Oxycontin: A Silent Killer
Are you currently prescribed oxycontin for pain?
Perhaps for a sporting or work-related injury, or for pain associated with a serious condition?
Coming to the end of your prescription, feeling anxious that you won’t have access to this medication for much longer?
You aren’t alone. Oxycontin is firmly established as an epidemic in the United States and is one of the greatest problems that the healthcare system is facing today.
Though the drug is known for its miraculous pain management properties, Oxy is also known to create feelings of pleasure and euphoria for some users. It is these feelings that lead some individuals to continue to self-administer Oxycontin long after the user’s pain has subsided.
So What Is Oxycontin?
Oxycontin is the brand name of the drug oxycodone hydrochloride. It is classed as a controlled substance in the U.S., thanks to its highly addictive nature. The drug is commonly prescribed to patients experiencing moderate to severe ongoing pain, such as cancer patients or those with major injuries.
Oxycodone is a synthetic product of the opium poppy, similar to morphine, heroin, or other addictive opioids, which are a class of drug that act as an analgesic to reduce pain signals to the brain. When working effectively, the drug changes how a person’s nervous system responds to pain.
As a result, the user feels a sense of euphoria, completely removed from all pain signals, both physically and emotionally. Understandably, users quickly become addicted to this feeling and, as a result, to the drug.
How Is Oxycontin Administered?
This pain reliever is recommended by health professionals to be taken every 12 hours because of the drugs controlled release formulation, meaning the effects of the drug last much longer than a regular over-the-counter pain killer.
Because most pain killers are designed to be taken every three to six hours, many people misuse Oxycodone and take it more frequently than is recommended.
In fact, there have been cases of people removing the sustained release coating, resulting in a rapid release of the medication for an immediate high. Other misuse methods involve crushing and snorting, injecting, or smoking the drug, bringing a rush of euphoria just like the high brought on with heroin.
Unlike heroin, however, Oxy is widely available through an easy prescription.
How Does Oxycontin Work?
There is still a large amount of research into how oxycodone works and why it is so addictive. Fundamentally, the drug works on specific opioid receptors found in the central nervous system, blocking pain signals to the brain. This affects the perception of pain throughout the body, resulting in a numbing sensation that is often described as euphoria.
Oxycodone also triggers an emotional response, which can help assist in the management of pain. Though this is not what the drug is intended for, it is a common effect that makes it so addictive.
A highly addictive substance with relative ease of access is one of the reasons why opioid addiction has become such an epidemic in the United States.
Common Side Effects Of Oxycodone
While Oxycodone is known for its pleasurable side effects, it also has negative side effects that come along with it.
Some of these effects that users may experience include
- feelings of weakness,
- breathing problems,
- changes in mood,
- and possible fainting.
As you can imagine, this is incredibly dangerous when this happens out in day-to-day activities.
Oxycodone is typically available in a range of dosages from 10-160 milligrams. At strengths greater than 40 milligrams per dosage, the drug may cause overdose and can occasionally result in death.
The most common cause of death by Oxycodone is due to its depressive effects on the respiratory system. In this case, breathing can be slowed to a dangerous and perhaps deadly level. It is very important to be aware of this as it is a common reason why this drug causes so many deaths.
So What Are The Signs Of Addiction?
When a user takes oxycodone, it triggers a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine as well as endorphins, which induce feelings of pleasantness, euphoria, reward, and satisfaction. As users begin taking the drug with more frequency, the brain stops producing dopamine and becomes dependent on the drug.
When users stop taking the drug, the brain is left with a major gap in dopamine production. With this gap is a complete loss of happiness and euphoria. In most cases, it becomes nearly impossible to feel any happiness at all, leaving some users to feel depressed and low.
When this happens, the brain seeks dopamine to counter the depressive mood, which is why users may start experiencing cravings for more of the drug. Over time, a user’s tolerance will naturally increase as the brain needs more and more of the dopamine fix to hit any kind of high at all. This leads people to use higher and higher doses of the drug to experience the same high as when they first began using Oxy in the first place.
Identified A Problem? Where To Find Support And Treatment
Luckily, there are many effective treatment options for someone abusing oxycodone or battling addiction. Oxycodone addiction is a medical disorder that may be treated with appropriate support and medical resources, such as
- medication interventions,
- behavioral therapies,
- one on one counseling sessions,
- family therapy and education,
- long-term support groups,
- and 12 step support programs.
If you or a loved one is battling an addiction, it is important to seek treatment right away to avoid an inevitable death. If you have been prescribed an opioid for pain management but do not feel that you have a problem, consider exploring other pain killers that are less addictive so that you can avoid the epidemic that has plagued the nation.
Medically Reviewed: July 3, 2019
Medical Reviewer | CWC Recovery Staff
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.