First introduced in 1995, the powerful opioid Oxycontin is now one of the most addictive and abused prescription medications. The drug’s therapeutic use is as a powerful painkiller and it is widely used in clinical medicine. This potent (and potentially lethal) drug is a “controlled substance” and requires a prescription to obtain. In 2008, Oxycontin was the most widely prescribed opioid painkiller in all of North America. This drug alone is responsible for a significant rise in Emergency Room visits all over the country. Many patients are seen because they experience difficulty in breathing; some are seen when in full cardiac arrest.
Like morphine, Oxycontin is mind-altering, which makes it extremely attractive for those searching for the opiate-induced “high”. Oxycontin users report effects of the drug include: inducing a state of euphoria, calming anxiety and a feeling of overall mental relaxation. Because the drug mimics some heroin effects, Oxycontin is also often referred to as “poor man’s heroin” or “hillbilly heroin”.
Many patients initially prescribed the medicine for legitimate pain relief have become addicted. Once experiencing the “high”, they are driven to keep using the drug in an attempt to maintain the good feelings. Even having been legally introduced to Oxycontin, this can be the first stage of addiction – experimentation – for many. In the early stages of use, the user is frequently able to keep functioning at an acceptable level.
Oxycontin, which is issued in tablet form, is easily crushed and, therefore, offers users a variety of ways to ingest it. If the tablet is swallowed whole, the effects take much longer to “kick in” than if: injected, inhaled or placed rectally. Because it is water-soluble, injecting the drug has become most prevalent. The drug, in tablet form, is a time-release pain killer. Once crushed, all bets are off and dangerous (sometimes fatal) levels are introduced into the bloodstream immediately.
Full-blown addiction is in place when the drug is used on a regular basis – often daily. Side effects of the powerful opioid include: respiratory depression, dangerously low blood pressure and restricted blood flow. Extreme caution should be exercised when combining Oxycontin with any other medication (including small amounts of alcohol) because the drug interacts badly with many substances and can cause serious consequences, including death.
Because of the heroin-like effects, addicts will often suffer the same consequences of heroin users. Addicts become lethargic, often drifting in and out of wakefulness; brain function and mental reasoning is slowed dramatically. Loss of jobs and relationships is very common, while the addict isolates more and/or only hangs out with other addicts.
When in the later/final stages of Oxycontin addiction, users have been known to forging prescriptions (a felony) or resort to burglarizing pharmacies – the drug is not readily available to purchase on the street. Consequently, many addicts are arrested and jailed. This can actually be a better outcome than many fellow addicts experience. As they must continue to use more and more of the drug in order to get high, for many, the last stage of Oxycontin abuse is overdose and death.
Suddenly stopping Oxycontin can result in severe withdrawal symptoms: restlessness, anxiety, chills, profuse sweating, weakness, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Some addicts experience greatly increased blood pressure, respiratory rate and heart rate. Because of the sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms, it is advisable to consult with (or to be under the care of) a knowledgeable physician before or during the withdrawal process.
Recovery from Oxycontin addiction is definitely possible. Though the drug is relatively new, already many thousands are recovering from this debilitating addiction. Twelve-Step Programs (Narcotics Anonymous, etc) have proven to be a successful path to recovery for many addicts; others enroll in treatment programs. Whenever you decide to stop the madness, help is available in many forms.