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Concurrent Oxycontin & Alcohol Abuse

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person holding alcohol bottle and pills

OxyContin is the brand name for the prescription opioid oxycodone, used for the relief of pain that cannot be effectively managed by other, less potent medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers.

OxyContin is available as an extended-released tablet in various strengths, which are formulated

People who repeatedly use OxyContin, especially in ways other than prescribed, are at high risk of becoming addicted to this potent narcotic. In fact, it is listed as a Schedule II controlled drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which means that it has a strong potential for abuse and dependence.

Did You Know?

Alcohol and OxyContin are commonly taken together as a recreational mixture, despite the health risks that this combination presents. Here are some need-to-know facts about both Oxy and alcohol that anyone consuming these drugs should be aware of:

  • OxyContin contains oxycodone, a potent morphine-like opioid derived from the opioid alkaloid thebaine.
  • It is intended to be swallowed as a whole pill.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption is considered to be 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Drinking more than this can result in numerous health risks, especially when drinking is combined with use of another CNS depressant like Oxy.
  • Crushing, breaking, chewing, or snorting OxyContin bypasses built-in, time-release safety mechanisms and could easily result in a fatal overdose.
  • If you have abused drugs in the past, you might have a higher likelihood of developing an addiction to OxyContin once you start using it, according to an article in the Harvard Mental Health Letter
  • Drinking alcohol increases the risk of pancreatitis, decreased liver health and disease and different forms of cancer (including: mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver, and breast).
  • Both OxyContin and alcohol depress the central nervous system, and their compounded effects can cause severe respiratory depression, coma, and death.
  • According to the 2011 DAWN report there were more than 5.1 million drug-related emergency department visits; 6% of these visits involved drugs combined with alcohol.

Signs of Concurrent Alcohol and Oxycontin Abuse

Both OxyContin and alcohol depress the central nervous system, which can result in markedly slowed breathing rate and, in extreme cases, respiratory arrest.

dizziness due to concurrent alcohol and oxycontin abuse

Those abusing both substances may have the appearance of someone who is profoundly drunk, but may additionally experience a number of negative side effects. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration list some warning signs to look out for.

  • Extreme drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Impaired motor control.
  • Unusual behavior.
  • Problems with memory.

To learn more, visit our Overview on Effects of Alcohol Abuse and Overview on the Effects of OxyContin Abuse pages.

Combined Effects of Abuse

The concurrent abuse of alcohol and OxyContin negatively impacts a number of physiologic processes, including liver functioning. Health problems that may occur as a result of concurrent alcohol and OxyContin use include:

  • Constipation.
  • Liver injury.
  • Inability to focus.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Depressed respiratory system.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Heart attack.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

The negative effects of alcohol and OxyContin abuse are not limited to physical health, however. Abuse of these drugs often leads to social, interpersonal, and even legal problems. As addiction grows, the user is increasingly prone to escalating use of the substance to the top of their priority list, in place of other responsibilities such as work, school, exercise, proper nutrition, the maintenance of personal relationships, or childcare. The desire to use may become so compelling that the user engages in unethical or illegal behavior to continue. An article published by Harvard Medical School notes that OxyContin users typically see more than one doctor (engage in “doctor shopping”) and ask for early refills in order to maintain a constant source of the drug. Some people may write fake prescriptions; others may steal the drug or money to obtain it.

If you are concerned about a loved one who is using drugs and alcohol, you can refer to our page on how to help someone with an OxyContin addiction.

Treatment for Co-occurring Addiction

If you or a loved one is looking for ways to treat an OxyContin addiction, there are inpatient and outpatient programs available to help. There are a few key differences between inpatient and outpatient to consider before making a decision about which one to enter.

Man sharing in support group about problems with co-occurring Alcohol and Oxycontin Addictions

When an individual begins an inpatient program, they will check into the facility and should plan to stay there for the entire length of treatment. Inpatient programs typically last 30 to 90 days, depending on the individual’s prescribed treatment plan. Inpatient programs allow the individual to focus solely on their recovery, without the distractions of everyday life. Additionally, inpatient rehab programs often provide some combination of:

Depending on the facility, inpatient programs may offer other amenities such as holistic care and complementary treatments such as acupuncture, massage, meditation, and exercise classes. Some facilities provide healthy, personalized meals prepared by a chef and/or with the help of a nutritionist.

Flexible outpatient programs offer an individual the comfort of living at home while they work on their recovery. In many cases, they are less expensive than treatment options offered in an inpatient setting. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), intensive outpatient programs (IOP) consist of a minimum of 9 hours of therapeutic work per week during the initial treatment stages. More standard outpatient program hours will vary according to the patient and the program. Although each program is different, group therapy is at the crux of most outpatient treatment.

In an outpatient program, an individual may participate in certain groups. Skill development groups will provide education and skills training for recovery maintenance, while support groups will help individuals build supportive networks

Skill development groups might include:

  • Drug or alcohol refusal training.
  • Relapse prevention techniques.
  • Assertiveness training.
  • Stress management.

Support groups are designed to bring together individuals who are in the same stage of recovery or who are working on similar issues such as addictions to the same substances or behaviors. These groups will focus on ways to:

  • Resolve conflict.
  • Learn new ways of relating to other people.
  • Change patterns of negative thinking.
  • Modify emotions or behavior in a healthy way.

Some outpatient programs will offer interpersonal process groups, which may include:

  • Single-interest groups — For example, a center may offer LGBTQ groups or groups for people with a history of physical or sexual abuse.
  • Family or couples counseling groups — These groups are designed to help significant others or family members learn how to effectively resolve issues related to substance use.

If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol and OxyContin abuse, call 1-877-446-9087 for help working through your various recovery options.

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