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OxyContin Abuse & Addiction

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OxyContin is a prescription painkiller with a high potential for dependence and addiction. Patterns of misuse often have a wide range of detrimental consequences, including health problems, co-occurring mental health disorders, strained relationships with loved ones, and more. If you or someone you love is struggling to control their OxyContin use, it is vital to seek comprehensive treatment before the condition worsens. 

At Guardian Recovery, we offer evidence-based behavioral health services tailored to meet each individual’s needs, and provide support and guidance throughout their recovery journey. Don’t let OxyContin control your life any longer—reach out for help today.

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What Is OxyContin & How Does it Work? 

OxyContin (oxycodone) is a potent prescription opioid medication commonly used to manage moderate-to-severe pain. It belongs to a class of drugs known as opioids, which work by binding to specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord to block pain signals. OxyContin is an extended-release formulation of oxycodone, meaning it gradually releases the medication over a prolonged period of time for continuous pain relief. (1) However, due to its extremely addictive nature, it should only be taken under strict medical supervision.

Can Using OxyContin & Painkillers as Prescribed Cause Dependence?

The use of opioids like OxyContin carries a risk of developing physical and psychological dependence, even when used as prescribed. Over time, the body adjusts to its persistent presence, and abruptly stopping or reducing the dosage results in withdrawal effects including restlessness, muscle aches, and nausea. OxyContin can also lead to tolerance, a condition in which the medication becomes ineffective and the individual is forced to increase the dosage to achieve the desired effects.

Why Is OxyContin Addictive?

OxyContin, like other opioids, can be addictive due to its effects on the brain and body. In addition to pain relief, regular use can produce feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and euphoria. When OxyContin is used, it activates the brain’s reward center, which triggers the release of dopamine, a chemical messenger associated with the reinforcement of pleasure and reward. These effects are the catalysts for dependence and tolerance, which often lead to full-blown addiction and compulsive drug-seeking behavior.

Fortunately, not everyone who uses OxyContin as prescribed will become addicted. However, the risk significantly increases when the drug is used in excessive doses, for longer periods, or in ways other than those prescribed.

Causes & Risk Factors for OxyContin Misuse & Addiction Development

There are several potential causes and risk factors that can contribute to OxyContin misuse and addiction. These include having a legitimate prescription, chronic pain, and previous substance misuse. People prescribed OxyContin may misuse it or develop dependence due to factors including long-term use, increasing doses, or use of the medication in ways not intended.

People who suffer from severe or chronic pain conditions may be compelled to seek relief using OxyContin or other opioids. This can increase the risk of misuse and dependence, especially when other methods of pain management have been ineffective.

Finally, people with a history of substance misuse, including other drugs or alcohol, may be at increased risk of dependence and addiction. This may be because individuals who exhibit addictive tendencies often engage in a pattern of substance use as a way to seek pleasurable feelings, relieve pain, or self-medicate for mental health issues.

OxyContin Use & Its Effect on Mental Health

OxyContin can have profound direct and indirect effects on an individual’s mental wellness, including adverse mood changes, cognitive impairments, and a worsening of psychiatric disorders.

Effects on Mental Health Include:

  • Mood changes and dysregulation, including feelings of euphoria and relaxation taken over by irritability and dysphoria when the drug’s effects subside.
  • Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
  • Impairments in cognitive function, memory, attention, and decision-making.
  • Exacerbation of mental health issues, due to using OxyContin to self-medicate to ease symptoms, thereby sidestepping the need for appropriate medical treatment. 
  • Increased risk of suicidal ideations and self-harm, due to the negative effects of substance use that contribute to severe depressive symptoms and mood dysregulation. (2)

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Can Long-Term OxyContin Use Cause Permanent Damage?

Long-term use of OxyContin, particularly when misused or taken in excessive doses, has the potential to inflict irreversible damage to various bodily systems. For example, it can lead to changes in brain structure and function, leading to dependence and addiction. This can further result in memory impairment, concentration difficulties, and reduced executive function.

