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Article Summary

A Guide To Oxycontin Addiction

OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone, a powerful opioid painkiller. It is commonly prescribed for the management of cases where the patient is suffering any sort of pain - from moderate pain to severe pain.

If taken according to a doctor's prescription, OxyContin is an effective and safe medication. In fact, it has proved invaluable for many people suffering from a variety of pain management problems.

However, some people abuse this drug for the pleasurable effects it causes. This is despite the fact that such abuse eventually proves dangerous and - at times - fatal. Misusing the pills, such as taking too many at the same time, or crushing before injecting or snorting them, may cause more intense effects while simultaneously increasing the risk of suffering from a variety of complications.

Still, ASAM (the American Society of Addiction Medicine) reports that more than 1.9 million Americans are dependent on opioid painkillers like OxyContin while more than 46 deaths involving painkillers occur on a daily basis.

The same report shows that people who abuse these types of prescription painkillers are at great risk of suffering eventual or concurrent heroin abuse/addiction - because the two drugs have more or less the same effects.

A separate study showed that people who are addicted to prescription opioids like OxyContin are 19 times more likely than those who are not addicted to start using heroin. This might be because of the ease of access and relative affordably of heroin in comparison to OxyContin - especially after the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) tightened control on access to such prescription opioids in 2013.

Read on to learn more about OxyContin, what it is, how it works, its uses, effects, withdrawal symptoms, potential for addiction, treatment, and more:

Understanding Oxycontin

As we mentioned earlier, OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone, which is a powerful synthetic opiate that is commonly prescribed as a painkiller for people struggling with moderate to severe pain. As such, the drug serves as a lifeline for many people - particularly those who struggle with chronic pain arising from various cancer types, severe burns, heart attack, and bone pain.

As a time release formulation, OxyContin provides hours of continuous relief from unremitting pain. However, since it is classified by the federal government as a Schedule II controlled substance, it is only available as a prescription written out by doctors for express use in managing pain. Still, a significant amount of the drug - which is sometimes referred to as Oxy - is sometimes diverted for sale on the street.

That said, OxyContin is similar to heroin in the sense that it produces - alongside its pain management effects - an euphoric high. This high occurs when the drug stimulates the brain's reward center. More particularly, the substance elevates the levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is commonly considered as the pleasure chemical produced by the brain.

OxyContin is also known by other names on the street. These include Hillbilly Heroin, OxyCotton, OC, Oxy, and Kickers. Some people may also use it with morphine/heroin either concurrently or as replacement drugs.

Those who abuse OxyContin usually do so in several ways. Some people crush the pills into fine powder for direct snorting through the nose. Others chew the pills while most addicts crush the tablets, dissolve the powder with water, and take the resulting solution intravenously.

In the beginning, crushing the tablets defeated the extended release coating that appears on the OxyContin pill. However, doing so would dramatically increase the potential for overdosing on the drug. As a direct result, the drug was reformulated in 2013 and it is now hard to crush the tablets, which has had some effect in discouraging people from abusing the potent narcotic.

Still, many of those who abuse OxyContin are also polysubstance abusers, meaning that they also abuse other intoxicating substances. Some, for instance, will opt to combine it with other depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines to enhance the effects of both substances.

However, this combination is particularly deadly because most of these depressants cause a depression of respiratory. Therefore, when you mix such drugs you might end up dying because you will slowly stop breathing.

Other users combine OxyContin with stimulants like meth, cocaine, and amphetamines to subdue some of the unpleasant side effects that arise from abusing stimulants. However, this drug mixing is also dangerous because it can create adverse consequences like stroke and heart attack.

Overall, OxyContin effectively reduces pain if you use it the right way, for the right time period, and according to the instructions from your doctor's prescription. However, if you become addicted to it, you may have to follow the difficult road to tolerance, dependence, and addiction - from which usually only detox and rehabilitation can take you out.

Oxycontin Uses

To ensure that you do not become addicted to OxyContin, it is essential that you only take it exactly as your doctor instructed you. Even when you use it as prescribed, however, OxyContin comes with a relatively high potential for misuse, dependence, and addiction. However, following the instructions exactly how they were given may lower the risks.

For instance, you should never take more of the drug or use it more often than your doctor recommended. Similarly, you are highly advised never to use OxyContin in ways other than how your doctor intended.

That said, OxyContin is prescribed in the form of extended release pills or tablets that you should only take orally. This means that you should never break, open, or crush the tablets.

In case you miss a dose, you should continue skipping it until it is time for your next dose. This works better than trying to make up for your missed dose by taking the drug immediately when you remember that you are supposed to use it. Similarly, doctors highly discourage users from mixing this drug with alcohol because it may result in some fatal side effects.

Still, using OxyContin comes with some potential side effects. These include itching, vomiting, nausea, dry mouth, and constipation. You may also experience dizziness, headaches, and drowsiness.

