OxyContin is a powerful, partially synthetic opioid analgesic (pain killer) which is typically prescribed for handling chronic and/or long lasting pain. OxyContin was first marketed in 1996 and by 2003 was a 1.2 billion dollar industry. OxyContin's main active ingredient is oxycodone, and one OxyContin tablet contains somewhere between 10mg to 160mg of the narcotic pain killer. It is the longest-acting prescription pain killer currently on the market. Legitimate use of the OxyContin provides as much as 12 hours of continued relief from pain, and is typically prescribed for injuries, dislocation, fractures, neuralgia, arthritis, and lower back and cancer pain.
OxyContin affects the same areas of the brain and nervous system as heroin and other opiates, to block the perception of pain. In high enough doses, the drug also produces an intense euphoria or what is known as a "high". Due to the drug's narcotic-like effects and the fact that users quickly develop tolerance to it, individuals who use OxyContin both legitimately and illegitimately can easily become addicted to it. Users will need a higher and higher dosage to achieve the desired effect. As a result, the drug has been illicitly diverted and abused for the past 30 years due to the ease of availability and high risk of dependence. This is true even for individuals who are legitimately treated with OxyContin for pain management, so don't be fooled.
For individuals who are struggling with legitimate chronic pain, they can benefit from taking OxyContin as they will only need to take the drug once or twice a day. Unfortunately, and like many other prescription pain killers, OxyContin is often abused by individuals who struggle with opiate addiction as the drug acts much like heroin and other opiates. It has become known as the "White Collar" heroin, as use of OxyContin is less stigmatized than other more hardcore drugs such as heroin. It is also commonly used by heroin and methadone addicts to avoid opiate withdrawal.
OxyContin is meant to be swallowed whole, but individuals who abuse the drug can ingest it in a variety of ways. By crushing up the pill and taking it via ingesting or snorting, or by intravenously injecting a diluted OxyContin mix, individuals can experience a rapid and intense rush over a short period of time, rather than the normal twelve hour timespan. This causes a rush of euphoria similar to heroin, and individuals who remove the time-release coating and either ingest, snort or inject it will experience effects for up to 5 hours. When an OxyContin tablet is broken, chewed, or crushed however, toxic overdose and/or death can occur. Intravenous OxyContin users also expose themselves to risks such as contracting human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, other blood-borne viruses and hepatitis B and C.
OxyContin is commonly sold on the street alongside other illicit drugs, and is a drug of choice among opiate addicts. Millions of dollars are made each year in illegal sales of OxyContin on the streets. For example, one 40-milligram OxyContin tablet may cost around $4 by prescription, but can sell for as much as $20 to $40 dollars when purchased illegally. So, illicit sale of the drug is a serious business. The increased illicit use of OxyContin has also led to the manufacture of "fake" OxyContin pills all over North America. This puts individuals who abuse the drug at risk of taking something other than OxyContin. When purity or dosage is in question, it puts users at a much higher risk of overdose or fatal side effects.
Individuals who become addicted to OxyContin will do just about anything to get more of the drug. They will typically engage in what is known as "doctor-shopping", whereby they will go from doctor to doctor getting more prescriptions of the drug in attempt to satiate their habit. The abuse of OxyContin has caused an escalated number of thefts, pharmacy robberies, health care fraud incidents and shoplifting incidents. Due to the problem with the diversion of OxyContin, many states have introduced prescription monitoring and banned the sale of the drug over the internet. Despite these efforts, the illicit use of OxyContin is at an all-time high.
The illicit sale of OxyContin has gotten so out of control, it seems that individuals will go to any length to acquire the drug. For example, a man in Maine was arrested and charged with distributing an estimated $8,000 worth of OxyContin every week. The OxyContin was prescribed to his wife to control pain related to cancer pain and was paid for with Medicaid. OxyContin addicts will commit violent crimes to get their fix, and one Ohio man who heard about OxyContin while at a methadone clinic proceeded to commit seven aggravated robberies in 2000 while attempting to pay for his 800 milligram a day OxyContin habit. In the small town of Pulaski, Virginia, the chief of police reported that around 90% of all burglaries, thefts, and shoplifting incidents in that area were related to OxyContin in one way or another. As you can see, the desire to seek out and use the drug at all costs wreaks havoc in communities small and large all around the nation.
