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Article Summary

A Guide To OxyContin Addiction

OxyContin is one of the most powerful of all opiate medications. It is commonly prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain and post-surgical pain. As an extended-release drug, it is derived from oxycodone, a narcotic drug. It also serves as the main ingredients in such medicines as Percocet.

Every opiate comes from opium. Opium, on the other hand, is extracted from poppy plants, or created synthetically as a copy of the substances in these plants. Like other opiates, oxycodone is an opiate agonist that works by attaching itself to the brain's neurons that are involved in suppressing pain, exertion, and stress, among other maladies. As such, these types of drugs come with a high potential for addiction, dependence, and abuse.

This is to such an extent that ASAM (the American Society of Addiction Medicine) reports that close to 1.9 million Americans abuse or are dependent on opioids while 46 deaths are caused by painkiller abuse.

Additionally, those who abuse these kinds of prescription pain relievers are also at risk for eventual or concurrent heroin use because the two types of drugs create similar effects after abuse.

Similarly, a recent study found that prescription opioid addicts are 19 times more likely to abuse heroin. This might be caused by the fact that heroin costs less and is more readily accessible than opioid painkillers such as OxyContin. This was due to the tightening of controls by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) on access to these drugs.

Read on to learn more about OxyContin, what it is, its effects, dangers, withdrawal symptoms, and more:

Understanding Oxycontin

OxyContin is the branded formulation of oxycodone, a powerful opioid painkiller. Doctors typically prescribe it for the management of moderate to severe pain. If you take it as directed, the drug is effective and safe and might be invaluable in managing pain.

However, many patients end up abusing OxyContin because of the high it creates a practice that might prove both dangerous and fatal. Misusing this drug, such as by taking too many of the pill or crushing them and snorting or injected the resulting powder will create more intense effects while simultaneously increasing the risk that you will suffer severe complications.

That said, Oxycodone, the main ingredient in OxyContin, is found alone or in combination with other painkillers. It is also sold under a variety of brand names, including but not limited to:

  • Percodan: A combination of aspirin and oxycodone
  • Percocet: Contains acetaminophen and oxycodone
  • OxyFast and OxyIR: Oxycodone immediate release.
  • OxyContin: Created from oxycodone, it is available in both controlled and immediate release formulations

Other Oxycodone formulations include

  • Roxicodone
  • Roxicet
  • Oxygesic
  • Oxycocet
  • Endocet

Oxycodone is created through the synthesis and chemical modification of the opioid precursor molecules derived from the opium poppy plant. Although it is manufactured under the controlled environment of a laboratory, oxycodone might impact you in ways similar to other illegal and legal opioids.

In the same way, oxycodone is like other opioid and opiate drugs in the sense that it delivers a rather powerful high. This means that the drug comes with a high potential for abuse.

Using oxycodone derivatives like OxyContin is highly likely to put you at risk of developing dependence and tolerance. This is also the case when you take the drug as your doctor prescribed it. With time, you might become addicted to it. Once you get addicted to OxyContin, it is also likely that you will soon develop a problem abusing heroin.

The best known and most popular oxycodone formulation is OxyContin, a drug that was produced by Purdue Pharma. The Purdue version was time release - meaning that it lasts longer than other oxycodone formulations.

While OxyContin and heroin are sold through different channels, the emotional and physical signs and symptoms of abusing these substances are starkly similar. Those who abuse oxycodone might also end up abusing fentanyl, hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, and Oxymorphone - all of which carry similar symptoms.

Oxycontin Uses

A powerful and semi-synthetic opiate painkiller, OxyContin is sold in Australia, Europe, and the United States. When it was introduced into the market, this medication works effectively in relieving those who felt severe and debilitating pain - including patients suffering from neurological or bone degeneration as well as those who suffer from such illnesses as end-stage cancer. For the first time, those who had been suffering for years were able to enjoy relief from their pain.

However, OxyContin has effects that are similar to morphine because it is a powerful synthetic opioid. As a result, doctors usually prescribe it in a bid to manage or relieve their patients' pain.

With time, doctors realized that OxyContin is highly addictive. This necessitated the FDA tightly controlling this substance. Today, your doctor might stress the importance of taking the drug as prescribed because they are now aware of the epidemic caused by its abuse.

Despite these efforts, however, doctors don't always closely control patients prescriptions which can result in diversion of the medication for illicit use.

The instances of abuse are so high that in 2015 NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) found that over 3.7% of all 12 graders in the US had easy access to and abused OxyContin.

Oxycontin Effects

Due to the high instances of abuse, OxyContin is now considered to be an opioid receptor agnostic. When the drug interacts with brain receptors at the molecular level, it will increase dopamine activity in various key regions of the brain.

Dopamine, a vital neurotransmitter, is responsible in part for the different effects this drug causes. Similarly, dopamine is closely associated with the reward system of the brain, meaning that when you increase your dose of OxyContin, you will experience sensations of happiness and reward. Eventually, you might start abusing the drug to repeat these feelings.

