OxyContin Abuse & Addiction

OxyContin is a powerful pain reliever than can be a very effective form of pain relief for many people.

This opiate drug is incredibly addictive. Most patients who are prescribed this medication have no intent to become addicted to it; they initially take OxyContin to deal with pain from surgery or an accident, or they take the drug for chronic pain conditions.

Opiate addiction is a major problem in this country, according to Narconon News. Not only do adults become addicted to OxyContin, teenagers also experiment with the prescription painkiller. A National Institutes of Health survey showed that opioid painkiller abuse is a long-term trend among teens, with significant abuse of OxyContin among 12th graders.

While OxyContin addiction has seen an increase among people of all backgrounds, it is sometimes known as a “white collar” habit because it can be quite expensive. While OxyContin can be pricey, a prescription can easily be obtained from a doctor for almost any form of pain from toothaches to fibromyalgia. This is why people mistakenly perceive the medication to be a “safe” drug. The truth is that an addiction to OxyContin and other prescription painkillers can be just as dangerous as an addiction to heroin.

History and Uses for Oxycontin

According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, oxycodone has been considered an addictive drug since the 1960s. It became a highly controlled drug in the mid 1990s, when it hit the market in the form of OxyContin. The medication has been classified by the FDA as a Schedule II narcotic, the highest level of restriction on a medication.

While OxyContin is classified as a dangerous drug, it is widely prescribed by doctors to treat pain that is severe and even moderate. For those who suffer from severe pain due to final-stage cancer, bone degeneration, and other diseases, the drug is extremely effective. It was viewed primarily as a legitimate form of pain relief until 1996 when reports of OxyContin abuse and addiction first began to surface.

Currently, the problem lies in ease of access. Patients can express that they have moderate pain in the form of a muscle strain or headaches, and they can easily obtain a prescription for the drug. Moderate to severe pain is a broad range, and doctors frequently offer opiate prescriptions when patients complain of such pain.

OxyContin is commonly used to treat pain related to:

  • Cancer treatment (usually final stage)
  • Surgery
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis

The prominent factor that distinguishes OxyContin from other opiates is the way in which the medication is delivered into the body. Its time-release feature allows it to be released into the body over a period of 12 hours. This means that it has a higher dose to begin with, so patients do not have to take a pain pill as often, making it a convenient form of pain medication when taken correctly.

Methods of Use

While OxyContin is supposed to be taken every 12 hours by mouth, many people who are addicted to the drug find alternative ways to take it. They have already experienced the high from ingesting it by mouth, and they want a bigger rush. They accomplish this by removing the coating of the medication and crushing the pill into a powder, which is then chewed, snorted, or dissolved and injected into the skin. The time-release mechanism of OxyContin is then bypassed, and the person experiences a more intense high almost immediately.

Some even mix the drug with alcohol, which can be incredibly dangerous. In 2010, OxyContin was reformulated to prevent the coating from being crushed or opened, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Who Uses OxyContin?

According to a study by the Journal of Addictive Diseases, OxyContin abuse is a prominent problem in the US, especially in rural areas and Appalachia. But this type of drug addiction is not a problem that is exclusive to these areas; anyone can become addicted to OxyContin. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reports that almost 1 million Americans aged 12 and up used OxyContin to get high at least once. These people are not just getting the drug via prescription from their doctors; they are getting it for free from people they know. According to a study in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 70 percent of the people they studied got OxyContin from a friend or family member.

Many people who are prescribed OxyContin are naïve to drugs and only become addicted after taking the medication for legitimate reasons. They simply want their pain to end. They believe that because their health care provider quickly and easily prescribed them the medication, it is safe. Many people who are addicted to OxyContin have never taken prescription pain medications before, and once they experience a recurrence of their pain between doses, they want even more pain relief.

Signs of OxyContin Addiction

It may be difficult to tell if someone you know is addicted to OxyContin. When people are addicted to a substance they can feel very ashamed, and they frequently do whatever they can to hide their addiction from family, friends, and coworkers. Most can function at work without anyone knowing they are high on OxyContin, and pretty soon their behavior becomes normal for them and everyone around them.

Generally, the symptoms worsen over time. Signs of addiction to OxyContin include:

  • Impaired mental and physical abilities
  • Drowsiness/nodding off
  • Weight loss
  • Unhealthy, unkempt appearance
  • Itching
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Euphoric mood
  • Constricted pupils
  • Loss of interest in hobbies

People who are addicted to OxyContin feel as though they are compelled to take the medication more frequently so they can achieve a bigger high. They may know that this will cause them to run out of their medication early, but the compelling urge to chase an even bigger feeling of euphoria is strong enough to make them not care at that moment. They just want that wonderful feeling again. People may begin to take two pills at a time to see how they feel. This can quickly snowball into a serious addiction.

Getting Help with Oxycontin Addiction

There is no cure for any form of addiction, but the condition can be effectively managed. A combination of medical support and counseling ensures that patients with OxyContin addictions receive comprehensive care. Since addiction and mental health issues often go hand-in-hand, a focus on co-occurring conditions ensures the most robust recovery experience. If you’re living with an OxyContin addiction, or a family member or friend needs help with opiate addiction, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can help. Call now to start the enrollment process today.


Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.