Easily Confused Words: Oxytocin vs. Oxycontin

Oxytocin and oxycontin are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It suggests what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions couldn’t be more off base and produces humorous results.

Oxytocin is a noun.

  • Called the love hormone, it’s a brain chemical released when a person experiences bonding or closeness with another human being or a pet. Touch seems to spur the release of oxytocin in our brain.
  • As a drug, it is used to help stimulate childbirth.

Oxycontin is a noun. It is one of several commercial names for oxycodone, an opiod painkiller. As a opiod, it is related to morphine, and the illegal drugs opium and heroin.

The following story uses both words correctly:

A month after a really bad car accident, Oren was in danger of becoming addicted to painkillers like Oxycontin. He was in a lot of pain, and healing was slow. But the hardest part was how to get on with life following the loss of his partner and their children in the same accident. The house was empty. Life was too quiet. Though the other driver was at fault for colliding head on and using their phone behind the wheel of a semi, he blamed himself for what happened. 

Out of nowhere, his friend Larry came by with a dog and some food for it. “I’m in no shape to take care of something else, man,” Oren said.

“Just give it a week, ” Larry said, “I’ll come back Sunday if you really don’t like her.” Oren had limited mobility, but he did throw a ball with the dog at least once a day. By Tuesday, it was several times a day. She got a name, Molly, and she was very easy to talk to. Oren wasn’t aware of it, but Molly was spurring the release of oxytocin in his brain and reducing his stress level. Needless to say, he didn’t get around to calling Larry to take the dog back.


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