OxyContin's active ingredient is oxycodone hydrochloride, an opiate derived from the opium poppy plant. However, unlike oxycodone, OxyContin is designed to provide gradual pain relief over 12 to 24 hours, depending on the dosage. Consumed orally in the form of a daily tablet, it typically takes effect within an hour and is most likely to be prescribed for terminal illnesses, such as cancer, or post-surgery.

When used in accordance with the prescription guidelines, OxyContin does not often lead to dependency or addiction. However, when taken more frequently or in a different form to the tablet, it can create a sense of euphoria, which may lead to the development of an addiction.

Alongside 'hillbilly heroin' other street names for the drug include C., Oxycet, Oxy, Oxycotton, Percs, Blues, Kickers and Roxy.

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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.

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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 increase 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.

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.

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.