OxyContin is the brand name of oxycodone, a popular and highly addictive opioid painkiller. Though OxyContin is one of the most familiar opioid drugs on the market, oxycodone is also sold under other brand names.
A controversial drug, OxyContin has been linked to high rates of overdose and addiction thanks to widespread prescribing by physicians in the United States. As a result, doctors are now expected to closely monitor OxyContin prescriptions, find alternative approaches to pain management for their patients, or use “tamper-proof” pills that can’t be crushed or dissolved.
All opioids are addictive. However, because of its high potency, OxyContin is especially likely to lead both patients and recreational users to become dependent and develop dangerous addictive behaviors.
If you or a loved one are using OxyContin for any reason, it is critical that you understand your risk for addiction. Speak to your doctor or contact an addiction treatment specialist for more information.
What is OxyContin?
OxyContin is an opioid drug, which means that it is manufactured to incorporate the painkilling properties found within the opium plant (which also exists in other drugs such as morphine). OxyContin and other oxycodone brands are typically used by patients who are managing severe, long-lasting pain related to accidents, surgery, cancer treatment, or other medical conditions that greatly impact their quality of life. Users take OxyContin by mouth in pill form as a “controlled release” substance, meaning the drug gradually enters the brain and body over a period of hours.
OxyContin may also be combined with other medications such as acetaminophen or aspirin under different brand names.
Like other opioid drugs, OxyContin is not only used by patients managing pain. Recreational users seek out the drug, too, because it produces a temporary sense of calm, a euphoric “high,” and a short-term release from pain.
OxyContin is considered to be one of the most powerful prescription painkillers available, but must be carefully managed by doctors and should never be used without medical supervision.
Effects of OxyContin On the Brain
OxyContin adjusts brain chemistry by acting as an agonist, which means it binds with opioid receptors in the brain and reduces pain signals throughout the body. These receptors also produce pleasure chemicals, such as dopamine, which promote this pain-reducing behavior, similar to what people might feel while eating or exercising.
This makes OxyContin and other opioid drugs enticing for users not only for pain relief but also for the “high,” or brief feelings of pleasure, that comes with their use.
Because of the drug’s powerful properties, the brain gradually becomes accustomed to the presence of OxyContin in the body, particularly for patients who take it on a 12-hour cycle for pain relief.
This results in tolerance, when a patient requires a higher dosage of the drug to feel the same effect as when they first started. Eventually, tolerance can develop into dependence on the drug, which puts users at risk for withdrawal if they try to quit taking the drug “cold turkey” or all at once.
Signs & Symptoms of OxyContin Addiction
If you or a loved one are concerned about OxyContin addiction, it’s important to understand the common signs and symptoms associated with misuse of the drug.
In addition to reducing pain, OxyContin and other opioids also slow down the body’s internal systems, which can result in reduced or dangerously slow activity in the digestive tract, the lungs, or the heart.
If you or a loved one are showing any of the following physical symptoms after long-term use of OxyContin, you may be displaying signs of addiction:
- Feelings of exhaustion, sleepiness, or difficulty staying awake
- Inability to follow conversations or basic commands or a general sense of confusion
- Upset stomach, vomiting, or constipation
- Difficulty breathing
- Slowed heart rate
Aside from physical symptoms, opioid addiction can also show up through a variety of unexpected or noticeable behaviors, some of which can include:
- Anger, irritability, or unpredictable behavior
- Disinterest in hobbies, friends, family, or other interests
- Challenges in personal or professional relationships
- Missing work or school activities
- Hoarding or seeking out prescription medications
- “Doctor shopping” or trying to find a medical professional to refill a prescription
- Asking friends and family to refill prescriptions or share medications
- Crushing or dissolving pills for later use
- Combining opioids with other drugs or alcohol
If you notice a loved one exhibiting these warning signs, contact a medical or addiction treatment professional as soon as possible to better understand your options for getting them necessary help.
OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms
Most individuals who use opioid painkillers like OxyContin on a regular basis do so to manage pain. However, another major motivation for the continued use of opioids is the fear of withdrawal.
Withdrawal occurs when an individual chooses to stop taking opioid drugs, either gradually or all at once (also called “cold turkey”). Withdrawal can also occur if an individual skips a dose or runs out of medication.
Common withdrawal symptoms associated with OxyContin use can include:
- Cold-like symptoms (runny nose, sleepiness, headache)
- Feeling jittery, anxious, nervous, or upset
- More pain than typical while taking opioids
- Intestinal issues (stomach pain, nausea, vomiting)
- Changes in heart rate, blood pressure, or breathing rate
- Suicidal ideation
- Insomnia or restless sleep
Because withdrawal can be painful or even life-threatening, it is critical that anyone trying to lessen or stop their use of OxyContin do so under the supervision of a doctor or addiction treatment professional.
When handled properly, OxyContin withdrawal can be mild. If left untreated or unsupervised, however, withdrawal can lead to potentially fatal complications.
Most doctors and addiction treatment professionals will use a tapering method to allow individuals to gradually reduce their use of OxyContin and other opioids. This also helps reduce the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms. Doctors and treatment providers can also monitor the individual’s vitals, including their blood pressure, urine and blood, and body temperature to ensure the withdrawal process is going smoothly. In some cases, they can also provide additional medications to help ease discomfort, as well as fluids and food to keep individuals fed and hydrated.
OxyContin Addiction Treatment & Recovery
OxyContin is a highly addictive drug which requires a carefully-monitored withdrawal process to stop use. However, addiction to OxyContin is treatable.
Many opioid addiction treatment programs offer some form of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, which utilize medications known as opioid antagonists to block the effects of opioid drugs. These drugs include naltrexone, a popular medication used to undo changes to brain chemistry caused by opioid use.
But MAT does not treat opioid addiction on its own. Because addiction is more than just physical dependence on a drug, it’s important to treat the social, emotional, and spiritual elements of addictive behavior, as well. Treatment programs that incorporate some combination of individual and group therapy, counseling, and ongoing support often produce the best results.
Depending on the length and severity of their addiction, individuals can choose from a variety of treatment programs to meet their needs, interests, and goals. Most programs, including ours at Solution Based Treatment & Detox, include both residential and outpatient options for individuals who are at different stages of their recovery.
Additionally, reputable programs, including our own, provide ongoing support as individuals complete their treatment, including options for aftercare services and alumni support. No program should leave any individual without the resources and support that they need for their continuing recovery.
If you, a friend or a loved one are showing signs of OxyContin addiction or abuse, contact Solution Based Treatment & Detox for a plan to get started on your recovery. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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