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 addicts and prescribing physicians. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, there were 58.8 million prescriptions filled for oxycodone in 2013.

Who is abusing it

Prescription drugs have long been favorites among drug abusers. 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. These drug abusers crush OxyContin tablets and dissolve the powder into water before injecting it either into the bloodstream directly or into their muscle. 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 the prescription drug abusers 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.

All opioid drugs are highly addictive. Prescription variants are no safer than illicit heroin. In fact, 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 Oxy 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 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 continue to need to raise that dose as tolerance grows, and the body requires larger amounts of the drug to produce the same effects.

Withdrawal is highly uncomfortable, so addicts 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 even though the person has already suffered serious side effects from Oxy abuse, such as arrests, custody issues, lost relationships, or financial strain, is also indicative of addiction.

All opioid drugs are highly addictive. Prescription variants are no safer than illicit heroin. In fact, 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 Oxy abuse include:

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

Detox and therapy

Man in group therapyDetox is an important part of getting clean from opiates; however, it should never be done without medical supervision. Some addicts 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 addicts off 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 addict to sleep and administering naltrexone. The intent of rapid detox is to allow the addict to progress through detox without feeling the pains of withdrawal. After a period of six hours to as long as two days, the addict is removed from sedation and allegedly clean. What seems promising obviously 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.


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 all opiate addictions. 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, abstinence is attained and held the longest when treatment is ongoing for at least one year.


The importance of after care

The risk of relapse when abusing 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: November 2nd, 2016 by The Recovery Village