Oxycontin Abuse

by Dr. Rich on February 18, 2014

prescription drug abuse Abusing the pain medication oxycontin can lead to addiction and overdose, and is harmful to your body in other ways.

Prescription pain relief medications have greatly advanced the field of medicine in terms of the wide range of conditions these drugs can treat. Oxycontin, one of the stronger analgesic medications, provides needed pain relief for conditions involving severe and chronic pain symptoms.

Unfortunately, the world of prescription pain pills has brought about a dark side that continues to wreak havoc in many peoples’ lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, prescription drug and Oxycontin abuse trends have left a trail of distress and tragedy in its wake –

  • In 2008 alone, over 14,800 overdose deaths resulted from prescription pain medications, which nearly doubles the number of overdose deaths caused by heroin and cocaine combined
  • Overdose death rates have increased by 300 percent since 1999
  • Prescription drug and Oxycontin abuse accounted for over 475,000 emergency room visits in 2009
  • As of 2010, over 12 million Americans reported using prescription pain medications for recreational purposes

Oxycontin abuse can happen to anyone who uses the drug for long periods of time. With continued use, the risk of dependency and addiction increases with each successive dose.

Oxycontin

First manufactured by Purdu Pharma LP, Oxycontin received FDA approval in 1995 as a prescription analgesic treatment, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Oxycontin’s active ingredient uses oxycodone, a derivative of opium.

Oxycontin tablets come in different dosage amounts ranging from 10 to 160 milligrams. The drug’s analgesic properties make for an effective way to treat conditions involving moderate to severe pain symptoms.

When used for recreational purposes, users typically break up the tablets into powder form and snort the powder, or else dissolve the powder in a water solution and inject the drug.

In tablet form, Oxycontin provides slow-release effects that work well for people who suffer from conditions involving chronic pain symptoms. As this drug carries strong analgesic properties, its slow-release effects can relieve pain symptoms for up to 12 hours at a time. With Oxycontin abuse, snorting and injecting whole tablets at a time produces an intense high where users experience feelings of utter euphoria and calm.

Because of its strong analgesic properties, Oxycontin falls within the Schedule II class of opiate-based narcotic drugs. Schedule II drugs carry a high risk for physical dependency and addiction, even when taken as prescribed. In effect, Oxycontin abuse leaves users at the mercy of the drug’s addictive effects and subsequent physical and psychological damage.

Oxycontin Abuse Trends

Oxycontin’s effectiveness at relieving pain was considered a miracle cure since it allowed patients with chronic pain conditions to resume normal daily living activities. Unfortunately, the drug’s powerful analgesic effects also give rise to fairly intense “high” effects. The feelings of euphoria produced by Oxycontin are so intense as to be comparable to a heroin “high,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Throughout the late 90s and on up to 2010, Oxycontin abuse became preferable to heroin, as it was considerably more affordable and accessible. Oxycontin abusers may go so far as to fabricate injuries in an attempt to get doctors prescriptions for the drug. Illegal drug channels also provided a steady flow for Oxycontin abuse purposes.

Over time, the drug started to take on nicknames, such as pharmaceutical heroin, hillbilly heroin, Oxy, OxyCotton and OC. Not surprisingly, Oxycontin abuse rates continued to rise, with as many as half a million people reported as new recreational users in 2008.

Risk Factors

As Oxycontin’s intended purpose works to relieve chronic pain symptoms, patients normally remain on Oxycontin for extended periods of time. As with most every Schedule II opiate drug, the body becomes less sensitized to Oxycontin’s effects with continued use. This means chronic pain patients will most likely require periodic dosage increases in order to ensure total relief from pain symptoms. At this point, a person is considered opiate tolerant since the body has grown accustomed to Oxycontin’s effects.

In general, patients who’ve reached the 30 milligram dosage amount per day are considered opiate tolerant. This dosage amount produces the same analgesic effects as 60 milligrams of morphine per day. As narcotic class opiates naturally slow down central nervous system functions, anyone who’s not opiate tolerant can easily go into respiratory and/or cardiac failure when taking 30 or more milligrams of Oxycontin at a time.

With Oxycontin abuse, users not only experience the full effects of each dose through snorting and injecting, they can easily ingest multiple doses throughout any given day. In effect, Oxycontin abuse sets a person up for a potential overdose each time he or she abuses the drug.

The potential addiction and overdose risks associated with Oxycontin require physicians to consider each patient’s risk profile for addiction. Risk profiles look at a person’s –

  • History of substance abuse
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • History of mental illness

Physicians are also required to monitor patients on Oxycontin on a regular basis to check for signs of misuse and addiction.

Abuse Characteristics

The most obvious signs of Oxycontin abuse can be seen in an addict’s compulsive drug-seeking behaviors. As the drug’s effects take over normal brain functions, addicts spend excessive amounts of time getting and using the drug.

Compulsive drug-seeking behaviors typically take the form of –

  • “Doctor shopping” or seeing a string of doctors in an attempt to obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Faked injuries
  • Emergency doctor visits
  • Frequent emergency room visits
  • A habit of “losing” prescriptions
  • Stealing money
  • Stealing other people’s medications

As these activities do take time, addicts eventually start to neglect other areas in their lives, such as work, relationships and social activities.

Precautions

When taking Oxycontin for pain or using the drug for recreational purposes, certain precautions should be taken to prevent medical complications and/or Oxycontin abuse from developing. People currently taking central nervous system depressant-type drugs greatly increase their risk of overdose when taking Oxycontin.

Central nervous depressant drugs include –

  • Sedatives
  • Anti-depressants
  • Hypnotics
  • Tranquilizers
  • Alcohol-based medications
  • Anti-anxiety drugs

People with certain medical conditions, such as delirium tremens, seizures, liver problems, respiratory problems and alcoholism may also be at increased risk of overdose.

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