Despite being an effective painkiller, abusing OxyContin can lead to serious side effects including addiction. If this prescription painkiller has become a problem for you or a loved one, our flexible addiction treatment programs can help you get your life back.
OxyContin is an opioid drug that doctors use to treat chronic pain. Although highly effective, OxyContin can lead to addiction if not taken correctly. Becoming addicted to OxyContin can cause liver damage, seizures, coma, respiratory failure, overdose, and unintentional death. Addiction to this drug can also worsen pre-existing mental health disorders. The good news is that OxyContin addiction can be treated. Understanding OxyContin, knowing how the drug works, and recognizing the signs and symptoms of addiction can help individuals get the treatment they need, which can, in turn, save lives.
What Is OxyContin?
OxyContin is the brand-name version of Oxycodone, a popular prescription painkiller. Like other opioids, Oxycodone comes from the poppy plant. Even though many people misuse OxyContin, the drug was originally created to treat severe, chronic pain.
OxyContin was developed in 1995 to provide long-lasting pain relief so people with severe pain wouldn’t have to take pills as often. Doctors mainly prescribe OxyContin for moderate to severe pain resulting from injuries, bursitis, neuralgia, arthritis, and cancer. The tablets, which can be 10, 20, 40, or 80 milligrams, can vary in color and size depending on the dosage prescribed.
Unfortunately, people realized that when they crushed the tablet, the drug was released into the body more quickly, increasing the substance’s pain relief and euphoric effects. These increased effects caused people to misuse OxyContin. Soon, the drug, although beneficial, became associated with substance use and addiction.
When used recreationally, OxyContin is most commonly known as “Oxy,” but other street names for the drug include:
- “40,” a 40-milligram tablet
- “80,” an 80-milligram tablet
- “Hillibaby heroin”
Why Do People Abuse OxyContin?
People abuse OxyContin for the same reasons doctors prescribe it: long-lasting effects. This characteristic means that OxyContin’s effects last longer than shorter-acting opioids such as codeine and hydrocodone. When people take OxyContin, the drug produces a euphoric, pleasurable, relaxing effect that’s similar to heroin. These effects increase when people take OxyContin in larger doses than prescribed. Simply put, people abuse OxyContin because the high they experience from this drug lasts longer.
Because of this potential for abuse, OxyContin is considered a Schedule II substance. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Schedule II substances have a high potential for abuse and cause psychological and physical dependence. Other examples of Schedule II drugs include Vicodin, cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, Adderall, and fentanyl.
Even though many people abuse OxyContin by taking the tablets without a prescription, some people crush the pills and sniff them, while other people let the tablets dissolve in water and inject them into their veins. Some people abuse OxyContin by heating a tablet on aluminum foil and inhaling the vapors.
People of all ages abuse OxyContin. Unfortunately, many start at a young age. In fact, in 2017, 1 in 7 teenagers admitted to taking a prescription drug like OxyContin without a doctor’s prescription. Even though people abuse OxyContin for a variety of different reasons, some of the most common reasons for use include:
- Relieving physical pain
- Relieving tension
- Experimentation to see what the drug is like
- Feeling good
- An attempt at better sleep
- Trying to deal with unwanted feelings or emotions
- Peer pressure
- Trying to have fun
- Easy access
- A desire to increase or decrease the effects of other drugs
- An attempt to lose weight
- Becoming addicted
Side Effects Of OxyContin
Although OxyContin is an effective painkiller, taking the substance can lead to several side effects. These side effects, which can occur when OxyContin is taken as prescribed or misused, include:
- Dry mouth
- Mild itching
More severe OxyContin side effects can include:
- Shallow and labored breathing
- A slow heartbeat
- Severe drowsiness
- Severe constipation
- Sexual problems
- Severe lightheadedness
Despite these effects, many people continue to misuse and abuse OxyContin, increasing their risk for addiction.
How Can Someone Develop An Addiction To OxyContin?
In addition to relieving pain, OxyContin can also create feelings of pleasure and euphoria. These feelings can cause people to continue taking OxyContin long after their pain has subsided. Sadly, this can lead to addiction, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, an addiction to OxyContin generally occurs in stages, including:
- Initiation: Initiation, which can be medical or recreational, occurs when people try a substance for the first time. Even though initiation can happen at any time during a person’s life, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that most people with addiction try their drug of choice before they’re 18 years old. But initiation doesn’t automatically mean that someone will develop an addictive habit. Before someone becomes addicted to OxyContin, they have to start using the drug regularly.
