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Oxycontin is a regularly prescribed opioid that is used in the treatment of moderate to severe pain. Shortly after Oxycontin was approved for use by the FDA it became one of the most widely abused prescription drugs on the market. Years later, millions of prescriptions would be filled annually and many of the dangerous pills would find their ways into the hands of users on the streets—thus Oxycontin addiction was born.
What is Oxycontin Addiction?
According to PubMed, “Oxycontin diversion and abuse has become a major problem in certain areas of the United States, particularly rural areas and Appalachia.” Oxycontin addiction is the result of repeat use that leads to increased tolerance, physical dependence and psychological cravings to use. Once addicted, the average user takes 184 milligrams of Oxycontin per day to fuel their habit; a habit that can quickly become highly dangerous and very costly to the user.
Oxycontin Addiction is not Prejudice
According to the DEA, “individuals of all ages abuse Oxycontin – data reported in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicate that nearly 1 million U.S. residents aged 12 and older used Oxycontin nonmedically at least once in their lifetime.” Oxycontin addiction can result from just a few uses of the drug and anyone who takes the drug, either for a medical reason or for a recreational reason is at risk of becoming addicted.
Why People Become Addicted to Oxycontin
People become addicted to drugs for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons for Oxycontin addiction include:
- Legitimate pain
- Previous pain that results in being prescribed an opiate for a period of time which leads to dependence unknowingly
- A desire to escape reality
- A desire to “have fun”
- Peer pressure
- Using Oxycontin to cope with emotions
- Taking Oxycontin to self-medicate
Sometimes, a person will be prescribed Oxycontin for the treatment of a real pain such as is associated with cancer, injury or arthritis. They take the drug and don’t realize the dangers involved until they are already addicted and need help. Other times, the user will take the drug for fun, maybe they are given Oxycontin by a friend or peer, in time if the drug is used repeatedly it can escalate into an addiction.
Dangers of Oxycontin Addiction
There are so many risks involved with using oxycontin, especially when addiction sets in. People who take Oxycontin are at risk of:
- Tolerance which can lead to physical dependence
- Overdose resulting from taking increasingly higher doses in an effort to achieve the desire effect
- Addiction which requires professional treatment and support to quit
- Withdrawal which can be painful and difficult to cope with
- Respiratory depression which can be fatal
- Infection resulting from intravenous drug use
- Diseases such as HIV or AIDs resulting from shared needles
- Blood borne viruses resulting from intravenous drug use and shared needles
Signs of Oxycontin Abuse
Recognizing the signs of drug abuse early on can help to reduce the likelihood that the abuse will turn into a full-fledged addiction. Early detection of the problem is key to getting help and making a full recovery. Some of the most common signs of Oxycontin abuse include:
- Neglecting responsibilities at work, at home, at school or otherwise in life.
- Using Oxycontin in situations that carry a great danger such as using while working, operating heavy machinery, or when driving.
- Making the decision to use Oxycontin instead of doing things that were once enjoyed such as playing sports or spending time with friends and family.
- Using oxycontin even when it is causing problems in a relationship such as making your partner upset or causing fights between your family or friends.
Signs of Oxycontin Addiction
Unlike mere abuse of Oxycontin, addiction can pose very significant problems. While Oxycontin abuse can be very troublesome, addiction generally includes additional signs that range from developing a tolerance that puts the user at risk of overdose to feeling sick or otherwise unable to function without Oxycontin, a result of withdrawal that occurs with physical dependence.
Additional signs of Oxycontin addiction include:
- Taking Oxycontin in order to relieve withdrawal symptoms.
- Using Oxycontin as a way of coping with emotions.
- Taking Oxycontin even when you know that the drug use is causing problems in your life.
- Having a lack of control over drug use even though you may not want to use Oxycontin anymore.
- Attempting to quit using Oxycontin and having trouble staying clean.
- Making attempts to get more Oxycontin before you run out, doing whatever it takes to ensure that you don’t run out of your supply of drugs.
- Doctor shopping to get more drugs from other sources.
- Becoming preoccupied with the drug, completely consumed by finding, using and recovering from the drug use.
- Using Oxycontin even when it is causing changes in your health such as organ damage, infections or other health problems.
How Can I Tell if my Loved One is Using Oxycontin?
If you suspect that someone you love may be abusing Oxycontin, consider the following signs of a problem:
- Having bloodshot eyes or pupils that do not respond to light the way that they usually would.
- Showing signs of heavy or lethargic limbs.
- Slurred speech or impaired body function or movement such as falling when walking or being unable to talk coherently.
- Changes in sleep patterns, nodding out or being unable to stay awake when one should be.
- Losing money or otherwise suffering unexpected financial struggles without explanation.
- Lying about drug use or about where a prescription went or why it is gone so fast.
- Having distinct and sudden changes in the friends or acquaintances that the individual spends time with.
- Getting into legal trouble or other forms of trouble such as relationship troubles frequently.
- Being moody or seeming depressed.
- Acting oddly, behaving different than normal or otherwise being “off.”
- Any other personality changes that cannot easily be explained or attributed to another element of the user’s life.
Oxycontin Addiction Treatment
Many methods of treatment are available to make the process of recovering from Oxycontin addiction a more tangible and feasible process. Detox, counseling, therapy, support and aftercare will make up the foundation of any successful and effective treatment program for the user. According to CSAT Advisory, “the majority of U.S. treatment facilities do not offer medication-assisted treatment. However, due to the strength of Oxycontin and its powerful addiction potential, medical complications may be increased by quickly withdrawal individuals from the drug.” As such, medication assisted treatment is very common for those in recovery from Oxycontin addiction.
Generally, medication assisted treatment involves the use of methadone, Subutex or Suboxone as a means of helping the user to cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms in a manner that will prevent him or her from relapsing. While there are no guarantees, these types of treatment have helped thousands of people to overcome the challenges associated with withdrawal and persistent cravings in a way that prevents them from relapsing.
Types of Treatment
The most common methods or types of treatment used to help those who are addicted to Oxycontin to come out on top include:
- Inpatient treatment – the patient lives in a residential facility in which counseling, therapy, support, medical care and education are provided. Around-the-clock care is given to ensure patient safety.
- Outpatient treatment – the patient attends regular treatment sessions which may include support groups, therapy sessions, counseling or educational programs. The treatment is provided during normal business hours and the patient returns home to continue working on his or her sobriety after hours.
- Support groups – the most common support group for those who are addicted to oxycontin is Narcotics Anonymous but there are other means of supportive care as well. These groups provide peer-to-peer support for the user that helps them to stay on the right path to sobriety.
- Behavioral therapy – from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to motivation rewards and incentives, many types of behavioral therapy are provided to patients both inpatient and outpatient to help change the behaviors that led to addiction while also invoking new habits.
Recovering from Oxycontin Addiction
The process of recovery will generally take a period of at least 90 days and in most cases longer for those who are addicted to an Opiate such as Oxycontin. During this time, the user will be faced with many challenges but the end result that comes from receiving adequate treatment and care is well worth the effort and the fight that it sometimes takes to stay sober.
According to NIDA, “for residential or outpatient treatment, participation for less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness, and treatment lasting significantly longer is recommended for maintaining positive outcomes.” When maintenance medications such as Methadone or Suboxone are used in treatment, it generally takes 12 months or more for recovery to really set in and for the behaviors to be changed enough to prevent relapse.
Recovery is all about time and each day sober is another day that you have made it without drugs ruling your life. If you relapse, pick up where you left off and do your best to get back on track. It can be hard, you may feel like giving up at times, but know that you are not alone. There is support, help and care available to you making recovery from this terrible disease a truly possible outcome.