Addiction and the History of OxyContin

by Dr. Rich on October 1, 2012

OxyContin is a slow acting opiate which is released gradually into the blood system. It is used to treat chronic pain and also used for patients whose pain has not been effectively treated with other analgesics. It was designed to slowly discharge its medication, providing up to twelve hours of relief, as opposed to the maximum of four to five hours from other narcotic pain relievers. This long term action means fewer side effects and fewer feelings of discomfort that occur when pain relievers are starting to wear off.

The human body would not even know that it was injured or sick, if the brain did not recognize the presence of pain and transport that knowledge to the central nervous system. Narcotics, also referred to as opiates, work directly on the brain by attaching themselves to the areas that recognize pain. By attaching themselves to the pain receptors in the brain, narcotics can block the amount of pain that the body perceives. These receptors in the brain, referred to as opiate receptors, can also tell the brain if the body is experiencing feelings of pleasure. This means that opiates not only stop the perception of pain, but in larger quantities, they can also cause the brain to experience feelings of euphoria and well-being. These feelings of euphoria are what drug abusers and addicts are seeking when they take opiates.

Human beings have been using opiates to relieve pain and to experience feelings of euphoria, for many hundreds of years; narcotic use is certainly nothing new. One modern synthetic opiate is the drug Oxycodone. This drug has been used medically to alleviate pain, for well over 60 years. In 1995, the modern version of Oxcycodone, the time-released version known as Oxycotin, was introduced to the American medical field. Oxycontin’s long acting properties and slow release of the drug into the blood stream meant that larger doses could be safely administered to patients in severe pain. The slow acting properties were also seen by medical professionals and manufacturers as meaning it was less likely to be abused by addicts and thrill seekers. Unfortunately, that was not the case; drug abusers quickly learned that the time-released action of the drug could be destroyed by dissolving it in water and injecting it or crushing it and snorting it. Drug addicts, who had needed large doses of narcotics to avoid feeling of withdrawal, were once again able to experience profound feelings of euphoria. Sadly, thrill seekers who were not accustomed to taking high doses of opiates were dying from overdoses.

Because it is a narcotic pain reliever, the manufacture and distribution of OxyContin is regulated and controlled, very strictly, by the US government. It never contains unknown substances like illegally manufactured narcotics such as heroin and the strength is always guaranteed. This makes it one of the most sought after drugs in the illegal market. It has recently surpassed heroin in popularity. Like any other supply and demand market, it is also harder to find and extremely expensive.  New regulations have made it harder for doctors to prescribe, further driving up the costs.

When a person takes narcotics in high doses for a long period time, this causes a fundamental change in the person’s brain. Once this change occurs, the brain begins to need the drug to function correctly. Much like any narcotic, Oxycontin’s dose must be raised on a regular basis to achieve the desired or needed results. If the person requires the drug dosage to be increases, not to just experience the euphoria but to word off symptoms of withdrawal, such as nausea, agitation, sweating, diarrhea and muscle cramps, the person has become truly addicted to the drug. Once the brain requires the narcotic to simply function, the addict’s existence becomes completely encompassed by OxyContin, with the exclusion of anything else. Meaningful relationships with people who are not a part of the drug culture, along with jobs and school, can all be quickly forsaken for the sake of the drug.

Opiate addiction recovery is not simply a matter of withdrawing from the drug and having it end there. Addiction becomes a lifestyle with the drug at its very center. Recovering from an addiction requires changing everything in the person’s life and literally starting over. To accomplish this, the addict needs to find outside help. Today, there are recovery clinics, hospitals designed to deal with addictions and counseling centers, literally everywhere. Very few people are more than an hour away from receiving the help they need to confront and conquer their addiction.

As the addict begins the recovery process, he or she is able to start making healthy choices again, reestablish relationships with loved ones and look at the future in a completely different light. With professional help and a strong support system, these changes can be made. Recovery is a difficult process, but the rewords are well worth the battle and no one needs to face it alone.

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