What Is OxyContin?

Man discussing his drug addiction

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. The drug 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 a favorite 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 prescription version of an opioid narcotic pain medicine called oxycodone. This opioid is used for the treatment of moderate to severe, around-the-clock pain, and unlike some other prescription painkillers, OxyContin is not intended for as-needed pain relief. This 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 some 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, other painkillers tend to last only around four hours. Unfortunately, despite the fact that opioids like OxyContin are effective at treating pain, they are frequently abused.

OxyContin abuse is incredibly common. Street names for OxyContin include OC, Hillbilly Heroin, OxyCotton and Kicker. The concept of Oxy addiction and OxyContin abuse isn’t new — the DEA says it’s been a problem for more than 30 years, but it has been on the rise in recent years. There is also a high level of concern about OxyContin abuse and Oxy addiction among teens and young adults.

How Is OxyContin Used?

To avoid Oxy addiction, it’s important that patients take this opioid analgesic exactly as directed by their doctor. OxyContin, even when taken as prescribed does have a high potential for abuse and addiction, but when you follow instructions you lower those risks. Patients are warned never to take more OxyContin than they’re prescribed, to take it more often than they’re told by their doctor, 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’re instructed to skip it if it’s almost time for their next rather than trying to make up for it with extra medicine, and people are also warned not to drink alcohol while using the drug because it can result in fatal side effects.

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

The initial dosage for this controlled release opioid usually starts at 10 mg taken every twelve hours, and the average daily dose is around 105 mg per day. Geriatric patients may follow different dosage guidelines.

OxyContin Abuse: Who Is Abusing It?

OxyContin is one of the most widely abused prescription drugs in the country. One of the primary ways OxyContin abuse occurs is when people take it in ways other than what it’s intended for.

Some people may break or crush the capsules, or they may chew the drug. When OxyContin is crushed, it can then be snorted or injected, which releases all of the medicine into the bloodstream at one time, creating a euphoric high. When taken as instructed, OxyContin might not necessarily create a euphoric high since it is a controlled-release drug.

When it’s crushed and administered other ways, the effects are heightened, and it also starts to take effect more quickly. Anytime a person takes the drug in a way other than what’s prescribed, it’s considered OxyContin abuse.

OxyContin abuse increases the likelihood of negative side effects as well. This can include mood changes, constipation, liver damage, fatigue, heart attack, coma and death. You’re also raising the risk of overdose with OxyContin abuse since so much of the drug is hitting your bloodstream at one time.

Opioids like OxyContin depress the central nervous system, which is how they relieve pain. That can ultimately lead to respiratory depression, however, and you may stop breathing.

Prescription drugs have a long history of being misused. Medline reports lifetime misuse of prescription opioids occurs in 9 percent of the American population. Pills are easy to transport and sell, and most formulations are easy to crush and manipulate into several forms for abuse.

Even injection drug abusers can take advantage of the high Oxy has to offer. Some people crush OxyContin tablets and dissolve the powder into water before injecting it either into the bloodstream directly or into the muscle. Stringent attempts to deter this behavior came along in 2010 when Purdue Pharma produced a more tamper-resistant form of OxyContin that was harder to crush. While it made it more difficult, it still isn’t impossible to crush it. While rates of abuse have declined a bit, it isn’t significant, and other prescription opiates are quickly filling Oxy’s shoes.

It often comes as a surprise that aging adults account for a large proportion of those who abuse prescription drugs in this country, especially when it comes to opioids. Older adults consume about one-third of all the prescription drugs in the United States, despite making up only 13 percent of the American population, per Family Doctor. Most of these cases involve regular use that turns into misuse and abuse, and they are often unintentional cases of abuse.

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 Oxy 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 Oxy 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 Oxy 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 Oxy 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 substanc abuse can learn new habits and thought patterns for a healthier life free from subsance 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
Abuse and addiction are not the same. Some people abuse drugs for short periods of time and dependence doesn’t form. People who are addicted to OxyContin 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 addiction. Using OxyContin despite suffering from serious side effects such as arrests, custody issues, lost relationships, or financial strain, is also indicative of addiction.

Detox and Therapy

Man in group therapyDetox 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, 6090 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 abuse and addiction behind for good. Call today to learn more about treatment offerings.

OxyContin Addiction Treatment was last modified: August 3rd, 2017 by The Recovery Village