- Regular Use: Not everyone who uses OxyContin will use the substance regularly. But those that do no longer use the drug as a temporary activity. Instead, OxyContin becomes a part of their lifestyle. They might take OxyContin every weekend when they’re lonely, bored, stressed, or dealing with difficult emotions. They may not use OxyContin every day, but they have developed a regular pattern of use. Many people at this stage feel that life isn’t as comfortable or satisfying when they don’t use OxyContin. Unfortunately, continuing this pattern of behavior can lead to misuse.
- Misuse: People should only use OxyContin when it’s prescribed by a licensed physician. When people take the substance without a prescription or deviate from their doctor’s instruction, they are misusing the drug. Different people misuse OxyContin in different ways, but some of the most common forms of misuse include:
- Taking OxyContin that wasn’t prescribed to you
- Taking more OxyContin than your prescribed dosage
- Using OxyContin more frequently than prescribed
- Borrowing OxyContin for a friend
- Using OxyContin to relax or to relieve emotional pain
- Taking OxyContin for a longer amount of time than prescribed
Not everyone who misuses OxyContin uses the drug to experience euphoric effects. Often, they’re trying to treat a medical need, but the FDA categorizes these actions as misuse because they are not using OxyContin based on a doctor’s directions. Individuals who are misusing OxyContin can stop doing so with the help of a healthcare professional. Unfortunately, many people continue to misuse the drug and end up abusing the substance.
- OxyContin Abuse: Individuals aren’t taking OxyContin to treat a specific ailment during this stage. Unlike individuals who misuse OxyContin, individuals who abuse the substance are often seeking pleasurable or euphoric effects. Using OxyContin can look different from person to person, but some of the most common signs that someone is abusing a prescription opioid like OxyContin include symptoms like:
- Brain fog
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty breathing
Unfortunately, this desire to get high often causes people to develop a tolerance for OxyContin.
- OxyContin Tolerance: Individuals who use OxyContin regularly can develop a tolerance for the drug. When this happens, the body has become so accustomed to OxyContin that the medication stops working as effectively as it once did. To experience the full effects of the drug again, most people need to increase the amount of OxyContin they consume. But since OxyContin is an opioid, taking more of the substance can lead to dependence.
- OxyContin Dependence: When people become dependent on OxyContin, they have a physical or psychological need for the substance. This means that the body only functions normally when the drug is present. When the drug isn’t present in the body or individuals suddenly reduce the amount of OxyContin they consume, the body can go through withdrawal symptoms. Experiencing these symptoms can be so uncomfortable that many people use OxyContin as a coping mechanism to stop withdrawal. Unfortunately, doing so can increase their risk of addiction.
- OxyContin Addiction: When individuals have developed an addiction to OxyContin, they use the substance compulsively despite any negative consequences. In addition to being unable to stop using OxyContin, individuals addicted to the drug will neglect family, work, and social responsibilities to obtain and consume OxyContin. Even if they want to quit using OxyContin, they’ll likely continue to consume the drug because their brain has been rewired to seek out, consume, and experience the effects of OxyContin.
Even though addiction doesn’t happen overnight, there are certain signs people tend to exhibit when they’ve developed an addiction to OxyContin.
Signs and Symptoms Of OxyContin Addiction
The signs and symptoms of OxyContin addiction can vary based on the frequency of use and the amount of OxyContin used. Still, the most common symptoms affect people’s mood, behavior, physical body, and psychological well-being.
Some of the most common mood-related symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
Some recurring behavioral symptoms include:
- Lying to others about the amount of OxyContin used
- Hiding OxyContin from others
- Borrowing or stealing OxyContin pills from loved ones and friends
- “Doctor shopping” or visiting several different doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions
- Forging prescriptions
- Constantly “losing” prescriptions
- Hiding OxyContin in various places around the house or in the car
- Track marks on the arms and legs from injection drug use
- Borrowing or stealing money from friends and family
- Neglecting responsibilities at work or home
- Strained interpersonal relationships
- Financial problems
Physical symptoms associated with OxyContin addiction include:
- “Nodding out”
- Nausea and vomiting
- Respiratory depression
- Dry mouth
Psychological symptoms can include:
- Worsening emotional health
Being addicted to OxyContin can also negatively affect individuals’ cognitive abilities. Some of these symptoms include:
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Memory trouble
- Impaired problem-solving skills
- Difficulty planning or following through on plans
Addiction to OxyContin can also have long-term effects on the body and mind.
Long-Term Effects Of OxyContin Addiction
Abusing OxyContin can have detrimental long-term effects on a person’s mental, social, and physical well-being. Misusing and abusing OxyContin for an extended time can also undermine a person’s ability to function effectively in their day-to-day life.
