OxyContin addiction is a physical or psychological dependence on the drug, which often develops after it has been misused. OxyContin is a slow-release prescription painkiller, which does not usually lead to addiction when administered along medical guidelines. However, when taken in a different form or a higher dosage than advised, it can produce a feeling of euphoria. The drug triggers the release of endorphins, creating a feel-good factor, which can lead to cravings as the high wears off. The active ingredient of OxyContin is oxycodone hydrochloride which, like other opiates, is derived from the opium poppy plant. Unlike oxycodone, however, OxyContin is engineered to provide gradual pain relief over a period of 12 to 24 hours, depending on the dosage.
OxyContin is a prescription drug for long term pain relief. It can become addictive and lead to dependency for a number of reasons, including misuse, or other factors specific to the individual. When a tablet is chewed or crushed (and then snorted or dissolved in water and injected), the drug is released into the body much faster. Rather than gradually taking effect over 12 to 24 hours, the drug instead creates feelings of euphoria. Like other opioids, this happens because the drug triggers the release of endorphins, making the user feel good, but ultimately leading to cravings and the development of addiction as the feeling wears off.
There is no single cause of OxyContin addiction, with many patients using it without becoming addicted. However, there are some factors which can make individuals more vulnerable, including personal circumstances and family history. The two factors creating the highest risk of addiction are taking more than the recommended dosage or using the drug more frequently than advised. As the body becomes increasingly exposed to the drug, tolerance can be built, ultimately leading to an individual needing to take a larger amount to create the same effect.
There are multiple environmental factors which may increase susceptibility to OxyContin addiction. These include personal circumstances, such as unemployment, poverty or stress. Being of a young age, or in contact with other high-risk people or environments may also be influential. Tobacco use, or a history of alcohol or drug rehabilitation can also increase risk of developing addiction.
Also linked with environmental factors, a history of mental illness or substance abuse are psychological factors which increases risk of addiction to OxyContin. Since the drug produces feelings of euphoria, having anxiety or depression can increase susceptibility to addiction. Furthermore, thrill seeking or risk-taking behaviour can lead to addiction, related to the high that OxyContin can produce.
There are some genetic factors linked with causing addiction, such as having a family history of addiction or other substance abuse. It has also been noted that, because women have a greater likelihood of suffering from chronic pain, they are generally more at risk of opioid addiction, including OxyContin.
Changes in Brain Chemistry
OxyContin triggers the release of endorphins from the brain’s pituitary gland, producing a feel-good effect. As this wears off, it can prompt desire for more, leading to addiction. If OxyContin is used over a long period of time, the body can also build a tolerance to it, requiring a higher dosage to achieve the same high.
Symptoms of OxyContin addiction span changes in mood, behaviour and psychology, with some physical impacts too. Whilst some may be clearly visible, others are more subtle and changes are likely to become more harmful over time.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Urinary retention
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Cardiovascular complications, heart failure
- Respiratory depression
- Increased pressure of spinal fluid
- Aches and cramps
- Swelling in limbs
- Extremely inconsistent emotional state
- Anxiety, depression, panic attacks
- Disregard for personal responsibilities
- Worsening of mental illness
OxyContin abuse and addiction are linked, in the sense that one often leads to the other. However, there is an important distinction between the two.
OxyContin abuse happens, intentionally or unintentionally, when the drug is used contrary to medical instructions. Examples include consuming a higher dosage than advised, taking it more frequently, or changing the tablet form by crushing, then snorting or injecting it. Other instances include using OxyContin to self-medicate as a substitute for heroin or morphine.
Whereas, OxyContin addiction is the development of a physical or psychological dependence on the drug, often linked to the feel-good factor it can produce.
Some of the first indicators of addiction are mood variations, fluctuating from euphoric highs to lows, but there are physical and psychological symptoms too.