Can You Overdose on OxyContin? Opiate Overdose Symptoms
According to the CDC, the U.S. is in the middle of an opioid overdose epidemic, and in 2015 opioids including prescription drugs and heroin killed more than 33,000 people. That was more than any year in history, and the CDC reports that almost half of those deaths were related to a prescription like OxyContin.
Below is some brief information about the overall opioid epidemic in the U.S. right now:
- More than six out of ten overdose deaths in the U.S. involve an opioid
- During the years from 2000 to 2015 more than 500,000 people died from drug overdoses
- Every day in America, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose
- Since 1999 the prescription opioids sold in the U.S. have almost quadrupled, but there hasn’t been a change in pain reported by people in the U.S.
- Death from prescription drugs including oxycodone have quadrupled since 1999 as well
It’s important to have an understanding of the problem of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. before looking specifically at the potential to overdose on OxyContin.
In 2014 there were nearly two million Americans who were reportedly dependent on or abusing prescription opioids, and there are believed to be as many as one in four people who use prescription opioids long-term without cancer pain and ultimately struggle with addiction. Each day in the U.S. there are more than 1000 people who go to emergency rooms because of misuse of prescription opioids, and the three drugs most involved in opioid overdose deaths are methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin).
OxyContin is an extended-release version of oxycodone that binds to opioid receptors when a person takes it. Unlike many other opioids, OxyContin is controlled-release, so it’s intended to be used to treat chronic pain in an around-the-clock way. The medicine has a slower effect than immediate release opioid, but unfortunately, people frequently abuse this drug. It’s often crushed up and dissolved to be injected, or snorted. This delivers all of the effects of the OxyContin at one time and creates a euphoric high very quickly.
The abuse of OxyContin and the dangers associated with misusing it are the reasons why so many people overdose and ultimately die.
Some of the risk factors to abuse opioids according to the CDC, including OxyContin are having multiple prescriptions, having a history of mental health disorders or substance abuse disorders, living in a rural area, and having a low income.
Of course, while there might be some risk factors, no one is immune to the potential for opioid addiction, and the epidemic has reached across geographic, cultural, racial and socio-economic boundaries, particularly in the past decade.
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These controls and checks aren’t in place when you’re abusing OxyContin, either by taking it without a prescription or taking it in a way other than what’s directed by your doctor.
Another reason users frequently overdose on OxyContin is because they mix it with other substances, often to amplify the effects.
Other risk factors for an overdose on OxyContin include taking large quantities of OxyContin at one time or relapsing after a withdrawal. When you relapse your tolerance has often gone down, yet if someone doesn’t take this into account when taking the drug, they can take such a high dose that they overdose.
Another risk factor for an overdose on OxyContin is building a tolerance. With opioids your brain and body quickly become used to the effects of the drug, so you don’t get the same effect, sometimes even after only taking it a few times. When this happens, people will take larger doses in an attempt to get high, but they may overdose.
When you abuse OxyContin in any of these ways, it can slow down your central nervous system so much that you slip into a coma, or stop breathing.
Some of the signs someone has overdosed on OxyContin include:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Extreme drowsiness or sedation
- Limp muscles
- Nausea and uncontrollable vomiting
- Skin that feels cold and clammy
- Low blood pressure
- Weak pulse
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Fingernails or lips that look blue
There are some treatment options for people who have overdosed on OxyContin, but often it’s too late by the time it’s discovered. People frequently die from an OxyContin overdose, as is the case with other prescription opioids and heroin. Even when someone doesn’t die from an overdose on OxyContin, recovery is difficult.
Following an overdose on OxyContin people may have long-term complications that can include muscle damage, permanent brain damage or pneumonia.
The best thing to do to avoid an overdose on OxyContin is only to take it exactly as prescribed by your doctor if you use it legitimately, and if you are abusing it with or without a prescription, you should seek opioid addiction treatment.