Desirable Effects

Some of the beneficial effects of OxyContin include:

  • Feelings of happiness and joy, or euphoria
  • Mental relaxation and calm
  • Reduced physical pain
  • Release of any existing muscular tension
Effects on the Brain

OxyContin might affect your brain too. When you reach a state of dependency on the medication, it is highly likely to leave an indelibly profound effect on your quality of life and brain chemistry. As a direct result, you might want to look out for the following side effects to your mental health when your doctor prescribes this drug:

  • Anxiety
  • False sense of happiness and well-being
  • Feeling of unreality
  • Memory loss
  • Mood changes
Effects on the Body

The following might signal less urgent problems, but could still be quite inconvenient or even painful:

  • Belching
  • Body aches
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Heartburn
  • Hiccups
  • Impotence
  • Indigestion
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Loss of muscular strength
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Apart from the above effects, using the drug might also create long term problems in your life. Some of the social consequences associated with OxyContin abuse include:

  • Arrest for distributing or possessing the drug
  • Forgery
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Receiving or buying stolen goods
  • Marital difficulties, including divorce
  • Loss of regular employment
  • Breakdown of friendships and other interpersonal relationships

Oxycontin Side Effects

If you experience any of the following, you might want to seek immediate medical attention, or check into an OxyContin rehabilitation facility:

  • Changes in heart rhythm or rate
  • Chills and cold sweats
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Difficulties in normal sexual function
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Fever
  • Fractures
  • Hormonal dysfunction
  • Intermittent loss of normal consciousness
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Respiratory complications, such as difficulty/slowed breathing
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sedation
  • Shaking feet, hands, and limbs
  • Swelling of the throat or face
  • Tightness in the chest

More specifically, fatal side effects, on the other hand, include:

  • Coma
  • Difficulty breathing

Oxycontin Addictive Qualities

OxyContin is highly addictive because it is an oxycodone derivative. One of the main signs of abusing this drug includes addictive behavior. In most cases, you start taking the medication according to your doctor's prescription. However, opiates usually result in tolerance, which is how most people get addicted to these types of drugs.

After you continue taking your regular 20mg dose for a period, you may no longer be able to feel the pain relieving effects of the drug. As a direct result, you are likely to increase your dose to 40mg, and continue doing this over time.

At some point in the future, your body becomes accustomed to a dose that would kill anyone who just started using the drug. Here, you will have a problem with the relatively small doses your doctor prescribes, and start seeking more of the drug through doctor shopping.

Eventually, you are highly likely to steal OxyContin, buy it illegally, or use any other means that will keep you supplied on the drug. At this juncture, getting and using the drug becomes the most important activity in your life.

As a direct result, you may neglect your health, work, family, friendships, and any other ordinary responsibility you had in the past in a bid to continue abusing OxyContin to enjoy the euphoric effects it generates.

Oxycontin Overdose

Continued use can eventually cause you to take more of the medication than your body can handle. The following are some of the signs and symptoms of an OxyContin overdose:

  • Constricted pupils that do not react to light
  • Cyanotic (bluish appearance to fingernails and lips)
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Extreme sedation
  • Lack of responsiveness even to painful stimuli
  • Respiratory arrest.

Oxycontin Withdrawal

Addiction to OxyContin is directly related to tolerance and dependence. Once your brain becomes accustomed to the drug and its mental and physical effects, it becomes difficult to stop using the drug.

Once addicted, the following withdrawal symptoms may occur when trying to quit OxyContin use:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Bone pain
  • Chills
  • Depression
  • Diaphoresis (excessive sweating)
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting, nausea, and appetite changes
  • Goose bumps
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Panic attacks
  • Rebound pain
  • Restlessness
  • Runny eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Shivering and feeling cold
  • Sweating
  • Unpleasant mood
  • Weakness
  • Yawning

Oxycontin Dangers

Although OxyContin works effectively at relieving traumatic pain, the dangers the drug poses are quite severe. The medication causes euphoria, meaning that you might start abusing it to experience these effects despite the risks accompanying such abuse.

One of the dangers that are related to OxyContin abuse arises from the potential of a fatal overdose. The drug is likely to depress respiratory function and decrease blood pressure. These effects might cause cardiac arrest, coma, or seizure, particularly if you ingest the tablets or snort the powder resulting after you crush the drugs.

When used in combination with other depressants (such as alcohol, other opiates, and benzodiazepines), your risk of a fatal overdose will be even higher. In some cases, OxyContin overdose might lead to death.

Signs And Symptoms Of Oxycontin Abuse

When you use OxyContin, you might experience a wide variety of signs and symptoms. These are typically related to the drug's activity at the brain's opioid receptors, which means that the medication might depress different functions throughout your body.

Consider the following common signs and symptoms of OxyContin use, abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction:

1. Mood Symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
2. Behavioral Symptoms
  • Consistently losing your prescriptions
  • Doctor shopping
  • Drowsiness
  • Financial problems
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Hiding the drug in different places
  • Concealing the use of the drug from others
  • Lying about the amount of medication you used
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, school, and work
  • Stealing or borrowing money from family and friends
  • Stealing or borrowing pills from others
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Track marks legs and arms
3. Physical Symptoms
  • Constipation
  • Constriction of the pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Hypotension
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Nodding out
  • Physical tolerance
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
4. Psychological Symptoms
  • Addiction
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Increase in the symptoms of poor mental health
  • Paranoia
  • Psychological tolerance
  • Worsening emotional health

Treatment For Oxycontin Addiction

If you are addicted to OxyContin, you might benefit from addiction treatment and rehabilitation. The best type of recovery depends on your situation and needs. As such, you might benefit from residential or outpatient treatment, dual diagnosis, individual therapy, group counseling, and after care services.

Irrespective of the type of treatment you start on, the course of therapy will most likely start with detox or withdrawal. After that, you will undergo intensive therapy and counseling, before taking up sustained recovery through different aftercare programs.

Overall, it is possible to kick your OxyContin addiction. The main thing is that you get started when you discover that you are developing tolerance and dependence to the drug so that you can receive adequate help until you are off the medication.

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