Risks of OxyContin Use

in Drug Insights
Olivia Pennelle
Published Dec 4, 2020
opium poppy

OxyContin is a potent opioid that is used to treat pain, but is often misused and can lead to addiction. 

What is OxyContin?

OxyContin is the brand name for the long-acting formulation of Oxycodone, a strong prescription opioid (narcotic), used to manage moderate to severe pain. It is prescribed to manage pain that requires around-the-clock care and when shorter acting pain medications are not effective. However, given the properties of this medication it is prone to misuse, increased tolerance, addiction, overdose, and even death. 

Because these drugs affect the pleasure center of the brain, causing euphoria, they have the greatest potential for misuse, meaning they can lead to the brain becoming addicted and subsequently cause substance use disorder. Opioids can also lead to the body becoming physically dependent. This can mean that unpleasant side effects, or withdrawal symptoms, are experienced when use of the drug is reduced or stopped.

Some of the most potent opioids that are prescribed include fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, morphine, and carfentanil. Between 1999 and 2011, the consumption of hydrocodone more than doubled and the use of oxycodone increased by nearly 500 percent.

OxyContin high

Due to its euphoric effects that produce a calm-like feeling, OxyContin is prone to misuse. That can happen whether the person was initially prescribed for a legitimate reason, or if the drug was obtained illicitly. In fact, a study shows that OxyContin misuse was most frequently obtained from non-medical sources as part of a broader and longer-term pattern of multiple substance abuse. 

OxyContin abuse

Although it is intended to be taken in pill form every 12 hours, OxyContin is also crushed, snorted, injected, and smoked. 

A sign someone might be abusing OxyContin includes: mood changes, changing the method of ingestion (and observing signs of injection, snorting, and smoking), depression, vomiting, weight loss, muscle aches and pains, hallucinations, and sweating.

OxyContin side effects

The possible side effects of OxyContin include:

  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting 
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain

More severe side effects, requiring immediate medical attention, include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stopping breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling to the face, tongue or throat
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Feeling faint
  • Overdose

If you experience any of these effects you should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

OxyContin withdrawal symptoms

A person taking OxyContin regularly can develop a tolerance relatively quickly. They may find that they have to take an increased dose, or change the method of ingestion ie from snorting to injecting, to have the same effects. When this happens a person may become physically and psychologically addicted to the drug. Thus, stopping the medication results in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, occurring between 6 and 30 hours after the last use of the drug, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Yawning
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Agitation
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Goosebumps

While withdrawing from OxyContin can be uncomfortable. There may be additional complications from other illnesses, too, especially if the person has been taking other substances with OxyContin, like alcohol.

Oxycodone and alcohol

Combining alcohol with prescription opioids, like OxyContin, is dangerous and could result in serious side effects, such as:

  • Coma
  • Heart problems
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

Detox is a crucial first step in most people’s recovery journey. In fact, it is recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

“For alcohol, sedative-hypnotic, and opioid withdrawal syndromes, hospitalization or some form of 24-hour medical care is generally the preferred setting for detoxification, based upon principles of safety and humanitarian concerns.”

– SAMHSA Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Improvement Protocol, TIP 45

At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we bring compassion to the commotion. Peace to the pain. Empowerment to the powerless. If you or someone you know needs support with addiction problems, bring us your battle. Call us today and take the best, first step towards recovery: 720-704-1432