For those unaware, OxyContin is a semi-synthetic opioid analgesic commonly prescribed to treat severe pain. In that regard, it does a phenomenal job, especially for those struggling with bursitis, neuralgia, arthritis, or cancer-related pain. But the very things that make this semi-synthetic opioid analgesic an effective pain reliever are also the things that make it highly addictive. According to a study published by the U.S. Department of Justice, around 1 million Americans aged 12 and older have taken OxyContin for nonmedical reasons at least once. Further, OxyContin contributed to more than 70,000 overdose-related deaths in 2020.
Table of Contents
What Makes OxyContin So Addictive?
OxyContin is in many ways like heroin, opium, morphine, and other opioids in how it interacts with the brain and body. And that interaction can make breaking the cycle of addiction particularly challenging for some people. Bearing that in mind, let’s take a moment to discuss what OxyContin does to the brain when someone takes it in pill form or snorts, injects, or smokes the drug to bypass its controlled-release mechanism. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), once OxyContin enters the body, it travels through the bloodstream before making its way to the brain.
In the brain, this powerful Schedule II narcotic attaches to tiny cells known as mu-opioid receptors. This attachment stimulates an uptick in the production of endorphins, which blocks pain signals, and dopamine, a “feel good” chemical in the brain responsible for the euphoric high synonymous with OxyContin. The longer someone abuses OxyContin, the more OxyContin they must take to achieve a euphoric high, and the more they take, the more likely they are to develop an addiction.
How OxyContin Abuse Affects the Body
When someone abuses OxyContin, it can have short and long-term side effects on the physical body. Short-term effects typically include drowsiness, slower-than-usual reaction times, constricted pupils, and constipation. As far as long-term effects on the body are concerned, they can be more severe and even life-threatening. The more notable of these long-term effects on the body include the following:
- Acute kidney injury (AKI)
- Cardiovascular problems
- Liver failure
- Muscle spasms
- Respiratory problems
The Truth About Overcoming OxyContin Addiction
Although an OxyContin addiction is one of the more difficult addictions to overcome, it is doable. But it often requires getting help from a licensed rehab facility. The reason for that is the abrupt cessation of OxyContin, much like other opioids, can trigger a wide range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Most licensed rehab facilities have programs that help individuals cope with such symptoms, many of which can start in as little as 24 to 36 hours after individuals take their final dose of OxyContin. Some of these symptoms include the following:
- Extreme feelings of apathy
- Flu-like symptoms
- Intense OxyContin cravings
- Muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
- Sleep disturbances
- Stomach cramps
Available data shows that most symptoms typical of abrupt OxyContin cessation will peak within 3 to 4 days before progressively fading away. Before they fade away, however, life can be miserable for someone trying to end their relationship with OxyContin. Multiple things can dictate how quickly and how severe withdrawal symptoms can be once someone suddenly quits taking this opioid. The more notable of these include the following:
- If someone takes OxyContin alongside other drugs, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and methamphetamines
- The length of time someone has been taking OxyContin
- The OxyContin dosage and how frequently someone was taking it
How Rehab Facilities Help Individuals Cope With OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms
Like other opioids, many people relapse when trying to end their relationship with OxyContin. And most blame their inability to cope with pain, cravings, and other withdrawal symptoms for doing so. None of this is surprising to the more than 14,500 rehab facilities in the U.S. that treat individuals struggling with an addiction to opioids, OxyContin being one of them. To help lower the risk of relapse while individuals are detoxing from OxyContin, most of these rehab facilities offer medication-assisted treatment. This form of addiction recovery comprises round-the-clock monitoring by a licensed physician or nurse and FDA-approved medications. Some of the FDA-approved medications commonly prescribed by rehab physicians and nurses include the following:
Withdrawal Timeline: What To Expect When Coming off of OxyContin
Detoxing from OxyContin, meaning the body ridding itself of the drug and associated contaminants, does not happen overnight. It happens in stages, and in most cases, it takes up to 10 days to get through all stages of an OxyContin detox. Those exceedingly difficult and trying stages include
Days 1 to 2 – The first 1 to 2 days after quitting OxyContin are arguably the worst as it marks the beginning of flu-like symptoms, some of which include chronic fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headaches, loss of appetite, and runny nose. It is also not uncommon for some people to feel uncharacteristically anxious or agitated around this time. And the misery does not end there, sadly. During days 1 to 2, OxyContin cravings can be extremely intense, and this is because above-average levels of dopamine in the brain are starting to normalize.
Days 3 to 5 – During this stage, most people find that their detox journey is becoming a little easier. And this is because their symptoms are not quite as intense as they were during days 1 to 2. That said, days 3 to 5 comprise slightly milder bouts of nausea and vomiting, tremors, muscle cramps, and muscle aches.
Days 5 to 10 – During this stage, most people going through an OxyContin detox say it feels like they’re making some headway relative to regaining control over their life. To appreciate why they feel this way, we need to understand what is happening at this critical point of their detox journey. During days 5 to 10, most people report significant relief from the physical withdrawal symptoms synonymous with quitting OxyContin. However, many are still left struggling with anxiety and depression. These unfortunate psychological withdrawal symptoms often hang around until dopamine and other neurotransmitter levels in the brain return to normal.
Days 10 and beyond – Making it to this point in one’s detox journey is a cause to celebrate. And that’s because very few people make it this far. In a study published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), researchers revealed the relapse rate for opioids among users going through an addiction recovery program is over 78%. So reaching the 10-day mark is, indeed, a milestone to be recognized and celebrated. At this point, the cravings and other physical withdrawal symptoms synonymous with quitting OxyContin have eased or have gone away. Unfortunately, feelings of anxiety and depression might still linger around. To help individuals overcome this final addiction recovery hurdle, many rehab facilities provide counseling sessions with a licensed therapist. Many also offer referrals to support groups and sober living homes, which can make it easier to overcome the psychological aspects of OxyContin addiction.
In summary, breaking the cycle of addiction when it comes to OxyContin is no easy task, and that’s because of the difficult withdrawal symptoms associated with the abrupt cessation of the drug, not only the physical ones but also the psychological ones. That said, individuals can overcome their struggles with OxyContin addiction and go on to lead a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life; many have already done so. To learn more about medication-assisted treatments and other addiction recovery tools that can make doing so possible, consider speaking with a Long Island Interventions specialist today.
What is the main difference between oxycodone and oxycontin?