Causes & Effects of OxyContin Addiction

Understanding OxyContin Addiction

Learn about OxyContin addiction and abuse

Comprised of oxycodone, OxyContin is a prescription painkiller that can provide those who require it with the relief they need to live pain-free, productive, and healthy lives. Given the potency of this medication and the fact that it can be addictive, those who are prescribed OxyContin should be under the close supervision of a healthcare provider for the duration of their care. Failing to adhere to a doctor’s recommendations when taking this medication can, unfortunately, result in a pattern of abuse that can be challenging to stop alone.

Additionally, because of the effects that this medication can produce when it is taken for non-medical reasons, OxyContin is often abused by those who are in search of a recreational high. Pleasurable sensations and feelings of detachment and euphoria are reported to occur when this medication is abused, which can make this painkiller an appealing substance. Under both circumstances, whether taken in excess of what a physician advises or consumed to achieve a high, OxyContin abuse can quickly develop into an addiction. Resulting from a pattern of abuse that leads to tolerance and eventually dependency, OxyContin addiction can be exceedingly difficult to overcome on one’s own. Withdrawal symptoms are likely to manifest and compromise a person’s efforts to abstain from the use of this medication once the individual is no longer abusing it, which further exacerbates the need for treatment if this form of chemical dependency is present in an individual’s life.

By seeking treatment that includes the support of professionals who know what it takes to overcome an OxyContin addiction, it is possible to live a life that is drug-free once more.


OxyContin addiction statistics

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), near two million men and women in America are battling addictions to prescription painkillers, including OxyContin. Additionally, it is estimated that as many as five million adults in the United States misuse OxyContin each year. Lastly, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tens of thousands of deaths occur each year as a direct result of Oxycontin abuse.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for OxyContin addiction

The reasons why a person may turn to OxyContin abuse can be vast. However, experts in the field of addiction believe the following are the most common causes and risk factors for why and how an individual may come to abuse OxyContin:

Genetic: Should an individual have a family history of substance abuse, addiction, and/or chemical dependency, that person has a greater risk of also suffering from such concerns at some point in life. Especially, if a close relative, namely a parent or sibling, has battled substance abuse issues, the risk for an individual resorting to the abuse of substances like OxyContin is greater.

Environmental: If a person is exposed to substance abuse early in life, there is a higher chance that he or she will turn to the abuse of substances like OxyContin. Additionally, if an individual is able to easily acquire this medication, by prescription or by taking it from someone else, there is a greater likelihood that that person will abuse Oxycontin. Lastly, should an individual lack appropriate coping skills, have an inadequate support system, or believe the abuse of substances is a viable method for dealing with stress, it is probable that that person will experiment with, regularly abuse, and become addicted to OxyContin.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of other substance use
  • Family history of substance abuse or addiction
  • Having a prescription for OxyContin
  • Personal or family history of mental illness
  • Personal history of trauma or exposure to drug use / violence
  • Residing in an impoverished area

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of OxyContin addiction

For many who abuse OxyContin, great measures are taken to conceal the use of this medication. If you are a concerned loved one who suspects that someone you care about is abusing this painkiller, it is beneficial to note the presence of any of the following behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Using more OxyContin than was originally intended
  • Abusing OxyContin in situations that could be dangerous
  • Abusing OxyContin in favor of participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Spending a great deal of time getting, using, and recovering from OxyContin use
  • Failing to adhere to daily responsibilities because of OxyContin abuse
  • Continuing to abuse OxyContin despite knowing that the substance has caused problems

Physical symptoms:

  • Excessive yawning
  • Dilated pupils
  • Inability to experience pain
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Itchiness
  • Constipation
  • Impaired motor functioning

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Poor judgment
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor spatial relations

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Shifts in mood
  • Anger
  • No longer interested in things that were once enjoyed
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia


Effects of OxyContin addiction

There are many adverse effects that can result if a person remains addicted to OxyContin. By seeking treatment, the following potential consequences can be avoided:

  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Family discord
  • Polysubstance abuse
  • Development or worsening of mental health disorder symptoms
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Lung problems
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Job loss
  • Unemployment
  • Financial strife
  • Demise of meaningful relationships
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts
  • Overdose
  • Physical injury

Dual Diagnosis

OxyContin addiction and dual diagnosis

Many people who seek professional help for OxyContin addiction discover that they have also been struggling with another mental or behavioral health disorder. In clinical terms, this is known as dual diagnosis. OxyContin abuse and addiction have been associated with the following disorders:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder

Failing to receive needed care for dual diagnosis can undermine your ability to achieve long-term recovery from OxyContin addiction. This is why it’s important to get help from a provider that can identify and address the full scope of your needs. Dual diagnosis programming can be an essential step in your recovery journey.

