OxyContin is a brand name for the drug oxycodone, a narcotic pain relieving drug. OxyContin is available to patients only by prescription and is commonly used to treat moderate to severe pain over extended periods of time. It is typically used around the clock in order to manage chronic, long-lasting pain. It is not prescribed as a single-use drug for immediate pain relief or irregular pain.

OxyContin is considered one of the most powerful pain relievers available. The Food and Drug Administration recently specified that strong painkillers like OxyContin should only be used for severe, chronic pain from conditions like arthritis and cancer. OxyContin is different from oxycodone in that Oxycontin has an extended time-release aspect. This quality of OxyContin makes it a more desirable narcotic for individuals to abuse because the “high” from this drug often lasts longer than that of oxycodone.

How Addictive is OxyContin?

OxyContin can be highly addictive, especially for people who take it in ways other than prescribed. OxyContin can be considered to be a very slippery slope that people should be careful using. Most individuals develop a dependency on OxyContin after using it for a length of time as a legitimate, prescribed pain reliever. Others acquire OxyContin illegally in order to accomplish a high and they consequently become addicted to it. OxyContin dependence most likely occurs to a person with a history of substance abuse or mental illness, although, that is not always the case.

OxyContin dependence can develop after a user has taken the drug regularly for an extended period of time. Physical dependence develops because the brain adapts to the chemical effects of the drug and requires a steady flow of the drug to maintain the new chemistry in the brain. It is also possible for individuals using Oxycontin to become psychologically dependent. This kind of dependence develops when the individual taking the Oxycontin becomes convinced that OxyContin is the only thing preventing the him or her from feeling extreme pain. The individual is often scared to stop taking the drug for fear that the chronic pain will return if he or she quits. OxyContin users may also develop a tolerance for this drug. People who develop a tolerance to a drug require higher doses to maintain the effects of the drug on the body.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of Oxycontin?

OxyContin withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of other opioid pain medications, but can be more severe depending on how often the drug was abused and how large of doses were taken. Professionals explain that Oxycontin withdrawal can usually be divided into two phases. The symptoms of withdrawal can be acute for 1-2 weeks after the individual stops taking the drug. The American Addiction Centers explain that OxyContin withdrawal symptoms from the first stage can include:

  • Mood changes, like anxiety, irritation, restlessness, or agitation
  • Sleep changes like insomnia
  • Physical changes, like muscle aches and cramps, or yawning
  • Symptoms similar to a cold or flu, like a runny nose, sweating, chills, fever, and congestion

Additional symptoms of OxyContin withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Reduced appetite
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurry vision
  • Shivering or goosebumps
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

Because OxyContin comes in an extended-release format in pill form, the medication will not begin to wear off for about 12-24 hours after the last dose was taken. However, oxycodone has a half-life of roughly four hours, so if the medication is abused in ways that do not include the time release characteristic of the drug, withdrawal from Oxycontin could potentially start within 4-8 hours after the last dose. Second state symptoms usually begin about 24 hours after the earlier symptoms. The first full day of OxyContin withdrawal may manifest as a severe flu for most individuals, but the second day shows more typical withdrawal symptoms mentioned above.

How is OxyContin Addiction Treated?

Many individuals can benefit from inpatient detoxification and rehabilitation programs in which they are monitored 24 hours a day by medical professionals to help them overcome their dependence. Inpatient programs remove individuals struggling with abuse from the environmental stresses of everyday life that might trigger the addictive behaviors or the self-medication that is plaguing them.

There are also medications that can ease OxyContin withdrawal symptoms. Some medical professionals may prescribe methadone or buprenorphine in conjunction with carefully medically-assisted treatment procedures to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Psychiatric medications to treat depression or anxiety may be used in some cases. These ease the psychological effects of drug withdrawal and help patients focus on overcoming the addiction.