OxyContin (oxycodone) is a potent analgesic in the opioid family of prescription medications. Promoted in the 1990s as a highly effective painkiller with a low likelihood of causing addiction, the brand swiftly became popular among practitioners in the medical and dental communities. In the ensuing years, it became evident that this class of synthetic opioids was indeed highly addicting and prone to abuse, and is now classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. Individuals who initially used OxyContinfollowing an injury or surgical procedure often found themselves addicted to the medication. According to the CDC, opioids including OxyContin were involved in over 70% of the 79,630 drug overdose deaths that occurred in 2019.
What is OxyContin?
Oxycodone has been used as a reliable pain reliever for medical practitioners for over one hundred years. Oxycodone was first created in 1918 as an alternative to the highly addictive analgesics morphine and heroin during World War I. While early use for the oxycodone was reserved for short-term management of moderate to severe pain, the 1995 introduction of OxyContin, a time-released version of oxycodone, became available for chronic pain management. In addition to its pain relieving properties, OxyContin also produces a sense of euphoria and deep relaxation. Ultimately, however, the highly addictive potential of OxyContin became apparent. In some cases, when people developed an OxyContin use disorder, but were unable to obtain ongoing refills, they turned to heroin as a cheap, easily accessible alternative. This only fueled the opioid epidemic. Now, as the deadly substance fentanyl has begun to be added to the heroin supply, increasing deaths from overdose continue to plague the nation.
Effects of OxyContin on the Brain
The brain is equipped with natural opioid receptors. When ingesting OxyContin, the drug binds to these receptors and creates a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that signals the body to feel pleasure. This pleasure response is registered in the brain’s reward system as a positive event that should be repeated. Tolerance quickly builds with repeated use of OxyContin. This causes the individual to consume more frequent or higher doses in hopes of feeling the initial effects. Eventually, as the drug alters brain pathways and brain chemistry, the individual is unable to experience the pleasurable effects at all. Instead, as the effects of OxyContin wear off, withdrawal symptoms emerge. This is the sign that chemical dependence has formed. Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Tearing eyes
- Muscle and joint aches
Consequences of OxyContin
Once a physical dependency takes hold, the individual will go to great lengths to obtain more OxyContin, such as engaging in doctor shopping or buying counterfeit versions of pills online. Other consequences of using OxyContin may include:
- Increased tolerance
- Accidental injuries
- Relationship issues
- Loss of employment
- Financial strains
- Isolating behaviors
There are many serious long-term health effects associated with OxyContin. These include:
- Liver damage and failure
- Kidney damage and failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Serious cognitive difficulties
- Problems related to chronic constipation
- Risk of passing the opioid to an unborn child in utero
- Serotonin syndrome, a condition where the body produces excessive serotonin
- Risk for overdose and death due to suppressed respiratory and heart rates
If you or a loved one is experiencing the signs of an OxyContin use disorder, there is help available. It is absolutely possible to break free from OxyContin and reclaim a happy, fulfilling life. Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle – “everything for recovery” – reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.