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OxyContin Abuse Symptoms, Side Effects, and Addiction Treatment

What Is OxyContin Used For?

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 it 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 by taking too many pills at once or crushing them up to be snorted or injected) elicits more intense effects and increases the user’s risk of experiencing 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 U.S., according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Furthermore, people who abuse prescription painkillers are at risk for concurrent or eventual heroin use due to the similar effects of the two. According to one study, people suffering from addictions 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 Abuse 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 acquire multiple prescriptions from different doctors or otherwise obtain OxyContin illegally.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of OxyContin Abuse

Other signs of OxyContin abuse include the usual signs of any form of opioid abuse:

  • Lethargy.
  • Extreme drowsiness.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Appearance of being disoriented or confused.
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Persistent interpersonal problems.
  • Neglecting important work, school, or home obligations.
  • Weight loss.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Severe itching.
  • Intermittent, periodic euphoria and apathy.
  • Vomiting.
  • Depression.
  • Problems with concentration or memory.
  • Sleep apnea.

OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms

A reliable sign of opioid dependency and marker of addiction is the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the user is unable to take OxyContin. These opioid withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Yawning.
  • Runny nose and eyes.
  • Unpleasant mood.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Insomnia.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Goose bumps.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

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.

Long-Term Effects of OxyContin Use

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:

  • Arrest for 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 of OxyContin use, which include:

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

Fatal OxyContin side effects include:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Coma.

Physical Risks Associated With Method of Use

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

A note about injection use:

While OxyContin 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.

OxyContin Addiction 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 or inpatient 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 treatment: Many people with addictions to OxyContin also suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders. 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 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 3 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 opioid 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 approached on a day-by-day basis. A therapist should provide you with an aftercare plan, which involves attending ongoing treatment following the 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 those of friends. Many pills are diverted from those with legitimate prescriptions, so teens can get their hands on the drugs 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 pillsAccording 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 has misused OxyContin.
  • 1 in 30 adolescents between 12 and 17 has 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.

How to Find Help for OxyContin Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with OxyContin misuse, help is available and recovery is possible. Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S., and many offer specialized treatment that can cater to individual needs. You can use SAMHSA’s Behavioral Services Locator to search for OxyContin treatment centers. Many state government websites will also provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’ Once your state website is located, substance use resources shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should provide further phone contacts for your assistance.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted rehab facilities across the country. To find a program, please call AAC free at . A caring and knowledgeable treatment support advisor can talk you through your options.

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