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Article Summary


OxyContin is a prescription analgesic, which means it is a pain reliever often prescribed to individuals who are experiencing moderate to severe pain. OxyContin is in a certain category of medications called opioids, which are narcotic drugs which have many of the same effects of opiate street drugs such as heroin. The active ingredient in OxyContin is the semi-synthetic opioid oxycodone. OxyContin can contain anywhere from 10 to 160 mgs of this powerful drug, and it is a time release tablet so it slowly is released into the system providing long-acting pain relief. This can be very helpful and beneficial for individuals who are recovering from an accident, surgery, etc. because its effects will typically last about 12 hours. This saves an individual who is struggling with legitimate pain from having to take something to relieve their pain every few hours, because OxyContin tablets will only have to be administered about twice a day.

How OxyContin Works

Much like any other opioid prescription medication and opiate drugs such as heroin, OxyContin is a central nervous system depressant which not only can suppress pain but in high enough doses can also produce a high and sense of euphoria which can be pleasant to the user. Because OxyContin creates these effects, and in particular contains a large time released dose of oxycodone, it is known to be one of the most abused prescription drugs on the market. OxyContin abuse takes place because a legitimate user who has been prescribed the drug is doing so and even amongst illicit opiate users who will settle for OxyContin when another opiate drug is unavailable. Legitimate users who may have no drug history at all can become dependent to OxyContin and find that they not only have difficulty getting off of the drug, but may even build a tolerance to it and will need higher doses even for pain management. This soon becomes a vicious cycle for them and they can soon find themselves doing things a heroin junky would normally do to get more OxyContin. This is a very true scenario and reality, and individuals should be aware of these facts before starting courses of such powerful prescription narcotics such as OxyContin.

As mentioned before OxyContin is a time-released tablet meant to be swallowed hole, so that individuals who need pain relief can experience its effects for at least a full 12 hours. Individuals who abuse OxyContin and want to use it to get high can crush the tablet and either snort it or dissolve it and inject it directly into a vein which puts a whopping dose of the drug into their system all at once. Snorting and injecting OxyContin bypasses the time release function of the drug and the individual experiences a high very similar to that of heroin or any other opiate which is abused.

OxyContin Side Effects

There are serious side effects involved when abusing any prescription drug, although opioids in particular such as OxyContin come with some severe and sometimes life threatening side effects. As with any drug, these side effects and risks are of particular concern amongst users who are abusing the drug and using it in higher doses than prescribed or when breaking the time released tablet. If someone is not tolerant to opiates, breaking the time release function of OxyContin and shooting this into a vein for example could cause death. Common side effects of OxyContin use are similar to that of any other prescription opioid or illicit street opiate such as heroin. If taken in too high of a dose, OxyContin can produce seizures and/or respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, coma and even death. This is of course particularly of concern if the individual is also mixing OxyContin with other prescription drugs, street drugs, and/or alcohol. These side effects are of course of particular concern and most likely to occur with individuals who are not tolerant to opiates, but this could of course happen to any user who is abusing OxyContin.

As with any opiate, individuals who are dependent to OxyContin will experience withdrawal symptoms if they don't continuously administer the powerful prescription drug or some other opiate. Even with legitimate users who are prescribed OxyContin for pain, tolerance develops very quickly and they may have to take higher and higher doses to avoid such symptoms not just to relieve pain. This is what someone causes legitimate OxyContin users to become entangled in abuse of the drug. So with both legitimate and illicit users, individuals will find themselves constantly seeking out more of the drug more often to avoid withdrawal and this can be a very difficult habit to keep up with. Opiate withdrawal can be particularly punishing, so individuals who are dependent to OxyContin will find themselves in all manner of sticky situations trying to avoid this fate. Opiate dependence, which can be both physical and psychological, will compel the individual to do things which they wouldn't normally do to obtain more of the drug including immoral and illegal activities such as writing bad checks, insurance fraud and lying to doctors to get more of the drug.

OxyContin Abuse Treatment

Abuse of prescription drugs is not a new problem but is just being identified as a serious one which is at epidemic levels in this country. Individuals who are abusing OxyContin will require treatment just like any other street drug addict such as those who are addicted to heroin. Individuals should be very cautious about the drugs they are prescribed, because they are so freely handed out these days without a great deal of concern for patients and their potential for addiction. If help is needed getting off of drugs such as OxyContin there are inpatient and residential drug rehab programs which can help. No one should allow this to get out of control to the point where they are in social, economic trouble or experiencing serious health consequences. Effective treatment is available and counselors at drug rehab programs have helped many individuals, from mild cases of dependence to the more serious cases.

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