Reviews the recent declaration of a National Public Health Emergency and the current status of OxyContin and opioid abuse in the United States. Medical and societal issues involved in the abuse of narcotic pain medications. Mechanisms of action of opioid pain medications. Clinical signs and symptoms of narcotic and opioid abuse. Treatment programs and protocols available for narcotic abuse, including diversion programs for dental professionals. Definitions and comparisons of abuse, tolerance, addiction, physical dependence and withdrawal. Current strategies being employed by the FDA, DEA and pharmaceutical manufacturers to limit abuse potential of OxyContin. Problems associated with limiting availability of narcotic medications as they pertain to patients in legitimate chronic pain seeking prescription medications. Current legal challenges to the marketing and distribution of OxyContin.