Oxycontin Addiction and Abuse
Created at the University of Frankfurt in 1916, Oxycontin is a synthetic opioid made from an alkaloid in the opium poppy. It is for treating and managing severe pain and is effective when the prescribed Oxycontin dosage is as directed.
Unfortunately, this potent medication in the same family as heroin has been misused in recent years and not taken as prescribed by doctors. Opioids are highly addictive substances and have caused addiction rates to lead to epidemic levels in the United States and worldwide.
Oxycontin as a recreational drug and other opioid medications such as oxycontin and hydrocodone took off in the early ’90s when pharmaceutical companies, like Purdue, marketed their painkillers for short-term pain relief.
By 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors wrote an estimated 250 million opioid prescriptions, enough for every adult in the country to have a bottle.
Depending on the prescription, Oxycontin comes in several different doses, including:
- 10mg to 30mg immediate-release pills, taken every four hours
- 20mg to 640mg in controlled release formula, taken once every 12 hours
- The average daily dosage is around 105 mg a day
There are several factors users take into consideration when using Oxycontin recreationally. Unfortunately, no standards exist for the right or approximate dose because each individual responds when taking the drug.
First-time users should know how their body chemistry responds to the medication.
Over time, legal prescription users and illegal recreational users build a tolerance to the drug and find that more is needed to achieve the initial results. It is one of the biggest reasons why opioids are so addictive.
Too much of the drug at a high enough dose suppresses the cardiovascular system, causing labored breathing and even death.
A staggering number of people have died from heroin and prescription opioids, like Oxycontin. According to the CDC, in 2015 alone, 33,000 people died from an opioid overdose.
Oxycontin, like other opioids, comes in a time-release formula meant to provide longer-lasting relief from pain, as well as a safeguard to make it more difficult for people to abuse it recreationally.
The most common recreational use is orally ingesting more than the recommended Oxycontin dosage.
Some users, though, have developed workarounds on the tamper-proof pills. By crushing the pills and snorting them or even taking the powder, diluting it with water, and injecting it intravenously, recreational users get the full effect of the drug without the time-release element.
Time-release and tamper-proof tablets contain binders, which make it difficult to isolate the opioid by itself.
Some users have developed other methods, though first-timers attempting to snort or inject opioids should be cautious as it is highly unsafe.
Heating Oxycontin to inhale the vapors by smoking is also very dangerous. Though smoking brings on a fast-acting, short high, the other chemicals in the pills are likely to irritate and even harm the respiratory system.
Several factors may determine how long the effects of Oxycontin last, including:
- The amount or dose ingested
- A person’s tolerance level for the drug
- Whether in conjunction with other substances
Because Oxycontin acts like other opioids, it changes the brain’s response to pain, flooding the brain’s receptors with dopamine, a feel-good chemical the body produces naturally. In some users, this brings on a sense of wellbeing and calmness.
Other recreational users report a slight increase in focus and awareness, which experts suggest is due to dopamine released in the brain. Unfortunately, it is also one reason some recreational users experience opiate-induced insomnia.
Hydrocodone, another synthetic opioid from a different alkaloid in the poppy, produces similar results.
Because Oxycontin is a controlled substance, possession of the opioid painkiller without a legitimate prescription is illegal.
Regular opioid use, whether recreational or medicinal, comes with a wave of unpleasant and even dangerous side effects.
Side effects include:
- Low blood pressure
- Severe constipation
- Drowsiness, dizziness, and weakness
- Decreased libido
- Confusion and nervousness
- Depression and anxiety
- Loss of appetite
- Death from overdose due to respiratory depression
Addiction to Oxycontin and other opioids is a serious risk.
Opioid addiction is treatable, but the painful withdrawal symptoms are difficult to overcome, and a solid psychological dependence makes relapse common even after withdrawal symptoms have subsided.
Though public awareness of the opioid crisis in the U.S. is starting to manifest as a mental health issue, we still have a long way to go before the general public understands that addiction is a disease and not a moral failing.
Even though people started using opioids like Oxycontin as prescribed for pain by a doctor, they became addicted and began using it recreationally or illegally either because they liked the high and how it made them feel or to avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms.
Fortunately, the stigma of addiction is slowly fading, and more people are reaching out for professional help.
See more about drug addiction here.