Using OxyContin regularly over time can also lead to impaired lung function, shallow breathing, and, in severe cases, respiratory failure. (3) It has also been associated with gastrointestinal effects, including chronic constipation, bowel obstruction, and intestinal damage.

What Demographics Are Most at Risk of OxyContin Misuse?

There are several demographics considered to be at increased risk of misusing OxyContin and other substances. These include individuals with a history of substance misuse, particularly opioids. (4) Young adults and adolescents may be at higher risk as they have an increased tendency to be impulsive and experiment with drugs in general.

Likewise, people who have suffered trauma or have psychiatric disorders may be more prone to OxyContin misuse due to the erroneous belief that opioids are effective means of self-medication and safer for recreational use than street drugs like heroin.

OxyContin Dependence Common Symptoms & Side Effects

Dependence on OxyContin can lead to a variety of symptoms and side effects. Not all individuals who use it will experience these effects, but they are common and may serve as indicators of a serious opioid misuse problem.

Common Physical Effects, Symptoms, & Side Effects Include:

  • Pain relief
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sedation and drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Itching and rash
  • Dry mouth
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Physiological dependence and addiction 
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Common Psychological Effects, Symptoms, & Side Effects Include:

  • Euphoria, pleasure, and reward
  • Mental cloudiness or confusion
  • Impaired judgment and decision-making
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Depression
  • Cravings and obsession with using the drug

What Should You Do if Someone Overdoses on OxyContin? 

If you suspect that you or another person is overdosing on OxyContin or other substances, it is vital to call 911 and request immediate medical treatment. An opioid overdose is a life-threatening emergency, and prompt attention is needed to give the person the best chance at survival. While waiting for help to arrive, stay with the person, monitor their vital signs, and try to keep them awake and responsive if possible.

Treatment Options for OxyContin Misuse & Dependence

Treatment for OxyContin dependence typically requires a combination of medical, psychological, and behavioral interventions and the use of various strategies that promote long-lasting recovery. The overarching goal of treatment should be to help the individual manage withdrawal symptoms, overcome their dependence, and address the underlying factors that may be contributing to their drug use.

Common Treatment Options Used Include:

  • Medical Detox—A supervised drug withdrawal program in which healthcare providers monitor the individual 24/7 to ensure vital signs are stable and no complications arise.
  • Medication-Assisted TreatmentMethadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are three medications FDA-approved to treat opioid dependence and symptoms such as drug cravings and withdrawal effects.
  • Behavioral Therapies—A variety of therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and family therapy, can be used to help the individual identify the underlying causes of their addiction and develop healthier coping skills to better manage cravings and triggers.
  • Support Groups—Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and other support groups provide individuals with an understanding group of peers who can offer guidance and accountability.
  • Rehab ProgramsInpatient and outpatient programs offer a structured environment in varying levels of intensity and flexibility for comprehensive treatment. They commonly offer a full spectrum of medical, psychological, and behavioral approaches in a monitored but safe, supportive setting.

Aftercare—Because recovery doesn’t end after formal treatment, aftercare planning can provide individuals with ongoing counseling, therapy, and relapse prevention strategies to manage triggers and identify aspects of the treatment plan that may need adjusting.

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OxyContin dependence is considered a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is incurable, but not untreatable. Fortunately, this disorder can be effectively addressed through compassionate care and support. If you or a loved one are struggling with the misuse of OxyContin or other substances, our professional team at Guardian Recovery can help. 

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation health insurance benefits and to learn more about our streamlined admissions process and multiple levels of care. We are here to help you overcome your reliance on substances and reclaim the healthy, fulfilling life you deserve.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://www.goodrx.com/healthcare-access/medication-education/meaning-medication-suffixes-er-sr (2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7955902/ (3)https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1440-1843.2012.02307.x (4)https://www.dol.gov/agencies/owcp/opioids/riskfactors#

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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