OxyContin Addiction Treatment

Learn more about Oxycontin addiction symptoms, treatment, and recovery

What is OxyContin?

OxyContin is a semi-synthetic opiate containing the active ingredient oxycodone. This drug is an effective pain relief medication that is often prescribed to manage moderate to severe pain caused by injuries, nerve pain, shoulder pain, arthritis, and cancer.

OxyContin is intended to operate as a time-release pain reliever. It is available in 10, 20, 40, 80, and 160 mg tablets which provide a controlled release of oxycodone over 12 hours.

While OxyContin fills an important medical role, like other prescription opioids it is highly addictive. This medication is classified as a schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

OxyContin is one of several brand names for oxycodone. Oxycodone is also available in medications that combine it with aspirin as Percodan and acetaminophen as Percocet. A key player in the opioid epidemic, misuse of this drug skyrocketed following its influential marketing and easy availability to users.

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How is OxyContin misused?

OxyContin is approved by the FDA to provide pain relief in certain circumstances. When used as directed, extended-release tablets are swallowed whole to provide a steady analgesic effect to the body.

People often take OxyContin differently when they’re using it illicitly. They may crush tablets so they can be snorted or mixed in a water solution and injected into the body. They may also chew the tablets. When OxyContin is misused in these ways, instead of  steady pain relief, the drug reportedly produces euphoria similar to the effects of heroin. This encourages continuous abuse, leading to dependence.

OxyContin addiction is highly prevalent. Between 2002 and 2004, lifetime illicit use of this opioid increased from 1.9 million to 3.1 million people. By 2004, OxyContin was recognized as the most abused prescription opioid in the United States. Current statistics suggest around 13 million Americans misuse oxycodone yearly. The illegal use of this drug is responsible for as many as 500,000 annual emergency room visits.

Symptoms of OxyContin addiction

Even when it’s prescribed for legitimate pain, the use of OxyContin can lead to physical dependence and ultimately, opioid use disorder. The most important symptoms of opioid addiction occur when use affects a person’s life—physical health, mental health, relationships, work performance, and financial well-being. But there are some red flags that may indicate that a person who takes OxyContin may need to be concerned about their use:

  • Itching
  • Difficult stool movement (constipation)
  • Dry mouth
  • Delusions
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Multiple OxyContin prescriptions from different doctors

Common side effects of OxyContin include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, or sweating. In other cases, this opiate may produce heart palpitations, low blood pressure, skin rashes, photosensitivity, anorexia, and seizures. It may also cause respiratory depression, which has life-threatening consequences.

Treatment for OxyContin addiction 

The gold-standard treatment for OxyContin addiction is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines MAT as “the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.”

Medication
The core of MAT is medication that has been FDA-approved to treat opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine and methadone are medications that reduce cravings by stimulating the opioid receptors in the brain. These medications help to stabilize long-term recovery and lower the risk of relapse. Naltrexone is another medication approved by the FDA to treat opioid addiction that operates by binding to and blocking opioid receptors in the brain. Workit Health prescribes buprenorphine in formulations that combine it with naloxone to prevent diversion and misuse (like Suboxone), and also prescribes naltrexone. Workit does not prescribe methadone, which is subject to more stringent regulations and monitoring requirements.

Many people who know they’re misusing OxyContin want to stop but are afraid of going through withdrawal. To be fair, opioid withdrawal can be a miserable experience. Your healthcare provider can suggest options—prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and self-care—to help with the discomfort.

Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral health support is an important component of MAT. Counseling techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy can help to navigate addiction. Talk therapy, group counseling, and therapeutic courses can help people in recovery identify and navigate their triggers, set goals, and learn to modify negative attitudes and behaviors.

Some treatment centers and rehab centers provide both options, but many do not support MAT.

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Citations

1. National Drug Intelligence Center. Oxycontin Fast Facts.

2. Jayawant, S. S. & Balkrishnan, R. The controversy surrounding OxyContin abuse: issues and solutions. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2005;1(2):77-82. doi:10.2147/tcrm.1.2.77.62911

3. Van Zee, A. The promotion and marketing of oxycontin: commercial triumph, public health tragedy. Am J Public Health. 2009;99(2):221-227. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.131714

5. Sadiq, N. M., Dice, T. J., & Mead, T. Oxycodone. [Updated 2021 May 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan.