxycodone contained an NSAID, which limited its potential for abuse. The NSAID component of the drugs also restricted the routes of administration to oral ingestion. When OxyContin was released, abusers realized that they could crush the pill to release pure oxycodone (up to 80mg in one pill), which allowed larger doses and by additional routes of administrations such as intravenous and intranasal. Due to the widespread abuse, especially in rural areas, OxyContin came to be known as “Hillbilly Heroin,” and reports of its abuse flooded the media.

In 2011, to try to curb abuse of the drug, manufacturers added additional binders to the formulation to prevent the grinding of tablets for insufflation or injection, and to maintain OxyContin’s extended release characteristics. The added binders greatly reduced the recreational value of OxyContin, because they were not easily broken down. When this happened, the short release version of oxycodone-Roxicodone, or Roxy’s- quickly became the new formulation of choice by abusers.

Roxicodone is available in 15 and 30 mg tablets. They are known by their street names: Roxys, Blues, Berries, and “30s”. Though Roxys contain a smaller dose of oxycodone, they don’t need breaking down in order to be used intranasally or intravenously. Oxycodone, in its various formulations, remains one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States.