OxyContin is a brand name for oxycodone — a prescription opioid pain reliever — and it is likely the most popular of all in its class among drug abusers.

What is OxyContin?

OxyContin was first synthesized in 1916, but it didn’t make its way to America until 1939, where variants of it would show their addictive potential in decades to come. By 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was passed and included OxyContin as a Schedule II drug.

Since then, it has been popular among both prescribing physicians and those suffering from substance use disorder. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, there were 58.8 million prescriptions filled for oxycodone in 2013.

OxyContin is the long-acting version of a prescription opioid pain medicine called oxycodone.

This opioid is used for the treatment of moderate to severe, chronic pain. Unlike some other prescription painkillers, OxyContin is not intended for as-needed pain relief. OxyContin is a time-released version of oxycodone, and it can be used to relieve pain resulting from surgery, injuries, cancer and sometimes arthritis.

Similar to morphine, oxycodone is in other prescription pain medicines, including Percocet, which is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen.

This time-released formula provides up to 12 hours of relief for people who suffer from chronic pain. This around-the-clock pain treatment is one of the things that sets OxyContin apart from other opioid pain relievers. As compared to OxyContin, short-acting painkillers tend to last only from three to six hours. Unfortunately, even though opioids like OxyContin are effective at treating pain, they are frequently abused.

OxyContin abuse is incredibly common. The DEA says the drug’s popularity has been a problem for more than 30 years, but it has significantly worsened in recent years. There is also a high level of concern about OxyContin abuse and OxyContin addiction among teens and young adults.

Learn more about commonly abused opioids.

Codeine | Fentanyl | Hydrocodone | Morphine | Oxycodone | Percocet

How Is OxyContin Used?

To avoid OxyContin addiction, it’s important that patients take this opioid analgesic exactly as directed by their doctor. OxyContin, even when taken as prescribed, has a high potential for abuse and addiction, but when you follow your prescription, you lower those risks. Patients are warned never to take more OxyContin than they’re prescribed or to take it in ways other than how it’s intended to be used. OxyContin extended release dosages are meant to be taken orally and they shouldn’t be crushed, opened or broken.

If someone misses a dose of OxyContin, they should call their pharmacist before taking any additional action.

Some of the potential side effects with OxyContin include drowsiness, headaches, and dizziness. People may also experience constipation, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth and itching.

OxyContin Addiction

OxyContin abuse doesn’t necessarily indicate OxyContin addiction, but when someone does abuse this controlled substance, they are more likely to become addicted. With OxyContin addiction, a person often experiences strong and often uncontrollable cravings for the drug. Opioids alter the brain’s chemistry in a way that leads to addiction relatively quickly, which is why OxyContin abuse so often leads to OxyContin addiction.

Some of the signs of OxyContin addiction include changes to behavior or lifestyle, taking the drug in ways other than how it’s intended to be used, and seeming tired or detached. Getting OxyContin illegally may indicate an OxyContin addiction, as can secretive behavior.

It’s also important to realize that OxyContin abuse occurs when people mix this drug with other substances to heighten the effects. For example, people may pair OxyContin with other opioids or alcohol. Not only is this dangerous, but it is an indicator of OxyContin abuse.

The high from OxyContin is often compared to that of heroin, and people with an OxyContin addiction can quickly develop a tolerance to the drug. When this happens, users feel as if they need larger amounts of the drug for the same effect, and that’s often when it becomes a lethal situation.

People who take OxyContin for legitimate reasons and follow their prescription may build up a tolerance to the drug, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have an OxyContin addiction. For those struggling with addiction, there are many OxyContin addiction treatment centers throughout the United States that can help transform lives. By attending rehab for OxyContin addiction, those suffering from substance abuse can learn new habits and thought patterns for a healthier life free from substance abuse.

Risks of Abuse

Opioid drugs are highly addictive. Prescription variants are no safer than illicit heroin. In fact, because of its legality, overdose is far more common for drugs like OxyContin than it is for heroin. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reports 3,635 people died as the result of a heroin overdose in 2012 across 28 reporting states, compared to 9,869 people who died from prescription opioids.

Side effects that often stem from OxyContin abuse include:

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Muscular pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Panic attacks
  • Fever
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiousness

Signs of OxyContin Addiction

OxyContin addiction and abuse are not the same. Some people abuse drugs for short periods of time without becoming dependent. People in the grips of OxyContin addiction often exhibit telltale signs, such as tolerance. While they may have easily attained an extreme high on a small dose at one point in time, they’ll usually continue to raise that dose as tolerance grows as the body requires larger amounts of the drug to produce the same effects.

Withdrawal is highly uncomfortable, so those struggling with substance use disorder will often use as soon as they start feeling any sign of it bubbling to the surface. If someone in your life is abusing OxyContin and seems to continually bail on plans with friends and family members to use the drug instead, she may be hooked on the potent painkiller. Failed attempts at cutting back or quitting are also red flags of OxyContin addiction. Using OxyContin despite suffering from serious side effects such as arrests, custody issues, lost relationships, or financial strain, is also indicative of OxyContin addiction.

Detox and Therapy

Detox is an important part of moving on from opiates; however, it should never be done without medical supervision. Some people attempt a cold-turkey detox on their own, and this can be incredibly dangerous. In fact, Wired Magazine notes the success rate among those who try to detox alone is a mere 5 percent.

Some questionable treatment facilities promote a newer form of weaning off of opiates, known as rapid detox or ultra-rapid detox. Rapid detox is advertised as being safe, effective and fast, but it is a controversial form of detox that comes with substantial risk.

The process involves putting the person to sleep and administering naltrexone. The intent of rapid detox is to allow the person to progress through detox without feeling the pains of withdrawal. After a period of six hours to as long as two days, the person is removed from sedation and allegedly clean. What seems promising often isn’t as the outcomes of this controversial treatment speak for themselves. Eighty percent of people who go through rapid detox relapse within six months following the process and withdrawal symptoms were not entirely absent a day after the procedure either. In addition, deaths have been reported in recent years as a result of rapid detox procedures. If you’re seeking Oxycontin addiction treatment, it’s best to attend a reputable medical detox program to safely transition away from the drug.

Naloxone has shown some promise in recent years as a method of reversal for side effects stemming from opioid abuse and overdose. For the 16,000 people who died as the result of prescription opioid abuse in 2013, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of those lives may have been saved had this drug been administered in time.

Methadone is the most common form of treatment for opiate addiction. According to the California Society of Addiction Medicine, 60–90 percent of individuals who are treated with methadone reach recovery.

Buprenorphine is an alternative to methadone. Patients start out on a moderate and safe dose of the treatment drug, which is then slowly reduced over time. Generally, recovery is attained and held the longest when treatment is ongoing for at least one year.

The Importance of Aftercare

]The risk of relapse after recovery from opioids like OxyContin is high. Per Everyday Health, OxyContin addicts have an 85 percent chance of relapse following one year of sobriety. While relapse is common, it isn’t inevitable, and it doesn’t signify a failure of treatment. Relapse can often be a sign that the treatment plan needs to be adjusted in some way.

A strong aftercare program is essential in the fight against relapse. With high levels of support and ongoing participation in therapy and support groups, patients are best positioned to avoid relapse.

At The Recovery Village, professionals can design a treatment program that can help you or your loved one to leave OxyContin addiction and abuse behind for good. Call today to learn more about treatment offerings.

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.