There are serious side effects associated with OxyContin use, and individuals who abuse the drug put themselves at risk of these effects and their short and long-term consequences. Typical side effects of OxyContin use include dizziness, sweating, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, headache and weakness. The drug has also been found to cause enlarged prostate gland,impotence, and low secretion of testosterone.
In high amounts, drug overdoses, or in individuals with a low tolerant to opiates, OxyContin can cause serious and sometimes life threatening side effects such as loss of consciousness, seizures, bradycardia, pupil constriction, hypotension, apnea, circulatory collapse, ceased lung functionality, coma and death. This is especially true when OxyContin is taken in conjunction with other substances that may slow breathing, like alcohol, antihistamines (typically cold and or allergy medication), benzodiazepines or barbiturates.
In 2010 for example, 5,647 people died in Florida alone with one or more prescription drugs in their system, with OxyContin being responsible for most of these deaths. In 2007, the American Poison Control Centers reported 15,069 case mentions and 7,528 single exposures, involving 13 deaths, related to oxycodone products, including OxyContin. The majority of OxyContin-related deaths have occurred in individuals who ingested large quantities of OxyContin in combination with either alcohol or benzodiazepines.
Due to the tolerance and resulting dependence that individuals build up to OxyContin over time, individuals who stop using the drug suddenly will quickly begin to undergo opiate withdrawal. This is why it is so hard to quit, as withdrawal from OxyContin is very similar to that of heroin and it can be very uncomfortable and punishing. Individuals addicted to OxyContin can expect to experience the following withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug:
- Cold sweats
- Muscle pain / bone pain
- Involuntary leg movements (kicking the habit)
- Severe stomach cramps
- Excessive sweating
- Body chills
- Goose bumps
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose and eye
- Loss of appetite
The severity and duration of OxyContin withdrawal symptoms vary, and depend on the dosage and length of time the individual has been using the drug. Withdrawal symptoms will present themselves within just a few hours of the last dose of OxyContin, and will typically grow more and more intense until they reach a plateau and then subside within a few days to a week. Due to the intensity of OxyContin withdrawal, many addicts will simply choose to take more of the drug to ease symptoms. This is why it is always best to undergo OxyContin withdrawal with the help of professional treatment counselors or medical professionals who can help ease symptoms and cravings for the drug.
Individuals seeking to get off of OxyContin can get help doing so at a drug detox facility or drug rehab who can properly treat the individual and see that they get the help they need. A proper drug detox will remove any remnants of OxyContin from the body. The individual can benefit from the help and support of drug treatment staff and medical professionals who can make OxyContin withdrawal a much smoother process. The individual will also struggle with intense cravings for OxyContin during withdrawal and detox, so being in a drug rehab setting also makes it less likely that the individual will relapse back into use of the drug. Moreover, this will provide individuals addicted to OxyContin with a means to get any follow up care and treatment, such as residential drug rehab treatment or help at other drug rehab facilities.
OxyContin abuse is a problem which spans all age groups, ethnicities and backgrounds and it seems that no one is immune to the destruction that it can cause. As of 2008, 4.8 million people aged 12 or older used OxyContin for nonmedical use at least once during their lifetime. Seizures of oxycodone products, including OxyContin, submitted to state and local laboratories increased 124% from 14,990 in 2004 to 33,612 in 2008. OxyContin abuse among youth is a serious problem in the U.S., with about 1 in 20 high school seniors now acknowledging non-medical and illicit use of the drug. In the past 3 years OxyContin use by 12th graders rose by 40%, and five times as many 12th' graders reported abusing OxyContin than reported trying methamphetamines.
While OxyContin abuse and addiction are extremely prevalent problems, there are effective solutions available to help individuals overcome it. There are a variety of drug rehab programs designed to treat opiate addiction, and these programs have helped many individuals get off of OxyContin and return to normal and productive functioning in their lives. Individuals can seek proper medical and professional guidance and care at a drug rehab program, where professional drug treatment counselors and staff are prepared to use every tool at their disposal to fully rehabilitate them.