A popular painkiller, known for its high abuse potential – OxyContin – is being reformulated, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday.

According to the release, the drug in its current form is designed to release small quantities of the active ingredients over an extended period of time, but abusers have found ways to circumvent the drug’s time-release properties and ingest large quantities all at once.

The new formulation, approved today by the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and research – would “prevent the opioid medication from being cut, broken, chewed, crushed or dissolved to release more medication.”

Experts saythat while this reformulation may reduce the risk of abuse by injection or snorting, addicts abusing the drug by mouth may be able to achieve similar highs by taking more of the drug.

“Although this new formulation of OxyContin may provide only an incremental advantage over the current version of the drug, it is still a step in the right direction,” said Bob Rappaport, M.D., director of the Division of Anesthesia and Analgesia Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in the agency’s press release.

According to the release, and data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately half a million people abused OxyContin for the first time in 2008 alone.

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