OxyContin Addiction

A prescription medication as strong and easily abused as heroin, and available at your neighborhood drug store – sounds heard to believe, but with OxyContin, and formulations that contain as much as 80mgs of the potent opiate narcotic oxycodone, this opiate story is far from fiction.

The OxyContin Story

As an extended release and long duration formulation of the opiate medication oxycodone, OxyContin provides pain relief for up to 12 hours for people in moderate to severe pain. With the potency of the medication and the risks of physical dependency, OxyContin was never intended for occasional or short-term use. It was designed only for use as a long-term pain reliever for people with chronic and hard-to-manage pain.

Unfortunately, abusers quickly realized that by breaking apart the extended release capsules and consuming the medication inside, they had access to a potent quantity of narcotic drugs that were not combined with acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen (medications that are usually paired with opiates to minimize abuse and diversion).

Although a Schedule II medication under the Controlled Substances Act and subject to strict sales controls, OxyContin has become one of America's most commonly abused substances. In 2006, 4.1 million Americans admitted having abused some form of oxycodone to get high.

Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical company that patented, manufactured, and marketed the medication, actually faced criminal charges for misleading doctors about the abuse and addiction risk of the extended release formulation. After an emotional trial which included the testimony of many parents whose children had overdosed on OxyContin, three company executives were found guilty of misleading marketing practices and the company itself was fined more than $600 million.

OxyContin may work very well for long-term pain control, but the thousands of terrible and tragic overdoses and the countless lives affected by addiction in the last decade or so illustrate just how dangerous OxyContin can be.

How is OxyContin Abused?

A single extended release OxyContin tablet can provide up to 12 hours of uninterrupted relief to those in severe pain. Because of the real risk of physical dependency, the medication is not indicated for people who need short-term pain relief, and is certainly not recommended for recreational use.

OxyContin is a potent medication; a single 80mg OxyContin tablet contains as much oxycodone as 16 Percocet tablets. Drug abusers increase the intensity of the pills by breaking apart a tablet meant to slowly release medication over an extended period, and consuming it all at once.

This greatly accelerated means of ingestion intensifies the euphoric and sedative effects, as well as the analgesic and respiratory depressant effects. Abusing oxycodone (the medication inside OxyContin) in large quantities, especially when snorting or injecting the medication, produces an intoxication that is quite similar to a heroin high.

Not surprisingly, OxyContin also has addiction and overdose potential similar to heroin. Large dose formulations should never be taken by people without developed opiate tolerances. Too many first time or casual users have taken an 80mg OxyContin tablet (often mixed with alcohol or another sedative medication) and suffered a fatal overdose as a result.

OxyContin and Physical Dependency

Use OxyContin everyday for only a couple of weeks and you run a real risk of physical dependency.

As soon as you start needing more of the medication to feel the same effects, you have a developed a physical opiate dependency and you won’t be able to stop using OxyContin suddenly without feeling withdrawal pains. Physically dependent OxyContin users will start to feel withdrawal symptoms as soon as six hours after their last dose.

OxyContin withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, and are worse for those who engaged in chronic heavy OxyContin abuse. The fear of withdrawal pain is a significant motivator to keep using the medication, and doctors who prescribe OxyContin to legitimate pain patients will never recommend suddenly discontinuing use, but rather will advise a long and slow tapering over time.

OxyContin Addiction

People with a physical dependency to OxyContin will need to follow their doctor's advice to taper their dosage over time to minimize the discomfort or experience of withdrawal symptoms.

People with a physical dependency and an addiction to OxyContin probably won’t be able to taper down on their own. OxyContin addicts are not only physically addicted, they are psychologically addicted as well, and crave the high of the medication badly enough to overwhelm any self-regulated plan of dose reduction.

Addiction is a neuro-psychological disorder that changes the way we think and the way we act, and makes us behave in very compulsive ways. For OxyContin addicts, the medication becomes the central and most important focus of life, and no matter how bad things get because of the drug abuse, addicts will continue to use.