Some of the most common physical long-term effects of OxyContin addiction include:
- Liver damage
- Breathing irregularities
- Muscle weakness
- Cold and clammy skin
- Losing consciousness
- Respiratory failure
- Cognitive impairments
- Problems with spatial memory
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Reduced threshold for pain
- Menstrual irregularities and fertility challenges for women
- Myocardial infarction
- Chronically inflamed nasal passages from snorting pills
- Track marks, abscesses, and cellulitis from injecting the drug
- Infections such as hepatitis, bacterial endocarditis, HIV, and tuberculosis from needle sharing
Remaining addicted to OxyContin can also increase your risk of developing mental health challenges, including:
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorders
Some of the long-term psychological effects of OxyContin abuse include:
- Panic attacks
- Mood disorders
Being addicted to OxyContin can also lead to:
- Job loss
- Loss of interpersonal relationships
- Unintentional overdose
Taking high doses of an opioid prescription medication like OxyContin can lead to a potentially fatal overdose. This is because a large dose of medication can lead to cardiac arrest or cause an individual’s system to shut down. Recognizing the symptoms of an OxyContin overdose can help save lives.
Some of the most common OxyContin overdose symptoms include:
- Slowed heart rate
- Trouble breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Inability to wake up
- Limp, unresponsive arms or legs
- Extreme sleepiness and drowsiness
- Cold, clammy skin
- Slurred speech
- Impaired motor skills
- Choking or gurgling sounds
- Runny nose
- Flu-like symptoms
In the event of an OxyContin overdose, dial 911 immediately for emergency medical help. Trained first responders can help perform CPR if needed, stabilize the individual, and provide them with intravenous fluids and naloxone, a drug that quickly reverses an opioid overdose.
OxyContin Addiction Treatment and Help
Eliminating OxyContin from the body is one of the first steps an individual can and should take when they’re ready to regain control of their lives. But quitting OxyContin cold turkey is extremely risky. That’s why individuals should consider undergoing detox at a medically supervised facility or treatment program. Doing so allows medical personnel to monitor individuals’ vitals and help ease any physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms they may experience. Detoxification can be challenging, so it’s important that individuals know what to expect.
When people who are addicted to OxyContin stop using the substance, the brain and body have difficulty functioning. After undergoing an evaluation to assess an individual’s current health, detox plan, and recovery needs, the detoxification process begins. During this time, individuals:
1. Experience withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms can begin as soon as 24 hours after an individual’s last dose of OxyContin. Although symptoms can vary from person to person, some of the most common include:
- watery eyes
- loss of appetite
- muscle spasms
- increased blood pressure
- abdominal cramping
Most symptoms clear up after 3 days, but OxyContin withdrawal can last up to two weeks. To help ease some of the discomfort associated with these symptoms, detoxification teams and medical professionals work to help stabilize the brain.
2. May take medication to help stabilize the brain. Medication can help quickly stabilize the brain and help an individual function without opioids. Not everyone overcoming OxyContin addiction will be prescribed medication, but for those that are, the medical detox team will administer an opioid replacement medicine such as buprenorphine. This medication attaches to the same neurons in the brain that OxyContin does, but its effects are not as significant, helping individuals taper off OxyContin. Once the brain is stabilized, individuals can begin addiction treatment.
OxyContin Addiction Treatment
Here at Meta Addiction Treatment, we provide addiction treatment through three different types of outpatient programs: outpatient, intensive outpatient, and partial hospitalization. This means that people can recover from OxyContin addiction while maintaining many aspects of their day-to-day lives.
Even though each of our addiction treatment programs varies in intensity, they all provide:
- Individual and group counseling
- Behavioral therapy
- Family therapy
- Peer support groups
- 12-step program sessions
- Mindfulness-based meditation
- Discussions about substance abuse and co-occurring disorders
Some of our specific recovery and clinical services include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This specific type of therapy can help individuals addicted to OxyContin identify unhelpful thoughts and harmful behavior patterns and develop healthier, alternative strategies. According to CBT, thoughts shape feelings which determine behavior. By helping individuals learn healthier coping strategies, CBT can help them manage stress better, think clearer, and develop healthier behavior patterns.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). This type of therapy can help individuals understand, process, and manage some of the challenging emotions associated with addiction. DBT can also help individuals better manage stress, understand emotional responses, strengthen relationships, and reduce the likelihood of risky, impulsive behavior.
- Case Management. Our case management services include employment assistance, help with continuing education, follow-up meetings during and after treatment, and referrals for additional services.
- Peer support. We also incorporate peer support into our curriculum. We believe that every individual recovering from addiction should be surrounded by a supportive, judgment-free community that can help hold them accountable.
Reclaim Your Life Today
OxyContin can be a blessing or a curse. If this prescription painkiller has become a problem for you, there’s hope. Our flexible outpatient addiction treatment programs can help you reclaim your life. Contact us today if you’re ready to live a thriving, purposeful, and sober life.