That said, since oxycodone is a controlled release opioid, the initial dosage may start at 10 mg that you should take after every 12 hours. On average, however, the daily dose is about 105 mg of the drug per day. For geriatric patients, the dosage guidelines might be different.

Although most people take OxyContin for legitimate medical purposes as directed by their physician. However, others might like the pleasurable effects that come with using narcotic painkillers like Oxy.

Since this drug is a particularly powerful narcotic analgesic, the pleasant and calming effects tend to be much stronger than other narcotics like codeine. Therefore, you might be tempted to start using it to cope with the stresses of everyday life, numb your emotional pain, or get high. Eventually, however, you may suffer adverse side effects as a direct result.

Today, many people rely on prescription narcotics like Dilaudid, Demerol, Lortab, and OxyContin to cope with some unfortunate and unpleasant circumstances in their lives. Most of them eventually become psychologically and physically dependent on the drugs, meaning that they need to take greater amounts to achieve the desired effects.

If you are dependent on OxyContin and it is not immediately available to you, you might start going into withdrawal - an experience that is highly unpleasant and may prove adverse to your health.

In the same way, those who use Oxy might also be addicted to other substances over and above their current substance use disorder. This, however, tends to create more problems both in the short and long term.

In particular, Oxy is often mixed with downers like benzodiazepines and alcohol. This combination is dangerous because it often leads to severe respiratory depression as well as potential overdose. On the other hand, if you combine oxycodone with uppers like cocaine, amphetamines or Adderall, you may experience adverse effects like coma, strokes, heart attacks, or sudden death.

Overall, addiction to OxyContin is a serious problem. As such, it requires the compassionate care and professional expertise of addiction specialists, therapists, and doctors. This is where treatment for such an addiction comes in.

Oxycontin Effects

OxyContin abuse and addiction comes with a variety of effects, which may impact almost all aspects of your life. In the long term, for instance, using this drug can cause many problems.

There are various long-term effects of OxyContin use. According to the DSM-5, the following social effects are sometimes caused by OxyContin addiction or dependence:

a) Needle Users

Needle users include those who take OxyContin subcutaneously, intramuscularly, or intravenously. They are likely to suffer the following risks:

  • Increased risk of contracting communicable health complications like Hepatitis or HIV
  • Abscesses
  • Cellulitis
  • Collapsed veins
  • Infection of the lining of the heart

b) Intranasal Users

  • Perforated nasal septum
  • Sinusitis

Although some people tend to crush OxyContin and snort the resulting powder, others may take the drug intravenously. This often leads to a variety of severe complications. Additionally, the act of injecting the crushed pills can cause organ damage when solid pieces of the drug enter the bloodstream. Such blockages might cut off the supply of blood to certain vital organs in your body. Similarly, you might be infected by dirty pills or using non-sterilized needless.

Other effects that arise from abusing OxyContin include, but are not limited to:

  • Arrest for possessing, using, or distributing opioids like oxycodone
  • Breakdown of friendships and other interpersonal relationships
  • Burglary
  • Child abuse
  • Coma
  • Death
  • Domestic abuse
  • Forgery
  • Homelessness
  • Irregular breathing
  • Liver damage
  • Loss of employment, or irregular employment
  • Marital difficulties or even divorce
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Receiving stolen goods.
  • Respiratory failure
  • Robbery
  • Seizures
  • Unintentional overdose

This form of addict might also exist with another co-occurring mental health problem. Some of the most common of these co-occurring disorders are:

  • Alcoholism
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Other substance abuse
  • Schizophrenia

Oxycontin Side Effects

Opioids like OxyContin are highly addictive. In fact, this prescription variant is quite as dangerous as illicit heroin. However, since oxy is legal, it follows that the risk of overdose is higher. In 2012, for instance, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reported that 3,635 people lost their lives due to a heroin overdose in comparison to the 9,869 deaths reported as a result of prescription opioid overdose. The study was carried out in 28 states.

That said, abusing OxyContin comes with slew of side effects. The most common among these include:

  • Constipation
  • Depressed mood
  • Slurred speech
  • Itching skin
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulties with sexual performance
  • Hormonal dysfunction
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sedation
  • Los of consciousness
  • Vomiting

The drug also comes with a variety of fatal side effects, including coma and difficulty breathing. These side effects can cause sudden death unless they are brought under emergency treatment.

Oxycontin Addictive Qualities

OxyContin is similar to other opiates in the sense that it comes with a high potential for addiction. It works by attaching itself to the brain's opioid receptors. By so doing, it prevents the release of GABA - which, in turn, controls how the brain releases dopamine.

Restricting GABA, therefore, is similar to opening the dopamine stop valve. Dopamine, on the other hand, works by providing reward sensations and pleasurable feelings that might compel you to continue abusing OxyContin to recreate these effects.

