The US Food and Drug Administration has approved limited use of painkiller OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, the agency announced yesterday. OxyContin is a long release version of oxycodone, an opioid that affects the brain in a manner similar to heroin and is very addictive.

The FDA is restricting the use of OxyContin among children by requiring them to show they can handle the drug by tolerating a small dose of oxycodone for five consecutive days. The FDA's decision to approve limited use for children came after studies by Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Connecticut - the same lab that manufactures the drug - "supported a new pediatric indication for OxyContin in patients 11 to 16 years old and provided prescribers with helpful information about the use of OxyContin in pediatric patients."

Facts about oxycontin:

 Abusers of OxyContin crush tablets to bypass their controlled-release feature and either snort or inject the powder to feel the euphoric sensations associated with heroin use.

 Nearly 1 million US residents aged 12 and older used OxyContin recreationally at least once in their lifetime, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

 Inexperienced and new users of the drug have higher risks of taking larger than recommended doses, as they have not developed a tolerance for the drug. Overdosing on OxyContin risks severe respiratory depression that can lead to death.

 Cover image: Wikipedia