OxyContin is a controlled-release version of oxycodone. Oxycodone is considered to be a Schedule II controlled substance. This means that it is under the legal control of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice.
One of the main factors dictating a drug's "schedule," its degree of regulation, is the drug's potential for abuse. Once a drug is classified as a controlled substance, it becomes subject to a formal system that requires registration, record keeping, distribution restrictions, dispensing limits, manufacturing security and reports to the DEA.
You may be wondering what makes OxyContin a controlled substance. In order to better understand this, let's consider what oxycodone does and how it works.
Oxycodone is an agonist opioid. Opioid agonists are some of the most effective pain relievers available. Unlike other analgesics, opioid agonists have an increasing analgesic effect with increased doses. Meaning that the more you take, the better you feel. Other analgesics, like aspirin or acetaminophen, have a threshold to their effectiveness. You can see why, particularly for people who suffer chronic pain, a medication like OxyContin can be so beneficial: It can potentially provide up to four times the relief of a non-opioid analgesic, so even the most severe degree of pain can be managed.