A type of oxycodone, OxyContin was originally prescribed and became popular because people used to think that it didn't carry any risk of addiction and abuse. However, this was found to be untrue and it soon became evident that all an user had to do was crush the drug before abusing it. Even though the formulation was eventually changed, the drug is still highly addictive and commonly abused.

However, researchers are as yet unable to provide the reasons behind the development of oxycodone addiction. Most generally assume that addiction comes about as a result of many different factors working in tandem to increase the potential for abuse. These causes include:

It is advised that you use extreme caution if you are prescribed OxyContin for some sort of pain condition. Consider the following factors which may make you more susceptible to becoming addicted to OxyContin.

a) Genetics

If you have a member of your family with a history of struggling with substance addiction, then you might have a high risk of also suffering addiction later on.

b) Brain Chemistry

Additionally, you might be born with defects in the pleasure centers of your brain, or low dopamine levels. If this is the case, you might try to correct this defect by abusing opioid narcotics like OxyContin to achieve the feeling of pleasure.

c) Environmental Causes

If you grew up in an environment where drug and substance abuse were rampant, you might have learned - from an early age - that substance use is the right way to cope with the stresses of daily life and negative emotions. This may increase your culpability and likelihood of developing an OxyContin addiction.

d) Psychological Causes

On the other hand, you might struggle with an untreated or underdiagnosed mental health problem. The symptoms of some of these psychological issues might eventually feel insurmountable and difficult, leading you to try self-medicating with OxyContin.

That said, most people originally receive a prescription for OxyContin and several other painkillers after sustaining a severe injury. Although using these drugs in the short term may lead to controlled pain relief and even improve the quality of your everyday life, you might also end up developing an unhealthy dependence to this opioid. This dependence might also persist long after your initial injury is healed.

In the same way, if you suffer from a given mental health condition, you might be particularly susceptible to developing an addiction to OxyContin. This is even in those situations where you may have started taking this drug as a prescription. Some of these health conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Inability to effectively manage and cope with stress

On the other hand, you might develop an addiction to OxyContin as a direct result of your social or personal history. This may be as a result of the following problems:

  • Having a member of your family suffering an addiction
  • Keeping friends who are addicted to other substances
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD
  • Sexual, emotional, or physical abuse
  • Surviving some sort of personal physical or psychological trauma

When you undergo a traumatic experience, you might develop PTSD - or post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition is often viewed in the context of most military personnel - some of whom might have faced intense horrors of war. The problem also affects people who survive accidents, are victims of assault, or have witnessed crime.

While coping with PTSD, you might start self-medicating using drugs like OxyContin. This means that you will have a higher risk of developing dependence, tolerance, and eventual addiction to the drug.

Oxycontin Overdose

While abusing OxyContin, you should keep in mind that it comes with a relatively high risk of overdose. This is why doctors only prescribe it in the most urgent of situations, and put you on the lowest dose possible - especially if you have never used another opioid in the past. After that, the doctor will monitor you carefully and only increase your dose when and as required.

Unfortunately, these checks and controls are not put in place for people who abuse OxyContin - either when they use it without a prescription or take the drug in any other way than what was prescribed by a doctor, therefore greatly increasing the risk of overdose.

You could also overdose on OxyContin when you mix it with another intoxicating substance, which some people do for purposes of amplifying the effects of both drugs. The other risk factor for overdosing on this drug includes, relapsing after withdrawing or taking it in large quantities at the same time.

Your risk of an overdose could also be as a result of building tolerance to the drug. This is because opioids like OxyContin cause the body and brain to quickly become accustomed to the effects of this drug. This means that you won't be able to achieve the same effects even if you only took it a couple of times. After this happens, you may increase your dose while trying to get high on the drug, and eventually suffer an overdose.

That said, the following are some of the signs and symptoms of an OxyContin overdose:

  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Extreme sedation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Limp muscles
  • Lips and fingernails look blue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Seizures
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Weak pulse

There are many different treatment options for dealing with an OxyContin overdose. However, they might be administered almost immediately after you notice the overdose, otherwise the situation could turn fatal. Even with treatment, you might still suffer long term health complications. These complications may include pneumonia, permanent brain damage, and muscle damage.

To avoid overdosing on this drug, the best thing you can do is to only take it as your doctor prescribed. However, if you have already started abusing it - with or without a legitimate prescription - you might want to seek treatment and rehabilitation for your opioid addiction.

Oxycontin Withdrawal

When you stop abusing OxyContin, you may suffer extremely unpleasant withdrawal. This is why it is highly recommended that you only try to quit under the care and supervision of a team of rehabilitation and treatment staff. The medical monitoring provided within the controlled environment may serve to reduce the adverse symptoms.

Abusing OxyContin often causes tolerance, dependence, and - eventually - addiction. At this point, your body will start craving for the pleasurable effects that the drug tends to provide every time you use it.