Some general signs of OxyContin addiction:

  • Craving the drug.
  • Spending a lot of your time thinking about the drug, thinking about how to get the drug, or actually taking the drug.
  • Making promises to yourself to quit or cut down, and failing to do so.
  • Spending a lot more of your time with friends who also use drugs and a lot less time with people who don't.
  • Minimizing the negative consequences of your drug use – ignoring the bad things that happen to you as a result of OxyContin and focusing only on the pleasurable aspects of your drug use.
  • Hiding or lying about your use or the amount you use.

OxyContin addicts need to learn how to live without seeking an opiate high and how to overcome the long-lasting drug cravings that follow any opiate addiction. Most OxyContin addicts need to participate in some form of continuing addiction treatment.

The Risks of OxyContin Addiction

OxyContin addiction ruins lives, and in too many tragic cases, ends them.

Some of the more common risks of OxyContin addiction include the following:

  • Fatal overdose – In high doses, OxyContin slows breathing, and when combined with another sedative type medication, such as a benzodiazepine (Xanax or valium, for example) the respiratory depressant effects get amplified. There is enough medication in an 80mg OxyContin to put someone without an existing opiate tolerance at real risk of overdose.
  • Side effects – Some of the more commonly experienced side effects include constipation, nausea, sedation, and sexual dysfunction.
  • Infectious disease – Users who inject OxyContin put themselves at increased risk of contracting hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, and a range of other blood-borne pathogens. People who are high on OxyContin may also do things they otherwise wouldn’t, such as engage in risky sexual behaviors, thereby increasing their risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Legal problems – Taking OxyContin that was not prescribed to you is illegal and can land you in jail. Additionally, an OxyContin habit can get very expensive, and addicts often find themselves engaged in criminal activities, just to support an expensive addiction.
  • Job Loss – OxyContin addicts can often hold down a job at first, but once the addiction gets severe enough, employability vanishes.
  • Relationship strain – Oxycontin addicts put getting and taking the medication above all else in life, putting a real strain on personal or family relationships.
  • Pregnancy – The medication is not safe for use during pregnancy. Babies who are born to OxyContin-addicted women may experience neonatal abstinence syndromes (NAS), and opiate drug use during pregnancy greatly increases the risks of obstetric complications or miscarriage.

OxyContin Addiction Treatment

OxyContin addiction treatment is almost certainly available in your area, it doesn’t have to be expensive, and it works.

Common treatment options for OxyContin addiction:

  1. Medication management with buprenorphine (Suboxone) or methadone – Both buprenorphine and methadone work as substitute opiates, keeping you from feeling withdrawal pains but also keeping you from getting high. Once on either medication, you can start putting your life back together. Neither medication costs much and both cost far less than an OxyContin addiction.
  2. Medical detox with ongoing addiction treatment – Some people prefer to make a clean break from all opiates and decide to undergo a supervised and medicated detoxification instead of using substitution opiates. Medication used during the detoxification process can minimize the discomforts of the withdrawal period, and medical supervision ensures your safety. Following detox, recovering addicts participate in continuing addiction treatment on a residential or outpatient basis.

Getting Help

To learn about opiate treatment programs in your area (both detox-based programs and Suboxone or methadone programs) call the National Resource Center at 888 471 0431.

Heroin DetoxOxycontin Drug AddictionDrug Rehab ProgramRehab ProgramsOxycontin Diversion and AbuseSober Living Prescription Drug Abuse HelpAlcohol TreatmentOxycontin Abuse TreatmentAlcohol Treatment CentersTexas Drug RehabsAlcohol AddictionsRehabilitation CentersResidential Treatment ProgramsDrugs and Alcohol Addiction Help
Cocaine AddictionAlcoholism TreatmentGetting Help With AddictionAlcohol AbuseDrug Addiction Treatment

Find a TherapistDrug Rehab Programs 

Drug Treatment Center

The information provided on the Heroin Detox web site is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Heroin Detox web site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Heroin Detox contains advertisements and links to third party websites. Heroin Detox does not make any representation, warranty, or endorsement of any product or service or the content or accuracy of any materials contained in, or linked to, any advertisement or link on the Site
Call Us Toll Free at 888.471.0430 for Help
© 2001-2007 Heroin Detox