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OxyContin Abuse

Table of Contents


What Is OxyContin?

OxyContin is a branded formulation of the powerful opioid painkiller, oxycodone. It is prescribed to manage cases of moderate to severe pain. When taken as directed, it is a safe and effective medication, and has proven invaluable for many with pain management issues. However, many people abuse OxyContin in order to get high–a practice that can prove dangerous and even fatal. Misuse of the pills (for example, taking too many pills at once, or crushing them up to be snorted or injected) elicits more intense effects and increases the risk of complications.

Rx bottle

An estimated 1.9 million people in the United States are dependent on or abuse opioid painkillers and about 46 painkiller-involved deaths occur every day in the US, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Furthermore, people who abuse prescription painkillers are at risk for concurrent or eventual heroin due to the similar effects of the two drugs. According to one study, people suffering from an addiction to prescription opioids were 19 times more likely to start abusing heroin in the year prior to the study. This may be due to the fact that heroin is more easily accessible and costs less than opioid painkillers, due in part to the 2013 tightening of controls on access to prescription opioids by the Food and Drug Administration.

OxyContin addiction progresses quickly and can easily turn to heroin addiction.
Learn about treatment and start your new life today.

Signs and Symptoms

An opioid use disorder is characterized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as “a problematic pattern of opioid use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.” In cases of compulsive OxyContin use, the individual typically spends the majority of his or her day obtaining and using the opioid painkiller. Users frequently attempt to get multiple prescriptions from different doctors or otherwise obtain the drug illegally.

One key warning sign of addiction is a marked change in behavior. If your loved one’s behavior changes unexpectedly to the point where you no longer recognize the person in front of you, drug abuse might be the cause. If the person is abusing prescription drugs recreationally, you might notice discarded pill bottles, white powder stains, or missing pills from your own supply. Money might go missing, or perhaps you might realize your partner can’t pay all the bills this month. If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you care about, don’t wait to get help.

Video: Suburban Junkies

The following video tells the stories of teens and young adults who progressed from opiate painkiller abuse to devastating heroin addictions.

Credit: Reveal

Effects of OxyContin Abuse

There are various long-term effects of OxyContin use. According to the DSM-5, the following social effects are sometimes caused by OxyContin addiction or dependence:

Physical Risks Associated with Method of Use

  • Needle users (e.g, intravenous, intramuscular and subcutaneous use).
    • Increased risk for contracting HIV or Hepatitis.
    • Collapsed veins.
    • Cellulitis.
    • Abscesses.
    • Infection of heart lining.
  • Intranasal users.
    • Perforated nasal septum.
    • Sinusitis.

A note about injection use:

While the drug tends to be crushed and snorted, it can sometimes be injected, which leads to serious complications of its own. Additionally, crushing and injecting pills can lead to organ damage from solid pieces of the substance entering the bloodstream.

Blockages may cut off blood supply to vital areas, and infection may travel throughout the body from dirty pills and otherwise non-sterile needle use.

  • Arrest of possession or distribution of opioids.
  • Forgery.
  • Robbery.
  • Burglary.
  • Receiving stolen goods.
  • Marital difficulties; divorce.
  • Loss of or irregular employment.
  • Breakdown of interpersonal relationships.

There are also many different physical side effects, which include:

  • Sedation.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Fractures.
  • Muscle rigidity.
  • Hormonal dysfunction.
  • Difficulties in sexual functioning.

Fatal side effects include:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Coma.

Abuse Treatment

There are many different OxyContin addiction treatment offerings. The best OxyContin recovery type will depend on your individual needs and situation. Some examples of various treatment settings and approaches include:

  • Residential treatment:: You can escape your using environment and live at the facility while receiving recovery treatment. This is best for moderate to severe addictions.
  • Outpatient treatment: You may live at home while receiving treatment that works around your schedule. This is a good option for those suffering from relatively mild OxyContin addictions.
  • Dual diagnosis: Many people with an addiction to OxyContin also suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder. Some treatment centers specialize in the treatment of both disorders, which will help to prevent relapse in the future.
  • Group counseling: A certified mental health professional facilitates a group therapy session in which patients share their experiences with OxyContin addiction and recovery.
  • Individual therapy:: You meet with a therapist one-on-one to discuss the reasons for your addiction and to learn coping skills to use in stressful situations.

No matter what type of treatment you decide on, the therapeutic course will often follow a series of three stages. As an example, your OxyContin abuse treatment may progress in this order:

  • The first stage of OxyContin rehab is withdrawal or detox. Supervised, medication-assisted detox can minimize the discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse.
  • The next stage of OxyContin rehab involves intensive counseling and therapy. Different programs utilize different treatment methodologies and therapy types. Be sure to find a program that is right for you or your loved one.
  • The final stage is sustained recovery, frequently accomplished with the help of various aftercare programs. In general, addiction recovery is a lifelong process, but it’s taken on a day-by-day basis. A therapist should provide you with an aftercare plan, in which you attend ongoing treatment following completion of initial rehab. You may be enrolled in a 12-step program or reside in a halfway house or other sober living environment. These environments provide a place to stay that’s free from temptation.

Teen OxyContin Abuse

Teens are particularly vulnerable to OxyContin abuse, because pills are often readily available in their own homes or the homes of friends. Many pills are diverted from those with legitimate prescriptions, so teens can get their hands on the drug with relative ease. Also, the popular misconception that prescription opioids are safer than illicit drugs leads to increasing numbers of teens abusing painkiller medications like OxyContin.

teen girl staring at pills

According to ASAM’s 2015 Facts & Figures:

  • Each day, 2,500 adolescents in the United States abuse prescription opioids for the first time.
  • An estimated 1 out of 30 seniors in high school have misused OxyContin.
  • 1 in 30 adolescents between 12 and 17 have abused OxyContin at some point.

If you suspect teen drug abuse, check for the signs and symptoms listed above and get help immediately if a problem becomes apparent.

To find a treatment program, call . A caring and knowledgeable treatment support advisor can talk you through your options.

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Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, is a professional counselor who has been working for over a decade to help children, adolescents, and adults in western Pennsylvania reach their goals and improve their well-being.

Along the way, Eric worked as a collaborating investigator for the field trials of the DSM-5 and completed an agreement to provide mental health treatment to underserved communities with the National Health Service Corp.

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