Longterm effects of OxyContin Abuse and Opioid Use

by pgh on August 8, 2011

Longterm effects of OxyContin abuse : Addiction 

Longterm effects of OxyContin abuse

Longterm effects of OxyContin abuse

Addiction is one of the longterm effects of oxycontin abuse.  Of all the patients taking oxycontin for pain, those who become addicted remain in the minority (around 3-5%).  However, when it happens, it is devastating.  There is first a loss of control using the drug, then a loss of income from losing employment, and then they may lose their families.  Over 95% of true opioid addicts repeatedly relapse.  It is very hard to quit once truly addicted.

Once a person is addicted to opioids, they can usually expect it to be a life long problem. Some individuals are able to recover through formal detox and therapy.  Others will use medications such a methadone or suboxone to avoid the longterm effcts of oxycontin abuse. These medications are used in a “harm reduction” model.” Once is basically dependent on these opioids in a medically supervised setting.  Patients in these programs show improvement in work and with their families,  but they still need to take the medication for a long period of time.

For those who uses OxyContin to get high, respiratory depression and death from stopping breathing is the main fear. This usually happens from oxycontin overdose. Withdrawal symptoms are ususally short term and can worsen severe medical conditions in unhealthy individualy.

Longterm effects of OxyContin abuse : Physical Dependence

Many people ask what is the difference between physical dependence and addiction.  Many drugs will cause physical dependence if taken in high enough amount over a long enough period of time. Physical dependence can occur with many drugs within a few weeks.  A person physically addicted to a medication us not usually “addicted.”  Physical dependence is the body adapting to the drug and being unable to do without the drug is suddenly stopped. The body requires a slow reduction of the medication to get off.

Patients on longterm opioid treatment for the treatment of chronic pain are usually not addicted to the medication. Most can get off their medication and won’t necessary find illegal and dangerous ways to acquire the drug if their pain is not better.  They will simply taper off the drug slowly and stop.  Addicts will continue to use, even if in no pain. They will use even in the face of severe legal, family, or physical consequences.

Longterm effects of OxyContin abuse : Chronic Constipation

Chronic Constipation is one of the longterm effects of oxycontin abuse.  This is a problem for the majority of opioid abusers.  It can be mild or very severe.  It varies from individual to individual, and usually depends on the dose. The higher the dose, the more constipation.

Chronic Constipation  can cause severe problems.  Hemorrhoids can become severe and bleed and cause the need for surgery.  Opioids slow down the gut and food can accumulate and cause a blockage in the abdomen that requires medical treatment.  The possibility of rupture of the bowel from accumulation of stool is present and can cause death.  Chronic constipation is very uncomfortable and will then require even more medication for treatment.

Similar to slowing down the bladder, problems with urination is another issue. This results in discomfort. Also, severe problems with urination can lead to other problems such as kidney infections from the urine backing up in the system.

Longterm effects of OxyContin abuse : Hormones

There are a number of longterm effects of oxycontin abuse on the hormones.  One can see a decrease in testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, leutenizing hormone,  and gonadotropin releasing hormone. These decreases can lead to lack of a menstral cycle in women and osteoporosis. In men, one may find erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive, and lower energy.

Longterm effects of OxyContin abuse : The Heart, The Immune System, Sedation,Hyperalgesia

Opioids can prolong the beat of the heart.  This can lead to irregular rhythms and death.  This effect is rare, but appears to be dose dependent.

Narcotics have been shown to suppress the immune system.  This effect varies among the different opioid medications. There has been some evidence of increased infections among heroin addcts.

Opioids cause one to be tired and this is also known as sedation. Sedative drugs can impair one’s ability to drive and perform fine motor tasks. It can interfere with the normal sleep pattern. Sedative drugs make a person “less sharp” on the job with memory and recall being impaired.

Hyperalgesia is when a something feels more painful than would ordinarily be so to an individual.  Patients will start opioids because they help so much with severe pain.  However, we are finding that many patients end up feeling more pain as one of the longterm effects of oxyconting abuse. This also happens in patients not abusing the medication.  If they try to stop the medication, their skin and muscles feel more sensitive to pain. This increased sensitivity to pain causes them to feel they need to continue the opioid.  This is another reason to try to avoid longterm opioid use if possible.

Summary of longterm effects of OxyContin abuse

There are a number of longterm effects of oxycontin abuse.  These are related to the continuation of oxycontin use.  The main side effect is constipation, however, there are other side effects of concern.  Opioids can cause hyperalgesia, sedation, cognitive impairment, immune suppression, and cause hormonal changes. Physical dependence and addiction are also of concern.  Because of these side effects, it is important to use this medication under the supervision of a physician.

Oxycontin Treatment Directory For Oxycontin Withdrawal

Dr. Rich is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with licenses in Texas and Hawaii. He specializes in the treatment of opioid addiction with buprenorphine and runs a FREE locator service to find Oxycontin Treament including Suboxone treatment of oxycontin addiction. Oxycontin Treatment Center in your area.
Dr. Rich has written more articles on the cost of oxycontin, buprenorphine (Suboxone) including frequently asked questions and a recent post : Buprenorpine Doctor : How Do I Find One?


Other related articles to longterm effects of oxyContin abuse:

1. Opioid Complications and Side Effects: A nice pdf on this subject. Warning: it is a technical paper.

2. Oxycodone is associated with dose-dependent QTc prolongation : Another technical paper on the hear effects of oxycodone.

3. Long-Term Effects of Opiate Use : From Livestrong

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