Whether you take the drug illicitly or through a prescription, you may become tolerant to it. As a direct result, you will have to take a larger dose to achieve the effects that you desire.

Once you have developed tolerance to OxyContin and you stop taking it - or try reducing the dose - your body might react and you will go into withdrawal mode. Some of the symptoms of Oxy withdrawal, to this end, include:

  • Anxiety
  • Bone pain
  • Chills
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Goose bumps
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Runny eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Unpleasant mood
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Yawning

Oxycontin Dangers

Oxycodone hydrochloride is commonly marketed as OxyContin. This analgesic, however, is highly addictive - particularly because it is an opioid. Still, doctors often prescribe it for the treatment of severe or moderate pain - including but not limited to neck and back pain, as well as pain associated with certain conditions like developed cancer. With time, however, you might become addicted to Oxy, meaning that you will need treatment and detox to recover from the mental and physical side effects of abusing it.

Today, OxyContin abuse is relatively common because:

  • It is relatively affordable
  • Most people are not familiar with all the risks commonly associated with prescription drug abuse
  • Others view OxyContin as the safest way to have fun or relieve stress
  • OxyContin is quite easy to obtain, in comparison to many other recreational drugs

However, OxyContin is dangerous and causes certain adverse effects. The following symptoms are indicative of an urgent need for emergency medical attention as well as help from a rehab facility or center:

a) Effects on the Body

  • Changes in heart rhythm or rate
  • Chills
  • Cold sweats
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Fever
  • Hives
  • Intermittent loss of lucidity and consciousness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of ordinary muscle strength
  • Respiratory complications, such as difficulty or slowed breathing
  • Shaking feet, hands, or limbs
  • Stomach pain
  • Swelling in the throat and/or face
  • Tight feeling inside the chest
  • Uncontrollable twitching
  • Vomiting

In case of compromised kidney function, OxyContin might accumulate inside your system more rapidly than you anticipate. Eventually, it might get to toxic levels.

b) Effects on the Brain

Abusing OxyContin will affect your brain differently. When you become dependent on the drug, however, your quality of life and brain chemistry will dramatically change. Therefore, you should always lookout for these psychological effects:

  • Anxiety
  • False sense of happiness and wellbeing
  • Feeling of unreality
  • Memory loss
  • Mood Changes

Although developing a psychological addiction to this drug might - in some cases - prove to be a lifelong struggle that you have to deal with, the good thing is that most of the dangers of such an addiction can be resolved through rehabilitation and quitting the drug.

Signs And Symptoms Of Oxycontin Abuse

The signs and symptoms of OxyContin abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction tend to vary greatly from one person to another. These symptoms will, for instance, depend on how long you have been using the drug, how frequently you use it, and the amount of the oxycodone you've abused.

DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fifth Edition) characterizers opioid use disorders - such as those involved with OxyContin - as problematic patterns of drug use that causes distress and clinically significant impairment, you should always look out for the following signs and symptoms of Oxy abuse:

a) Mood Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings

b) Behavioral Symptoms

  • Consistently trying to refill your prescription or claiming the prescription was lost or stolen
  • Doctor shopping, where you visit many doctors in a bit to get more prescriptions for Oxy
  • Drowsiness
  • Financial problems
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Hiding the drug in various places
  • Hiding your Oxy use
  • Lying about the amount of the drug you've used
  • Neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Stealing or borrowing money from family and friends to buy Oxy
  • Stealing or borrowing pills of the drug from loved ones
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Track marks on legs and arms

c) Physical Symptoms

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Hypotension
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Nodding out
  • Physical tolerance
  • Pupillary constriction
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

d) Psychological Symptoms

  • Addiction
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Increase in the symptoms of mental illness
  • Paranoia
  • Psychological tolerance
  • Worsening emotional health

Treatment For Oxycontin Addiction

Luckily, even if you have been diagnosed with OxyContin addiction, dependence, tolerance, or abuse, the good news is that there are tons of different treatments for the condition. The best type of recovery, however, will mostly depend on your particular situation and needs.

The most common approaches and settings used to treat OxyContin use disorders include:

  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Group counseling
  • Individual therapy
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Residential treatment

Irrespective of the treatment type you choose, the course of therapy will usually follow the following stages:

  • Withdrawal or OxyContin detox
  • Intensive therapy and counseling
  • Sustained recovery and aftercare

Overall, rehabilitation and treatment will help you as you continue struggling with your OxyContin addiction. Through the therapies, counseling, and detoxification services, you should be able to get the exact type of treatment that is best suited to match your needs and requirements. As always, the earlier you look for help for your OxyContin use disorder, the easier it will be for you to bring the problem under control before it completely takes over your life and ruins your relationships, work and career prospects, and psychological and physical health.

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