OxyContin is a prescription medication given for severe or chronic pain. Because of its properties and ingredients, it is also highly addictive. Many people become addicted to the drug, which can impact every aspect of their lives. It’s important to understand the legitimate uses for this drug, what can cause addiction and how OxyContin addiction can be treated.
What is OxyContin and Why is It Prescribed?
OxyContin is actually the brand name for a medication which includes oxycodone as its active ingredient. This is a medication used to reduce pain, a narcotic analgesic, often prescribed for everything from cancer to arthritis. It is similar to morphine and is found in numerous drugs with other medications. For example, Percocet is a mix of oxycodone and acetaminophen. Percodan is a combination of aspirin and oxycodone.
One of the features of OxyContin that has made it so popular is its time-release design to provide up to 12 hours of relief for sufferers of chronic pain. The medication contains between 10 and 80 milligrams of oxycodone in each dose. OxyContin has proven beneficial to many patients with moderate to severe pain who need medication around the clock. Instead of taking medication every four hours, they can enjoy 12 hours without the need for additional pain medication.
Because of the time release formula, OxyContin is generally safe to give to people for pain relief. When taken as prescribed, the medication releases into the system a little at a time, and it doesn’t lead to the euphoric feeling often associated with addiction.
Why OxyContin is Abused
Many people can take the medication with no problems. However, it carries a high risk of addiction if not taken exactly as prescribed and monitored by a medical provider. When OxyContin is abused, the person may take it more often than recommended. The system begins to expect it and can’t function without it. A person with a history of abuse and addiction is more likely to suffer from OxyContin abuse.
When the drug is crushed, it releases all of the medication at once instead of in a time-release formula. The person using OxyContin receives the full effects immediately, which results in an intense high similar to heroin. It may be snorted when it is crushed or swallowed. It can also be added to liquid and injected for a faster response.
OxyContin is sold on the streets under various names, such as the following:
- Hillbilly Heroin
Even though the drug oxycodone has been abused for many years, the problem escalated with the introduction of OxyContin in 1996. While some abusers are patients who took more of the medication than what was prescribed, a larger number of users are teens who start out with prescription medications for the high before moving on to illegal drugs. They may steal it from family and friends who have a legitimate prescription or they may be offered it from a friend or acquaintance at a party.
A study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2015 showed that a minimum of 3.7 percent of teens in 12th grade had used OxyContin without a prescription. Many start out as recreational users at parties and with their friends. Unfortunately, they are not aware of the risk of addiction until it is too late.
Recently, the maker of OxyContin changed the formula to prevent it from being crushed to meet government requirements. While this may inhibit people from abusing the drug, it doesn’t prevent it completely. A person can still take multiple pills to experience the same “high” as they did when crushing the medication.
OxyContin and Heroin
Another danger of OxyContin abuse is that it often leads to heroin use and addiction. Because the two drugs are similar, a person may turn to heroin if they cannot obtain the prescription drug or if it is no longer effective.
Dealers who have OxyContin for sale on the street may also have heroin, which they encourage users to switch to, knowing that it may be even more addictive. It’s also less expensive, which means it’s more accessible. However, even young professionals and those with higher incomes may turn to heroin when they can no longer get the OxyContin. Because heroin is often mixed with other chemicals, it can be dangerous and lead to overdose and other health risks.
Signs of OxyContin Addiction
The signs for addiction to OxyContin is similar to other drugs, both prescription and illegal. The person will take the drug more often and at higher dosages because the original amount doesn’t achieve the same effect. Other signs of OxyContin addiction include:
- The person would rather take drugs than do anything else
- The user withdraws from other activities so they can spend time being high
- The person obtains more of the drug to avoid withdrawal
- The person lies about drug use
- The user forgets activities or other events because of being high or blacking out from the drug use
In addition, the person’s behavior often changes. They may experience mood swings and violent tempers, as well as becoming manic where they are energetic for a period followed by fatigue and lifelessness. Users often alienate family and friends and begin hanging out with others who are also using.
The abuser often steals money from people they know or items to sell to finance their addiction. They also go through physical changes where they lose weight, stop caring about their appearance and have slurred speech and trembling movements.
Side Effects of OxyContin Abuse
People who abuse OxyContin may suffer from serious physical side effects. The risk for overdose is high because the drug doesn’t seem as dangerous, and users often feel like they can handle the amount. One of the main concerns is the increased risk of death because of the high dosage of OxyContin. Other side effects include the following:
- Rash or hives
- Tightness in the chest
- Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
- Cold sweats and chills
- Swelling in the face or in the throat
- Changes in heart rate
- Difficulty breathing or slowed respirations
- Shakiness in hands, feet or extremities
If the person experiences these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.
Withdrawal from OxyContin
When a person cannot obtain more of the drug or they begin to go through detoxification, they are likely to suffer from withdrawal symptoms. These can be quite severe and prolonged, depending on how much of the drug was being used and how often.
During the first eight hours after the last dose, the person may experience cravings for more of it. They may have severe mood swings from anxiety to depression. They may also suffer from mild dysphoria.
After the initial stage, the person will continue to feel worse for up to 24 hours. During this time, they may have stomach cramps, runny nose, and watery eyes. They may sweat intensely and feel restless. They are often unable to sleep.
The third stage may last for several days. During this time, they may have fever and chills, as well as muscle spasms. They often feel nauseated and vomit. They may have diarrhea and an elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
While the withdrawal symptoms are not generally life-threatening, they often lead to relapse unless the person attends a rehab facility. For people with other medical conditions, complications from withdrawal could be serious, and potentially fatal. This is another reason it’s not recommended to try to detox from Oxycontin alone.
Treatment for OxyContin Abuse and Addiction
Once the person has completed detox, they will begin treatment for OxyContin addiction. It may happen in an inpatient rehab facility or on an outpatient basis. For someone with a severe addiction, residential programs provide more support.
Treatment for this type of addiction is similar to heroin addiction. The person will go through a treatment plan, which often includes cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational incentives and other programs. They may even engage in alternative therapy, such as music or art therapy, as part of the overall treatment program.
Individual and group counseling sessions are usually part of addiction treatment, regardless of the type of drug being abused. Relapse prevention is an essential component where the person learns to identify potential triggers and creates a plan to avoid or deal with them. They will also have to understand the importance of avoiding prescription painkillers in the future which could precipitate another issue.
OxyContin abuse and addiction is a serious problem and has become a major issue throughout the country. If you know of someone who may be abusing this medication or if you are that person who is taking more than you should of the medication, you should seek help. Don’t underestimate the dangers of OxyContin addiction.
Please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for help. We are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Help is available now.