The opioid epidemic continues to rock the U.S. with an unprecedented number of deaths and overdose deaths that the nation has never seen before. One of the drugs involved in the epidemic is OxyContin, a potent pain reliever that is prescribed for acute or short-term pain.
Misuse, abuse, and overprescribing practices have all contributed to this public health emergency that shows no sign of ending soon. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates on average, 130 people in the U.S. die daily from an opioid overdose.
The beginnings of this crisis are often traced to the 1990s, which is when OxyContin became a go-to prescription medication to treat moderate-to-severe pain. OxyContin, the brand name for narcotic oxycodone hydrochloride, is in a class of drugs called opioids. It is often confused with another opioid — oxycodone.
While the two sound similar and are often used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. OxyContin is derived from oxycodone, but its time-release feature makes it different from pure oxycodone, and it is the reason why people can take the medication less often. Manufacturers of the drug have designed it so that it releases into the body in four- to six-hour intervals. This makes it easier for patients to manage pain throughout a 24-hour period.
OxyContin does contain a higher concentration of oxycodone, which makes it a target of abuse for people who seek it out for its euphoric effects that are highly addictive. People who get hooked on the drug will find their tolerance for it will quickly grow with regular use. The problem with this is the higher the drug tolerance; the more users will take large amounts of the drug to get the highs they initially experienced, which can lead to overdose. Overdoses can turn fatal as too much of the drug overwhelms the body.
How Can You Tell If Someone Has an Opioid Addiction?
Addiction can go unnoticed, but chronic misuse and abuse of opioid medications or the illicit opiate heroin will leave signs behind to the discerning eye. Some of these are physical symptoms, while other signs will present as certain behaviors.
People Who Are Addicted To Opioids, Such As OxyContin, May Exhibit Physical Symptoms, Such As:
- Severe drowsiness
- Low blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Mild itching
- Severe constipation, nausea, vomiting
- Appetite loss
- Shallow breathing
- Impotence or other sexual performance problems
People Who Have Developed OxyContin Addiction Could Experience Any Of The Following Behavioral Symptoms:
- Intense cravings for OxyContin
- Constantly thinking about obtaining and using OxyContin
- Increased isolation from others
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms 24-48 hours after the drug is last taken
- Taking opioids to avoid withdrawal symptoms
- Hiding OxyContin use from others
- Not being able to quit OxyContin despite repeated attempts
- Feeling unable to function normally without OxyContin use
- Mixing OxyContin with alcohol or other drugs (polysubstance use)
- Using the drug despite adversity, such as loss of a job or relationships loss
If any of these signs and symptoms are noticed, then OxyContin addiction likely is underway. Using a powerful and addictive substance over time changes how the brain functions, which is why so many people find it difficult to stop using addictive substances once they have started. A strong physical and psychological dependence on this drug likely will need to be treated at a professional facility to help end the use of it safely. Attempting to do a “cold turkey” detox from OxyContin at home and away from qualified medical professionals is dangerous.
What Is Involved in OxyContin Addiction Treatment?
An addiction treatment program at a licensed facility is an effective option to help people who are seeking to recover from OxyContin use. Stopping the medication abruptly after frequent misuse and abuse is not advised, as it can lead to relapse that could result in permanent injury or death.
Instead, recovery from OxyContin should start with medical detox, which can help users regain stability while ending their dependence on this potent opioid medication. During this phase of recovery, OxyContin users work with medical professionals who will oversee their care, which may involve a tapering process that allows the body to adjust to functioning without the drug.
Withdrawal symptoms are addressed to make the process as comfortable as possible. If needed, medications are given during this time. Users may receive replacement medications such as Suboxone to help make withdrawal symptoms more manageable. This period can last three to seven days or more depending on the situation.
Once the detox phase ends, the next step is to determine the best placement for recovery to take place. There are various ways to receive addiction treatment, and placements are recommended based on each person’s unique and specific needs.
People who transition into a residential treatment program stay on-site at a rehabilitation facility around the clock in a monitored setting as they work on recovery. They participate daily in a regimented schedule that involves participating in daily therapies and modalities that are designed to help them understand the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors behind their OxyContin addiction. Residential programs can last between 30-90 days. Research shows that the longer people stay in treatment, the better their chances are for staying sober longer.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
People who need less supervision than what’s offered in residential treatment but more structure than an outpatient program gives can find a balance in a partial hospitalization program (PHP). These programs are typically offered during the day for a specific number of hours during the week. Clients do not require around-the-clock supervision or receive medical assistance 24-7 as people who are in residential treatment. PHP patients must still meet their weekly commitments and attend intensive therapy sessions.
Outpatient treatment programs allow people in recovery to attend treatment on a schedule that takes their personal obligations into account, such as a job or school, and allows them to return home or transitional housing when they have finished their sessions. Intensive outpatient treatment is nine or more hours, while outpatient treatment is fewer than nine hours. Outpatient treatment offers the same access to the same therapies as those offered at higher levels of care.
How Dangerous Is OxyContin?
Anyone who uses opioids, whether they are natural or human-made, must take care when doing so. These medications have been beneficial and effective in treating pain when they are used within therapeutic ranges under a doctor’s prescription.
However, when they are used in higher doses than recommended, opioids often depressed a person’s breathing and heart rate. Continuing to abuse opioids can lead to an addiction that could lead to an overdose and death.