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of OxyContin withdrawal and overdose

Effects of OxyContin withdrawal: Should a person who is addicted to OxyContin cease his or her use of this medication, her or she will likely experience withdrawal symptoms, which can include the following:

  • Shaking hands
  • Muscle spasms
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Powerful cravings for OxyContin

Effects of OxyContin overdose: Those who consume more OxyContin that their bodies can handle may experience an overdose. The following are the effects of overdose and should signify that emergency medical attention is needed:

  • Breathing problems
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Bluish tint near lips and/or fingertips
  • Low blood pressure
  • Changes to one’s pupils
  • Cold or clammy skin

Additional Facts

How is OxyContin made?

OxyContin ER (extended release) is a powerful prescription painkiller that slowly releases the opioid oxycodone over an extended period of time.  Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid, which means it has been chemically altered from its natural state.

Unlike most prescription painkillers, OxyContin contains almost pure oxycodone. However, OxyContin contains a small variety of inactive ingredients such as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), hypromellose, polyethylene glycol 400, polyethylene oxide, magnesium stearate, titanium dioxide, and coloring agents.

OxyContin comes in various doses, including 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg and 80 mg tablets. Because it is almost purely oxycodone, OxyContin is highly addictive and thus classified as a Schedule II drug.

How do people get high on OxyContin?

People get high on OxyContin by tampering with the drug’s controlled-release mechanisms. By cutting, chewing, dissolving and injecting, or snorting the tablet, they release all the oxycodone in the tablet at once. These methods of abuse are extremely dangerous because of the strength of oxycodone and the large dosage involved.

To prevent this, a new reformulated version of OxyContin was released in 2010. The “tamper-proof” tablet turns into a gooey substance that cannot be snorted or drawn up into a syringe. Even though this significantly reduces the likelihood of abuse, those determined to abuse OxyContin find a way to extract the drug in the form they want it.

What should I not mix with OxyContin?

Alcohol, depressant drugs (Xanax), other opioids (Percocet, Vicodin), and stimulants (amphetamine, Ritalin) should not be taken together with OxyContin. The combination of their effects could result in overdose.

  • Alcohol, depressants, and opioids all slow down brain activity. When mixed together, they could lead to dangerously slow breathing and heart rate.
  • Taking stimulants with opioids is like playing cardiovascular tug-of-war: the stimulants tell your heart to speed up, and the opioids tell it to slow down. This could lead to fatal effects such as heart dysrhythmias, heart attack, or heart failure. Additionally, this combination is even more deadly because stimulants can mask the symptoms of OxyContin overdose.

What are the short-term effects of OxyContin?

Short term effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Altered mental state
  • Headache
  • Sedation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slowed breathing

What are the long-term effects of OxyContin?

Long term effects include:

  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Decreased levels of testosterone
  • Coma
  • Tolerance
  • Addiction

What are the overdose effects of OxyContin?

Overdose effects include:

  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Extremely low heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

How long does OxyContin stay in my system?

Oxycontin can be detected in the urine for two to three days and longer for long-term users.

How long do the effects of OxyContin last?

The effects of OxyContin start within one hour after the drug is taken and can last for 12 hours.The length of an OxyContin high depends on the route and dosage of the drug, which can last from 30 minutes to six hours. Snorting or injecting will result in faster highs, and higher dosages will provide longer effects.

However, tolerance builds with each use. After a while, the same dosage taken the same way will not produce the same effect, and users often end up spending hundreds of dollars to chase a few minutes of pleasure.

How much OxyContin can I take before risking overdose?

Due to the sheer amount of oxycodone in a single pill of OxyContin, any abuse of the drug poses a risk of overdose. When a person chews, injects, or snorts an Oxy pill, the entire 12-hour dose hits your system at once and could cause an overdose.

How do I know if I’m addicted to OxyContin?

Addiction occurs when an individual continues to use methadone despite the negative consequences. Other signs of addiction include:

  • Needing more of oxycontin to achieve the same effect (tolerance)
  • Using more oxycontinthan intended
  • Unable to cut down or stop oxycontin
  • Spending more money than you have on oxycontin
  • Continuing to get high despite the problems it causes
  • Depending on oxycontin to relax or enjoy yourself
  • Neglects daily responsibilities
  • Others have expressed concern about your oxycontin use
  • Feelings of guilt when using Oxycontin

Can OxyContin kill you?

As usual, this depends on your body metabolism and how tolerant you are to the drug already. A single dose of OxyContin greater than 40 mg or taking more than 80 mg of oxycodone a day could be fatal for those new to OxyContin. Since OxyContin contains so much oxycodone, any abuse of the drug could lead to fatal overdose symptoms.


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