OxyContin addiction is an epidemic that has spread rapidly across the United States over the past two decades, affecting every population in every part of the country. OxyContin and oxycodone are widely prescribed opiate painkillers for moderate to severe pain. This medication is designed for short-term use only, as any type of lengthy use can result in dependence and addiction.
The time-released function within the pill means that OxyContin is highly susceptible to abuse. Crushing the pills before swallowing, snorting or injecting them has become a common method of abuse that has caused a number of health issues and problems among patients with legitimate prescriptions. Misusing these drugs can lead to overdose and death very quickly. The rising rates of patient admissions to emergency rooms across the country for issues related to OxyContin abuse and addiction showed that it was not an issue that would go away on its own.
It is important to note that it is possible to safely take a legitimate prescription for OxyContin without developing an addiction. However, it is equally important to note that it is possible to develop an OxyContin addiction with or without a prescription for the drug. Recreational OxyContin use is highly likely to end up in an addiction situation.
At Michael’s House, we are happy to assist you or your loved one to take the first steps to break free from OxyContin addiction. We provide an all-inclusive residential opiate addiction treatment program that addresses both the physical and psychological nature of prescription drug dependence.
OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone hydrochloride, an opioid-based medication available only through a prescription and produced by Purdue Pharma L.P. Because it is dispensed in an extended-release pill, one dose can provide pain relief for as long as 12 hours and due to the ease with which it can be abused, it has been classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Though OxyContin provided a great stride forward for pain management and relief for patients who have incurred injury or surgery, the rate with which it causes addiction in patients is exceedingly high and should be taken with care. Other medications that are similar in chemical makeup and effect include Vicodin, Percocet, Lortab, codeine, and morphine. It is important that patients remain vigilant when taking this and similar medications, and take immediate action when the signs of abuse or addiction begin to appear.
OxyContin abuse is defined as any non-medical (non-prescribed) use of OxyContin for any reason and in any amount, with or without a prescription. An abuse problem that requires treatment will be characterized by ongoing negative consequences in day-to-day life due to continued abuse of the painkiller.
OxyContin dependence revolves around the individual’s need for a continual supply of the drug in order to function or avoid illness. Dependence can occur in anyone, even patients who are following directions. Physical dependence on OxyContin or any opioid painkiller qualifies as an addiction-related problem. When this physical dependence is matched with a psychological dependence, or a constant craving and preoccupation with the painkiller, then OxyContin addiction is an issue – and one that requires immediate treatment.
Side Effects of OxyContin and Oxycodone Use
According to Purdue Pharma, OxyContin can cause a number of side effects in patients even when it is used according to doctors’ orders.
These side effects can include:
- Dry mouth
At-Risk Populations for Addiction
Who is most likely to develop an addiction to OxyContin? Though every population is subject to the development of an addiction to OxyContin because prescriptions are so readily available, some are more likely to go from use to abuse to addiction. These populations include those who have been addicted to any other substances including alcohol, patients with chronic pain related to medical issues or injury, and those who are diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder.
According to a study published in Canadian Family Physician, the trends in OxyContin addiction among patients who seek treatment signify that people are developing dependence andaddiction through a number of different avenues. Among opiate-addicted study participants, 35 percent used heroin first and then began abusing OxyContin among other prescription painkillers later while 24 percent first used prescription painkillers and then tried heroin and another 24 percent used prescription painkillers only and 17 percent used nothing but heroin.
More and more, patients are abusing prescription painkillers due to ease of access (e.g., leftover prescriptions, over-prescribed pills, fraudulent prescriptions, etc.) and many are ultimately turning to heroin when OxyContin becomes too expensive or too difficult to get in regular and large enough amounts to maintain an active addiction.
Causes of OxyContin Addiction
There is no one specific reason that OxyContin addiction develops in some patients and not in others. There are, however, a number of reasons that some patients are more susceptible to the development of painkiller dependence than their peers.
According to Harvard Medical School, the following may be contributory causes of the development of OxyContin addiction in patients:
- Easy access. Prescriptions are often easy to obtain for OxyContin and those who take it for a brief period may keep their unused pills in the medicine cabinet at home – leaving them readily accessible to teens and anyone else who might consider experimenting with the pills.
- Environmental acceptance. Patients who are surrounded by others who abuse drugs and alcohol may more easily abuse their prescription or take the pills of others.
- Combining OxyContin with other drugs. Those who drink and take pills or use other illicit substances while on OxyContin are at higher risk of developing a dependence.
- Drug and alcohol history. Patients who are already living with drug and alcohol dependence or those who have battled the problem in the past are at higher risk for developing an addiction to OxyContin.
- Co-occurring disorders. Those with mental health issues may be more likely to develop an addiction to the medication if they feel that the pills relieve them of some of the symptoms related to their disorder.
- Genetic predisposition. Patients with immediate family members who have struggled with or are currently living with a dependence upon alcohol and other drugs may be more likely to go from use to abuse to addiction when they take OxyContin regularly.
Opioid Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms
OxyContin works by binding to pain receptors in the brain and effectively blocking those receptors from communicating the experience of that pain to the patient. Additionally, the drug triggers a release of chemicals associated with happiness in the pleasure pathway – the process that creates the “high” that is so physically addictive for patients. Continued use of OxyContin will lead the patient’s brain to adjust according to the expectation that there will be a constant influx of the medication. The brain’s ability to release natural painkilling chemicals and the ability to regulate pain adjust accordingly, creating a physical dependence upon the drug.
OxyContin also affects other parts of the patient’s life. When psychological dependence becomes an issue, all other areas of life suffer from lack of attention. Patients tend to stop focusing on their healthcare, nutrition, finances, relationships, progress at school or work. While some people are able to create the illusion that they are still high-functioning, and may even be able to trick themselves into believing all is well, the focus turns solely to obtaining more OxyContin and staying under its influence, to the detriment of all else.
Psychological and Physical Treatment for Prescription Painkiller Addiction
Because dependence can be broken down into two parts – psychological addiction and physical addiction – it is necessary to find a treatment that addresses both issues with equal intensity.
Most rehabs start with medical detox to ensure the safety of the patient as his or her body readjusts to functioning without the painkiller. Immediately following the stabilization of the patient, he or she will enter into psychological addiction treatment characterized by an intense schedule of personal therapy sessions, group therapy, and a range of experiential therapies and holistic treatments. Followed by aftercare services, this process of treatment is the most effective way to combat addiction.
However, the road from active addiction to active recovery isn’t always short. The process is often defined by a certain development of perspective and attitude. According to a paper published in the American Journal of Addiction, this progression of readiness or motivation can help patients move closer to a mental state that is open to the possibility that treatment holds.
Addiction Treatment at Michael’s House
OxyContin abuse is often a problem for patients whose primary drug of choice is another substance entirely, like alcohol or cocaine. In a study published by American Journal of Psychiatry, five percent of participating patients said that they had abused OxyContin and 4.5 percent of those said that they abused the painkiller regularly for at least a year prior to admission to treatment. Additionally, 78 percent of patients who reported OxyContin abuse said that the pills that they used were not prescribed to them and 86 percent said that they specifically abused the drug in order to get “high.”
Michael’s House provides residential rehab treatment for patients who are fighting OxyContin abuse or addiction. Our peaceful estate in Palm Springs, California provides an idyllic locale for recovery. Contact us today at 760.548.4032 to find out more about your options in prescription drug addiction treatment.