OxyContin is a brand name of oxycodone, a prescription opioid painkiller. OxyContin comes in varying dosages, and it is intended for long-term relief of moderate to severe pain. Tablets of this medication come in a time-released formula, which helps to relieve pain for several hours. Many people use OxyContin for legitimate medical purposes and experience no unwanted effects; however, some people become physically dependent on the drug, leading to its abuse.
Many people who abuse OxyContin were originally prescribed the medication for a medical condition. Others may receive the drug from friends or family, or purchase it illicitly for the purpose of abusing the substance. In addition to pain relief, OxyContin causes a rush of certain neurochemicals within the brain, including dopamine. This leads to euphoria and other desirable feelings, and the pleasant experience can lead to abuse and eventually addiction. Altering time-release tablets of OxyContin in any way greatly increases the risk of becoming physically dependent on the substance. Some individuals chew the tablets, or crush them into a powder that can be snorted, smoked, or dissolved and inhaled.
Effects of OxyContin Abuse
Abusing OxyContin can lead to various negative consequences to physical health. Snorting or smoking the substance causes the whole dosage contained within the time-release tablet to be released simultaneously, which can increase the risk of overdose. This method of drug abuse also causes the substance to cross the blood-brain barrier very quickly, according to NBC News, which increases its addictive potential.
Snorting and smoking substances can do severe damage to the lungs and respiratory system. Snorting can damage the delicate membranes within the nose, causing tearing and bleeding. People who abuse drugs in this way often experience chronic nosebleeds. The lungs also suffer; inhaling substances into the lungs can cause tissue damage and death. OxyContin can cause a lack of oxygen to the tissue it comes in contact with, which can cause that tissue to die.
Oxycodone is a highly addictive substance that must be used carefully and only under a doctor’s supervision. Abusing this substance can quickly lead to physical dependence and addiction. People who become addicted to OxyContin sometimes go on to use illicit substances like heroin. A story published by Washington University in St. Louis reports that a change in the formula of OxyContin successfully discouraged abuse of this drug, but may have led to an increase in heroin abuse, as those addicted to the substance sought out a replacement.
Addiction Treatment and Recovery
Addiction to OxyContin can be severe, particularly since misuse of the drug can quickly lead to physical dependence. Treatment for OxyContin abuse typically begins with detox, during which all traces of addictive substances leave the body. Withdrawal from this drug can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is not typically dangerous.
Medical detox is, however, always recommended for opiate withdrawal to ensure the safety and comfort of those withdrawing from OxyContin and other opiates. Many behavioral therapies and pharmacotherapies are available to ease withdrawal symptoms, prevent cravings, and help individuals in changing patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to the addiction. Treatment for an addiction to OxyContin should also address the physical health complications resulting from snorting and smoking addictive substances, including treatment for resulting lung disease, infections, and damage to the body.