Oxycontin Abuse: Signs, Detoxing, & Treatment

OxyContin (oxycodone) is an extended-release prescription opioid used to treat severe pain around the clock.1,2 It is commonly misused for its sedating and euphoric effects, which are similar to those of other prescription and illicit opioids including hydrocodone, fentanyl, morphine, and heroin.1

A study from 2015 estimated that OxyContin and other opioids are misused by nearly 25% of people who are prescribed these medications.3 Taking OxyContin or any opioid puts a person at risk of physical dependence or experiencing a life-threatening overdose. Consequences of misusing and abusing drugs like OxyContin are severe and include an increased risk of overdose and death.2

What Are the Side Effects of OxyContin?

Potential side effects of OxyContin include:1,2,4

  • Constipation.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Dizziness.
  • Weakness.
  • Sweating.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Headache.
  • Slowed breathing.

OxyContin Abuse and Overdose

OxyContin pills out of bottle

Oxycodone misuse/abuse can take several forms including:4

  • Taking more OxyContin than was prescribed to you.
  • Using OxyContin that isn’t prescribed to you.
  • Ingesting OxyContin in ways other than how it is intended to be taken.

Misusing OxyContin can cause an opioid overdose, which may be deadly. An overdose on oxycodone can slow the breathing to life-threatening levels.4

This risk for overdose is increased when people tamper with the medication, such as by crushing and snorting or injecting it. OxyContin contains enough oxycodone to sustain pain relief over a 12-hour period. Crushing it overrides the time-release mechanism and releases the full dose of oxycodone into the body at once, which can cause an immediate overdose.2

The 3 classic signs of an opioid overdose are:5

  • Extremely small pupils.
  • Extreme sleepiness or unconsciousness.
  • Slow, difficult, or stopped breathing.

The presence of these signs indicates the need for immediate care to prevent irreversible brain damage or death.4,5 Narcan (naloxone) can reverse an opioid overdose if it is administered in time; however, emergency medical treatment is still required. Always call 911 if someone has overdosed, even if you’ve given naloxone.4,5

OxyContin Addiction

Using prescription opioids such as OxyContin exposes you to the risks of dependence and addiction.2 Among people who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain, an estimated 8-12% develop an addiction to opioids.3

National survey data indicates that opioid abuse and addiction continues to be a problem for Americans years after the start of the opioid epidemic. Consider that, in 2019:6

  • Nearly 10 million people aged 12 or over had abused prescription opioids such as OxyContin in the past year.
  • 2 million people aged 12 or over had abused some formulation of oxycodone within the past year.
  • 4 million people aged 12 or over had a prescription opioid use disorder (OUD) in the past year.
  • 6 million people aged 12 or over had an OUD in the past year.

What Are the Signs of Oxycodone Addiction?

An opioid addiction is characterized by a loss of control over one’s opioid use and continued use despite harmful consequences that result from it.7

An addiction to OxyContin is diagnosed by medical and mental health professionals as an opioid use disorder, or OUD. They use a set of criteria to determine to what extent a person’s opioid use is impacting their life. View the full set of diagnostic criteria.

You don’t have to diagnose an OUD to recognize red flags. Observable, non-diagnostic signs that a person may have a growing problem with opioids include:2,8,9

  • Running out of medication early.
  • Claiming lost or stolen medication and requesting new prescriptions.
  • Visiting multiple doctors, pharmacies, or hospitals to get prescriptions.
  • Refusing to listen to suggestions for alternative non-opioid treatments.
  • Getting medication from illegal sources.
  • Experiencing mood swings or erratic emotions.
  • Saying things that don’t make sense.
  • Seeming more sleepy or sedated.
  • Eating and/or sleeping more or less than usual.
  • Sleeping at odd hours.
  • Acting secretive.
  • Becoming increasingly isolated.
  • Paying less attention to personal grooming/hygiene.
  • Spending time with new groups of friends or in new places.
  • A frequently runny, stuffy nose or recurring nosebleeds (a sign of snorting opioids).
  • Wearing long sleeves even in warm weather to cover marks (a sign of injection use).
  • Having drug paraphernalia (small bags with powder residue, spoons, syringes, etc.).

Oxycodone Withdrawal and Detox

With regular use, a person can become physically dependent on opioids and experience withdrawal symptoms during attempts to cut down or stop. Dependence and experiencing subsequent withdrawal symptoms is a risk with any prolonged opioid use, even normal prescription use.2,4

The symptoms of OxyContin withdrawal are similar to those of the flu and include:2,4

  • Chills and goosebumps.
  • Muscle or bone pain.
  • Leg twitching.
  • Insomnia.
  • Yawning.
  • Runny nose.
  • Teary eyes.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Anxiety and irritability.
  • Severe cravings.

How Long Does It Take to Withdraw from OxyContin?

The duration of withdrawal from OxyContin depends on factors such as how long you have been using it, your normal dose, as well as your overall health and any other medical conditions or medications.10

Symptoms of withdrawal from immediate-release oxycodone tend to begin within 6-12 hours of cutting down or stopping the medication. Withdrawal from OxyContin, an extended-release version of oxycodone, may be slightly more delayed than withdrawal from immediate-release versions; for example, it may not begin until up to 24 hours after your last use.11

Symptoms will tend to be at their worst on days 1-3 and will likely resolve within 5 to 7 days.7

Oxycontin Addiction Treatment

There are various ways to treat OxyContin addiction, depending on your specific needs. Desert Hope offers a full range of care including:

  • Medical detox, which can allow you to get through withdrawal safely and with minimal discomfort. Staff monitors you around the clock and provides medication to manage your symptoms.
  • Inpatient rehab, where you live in a drug-free environment and receive tailored treatment in the form of individual and group therapy. You will participate in positive activities and can receive treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders if needed.
  • Outpatient programs, ranging in intensity from very intensive (at least 30 hours per week) to much less intensive (9 or fewer hours of therapy per week).
  • Sober living, a setting where you can reside with fellow alumni and other recovering individuals after completing treatment, receive additional support, and participate in ongoing outpatient therapy.

Talking to A Loved One About Oxycodone Abuse

Husband talking to wife

You may feel stressed, angry, and worried when a loved one has an addiction. When talking to them about the issue, it helps to be prepared. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends:12

  • Picking an appropriate place and time to talk with privacy and minimal distractions.
  • Directly relaying your concerns to them.
  • Acknowledging their feelings and avoiding judgment.
  • Offering to help them find treatment.

Knowing what to expect during treatment can help you answer any questions that they may have. Finally, it is important to make sure that you are also taking care of yourself during this difficult time and practicing patience. Your loved one may refuse treatment many times before accepting help. SAMHSA recommends continuing to broach the subject, as it may take many attempts to get through to your loved one.12

If you have questions about treatment, we can help. We’re here for you every day, 24 hours a day at to learn more about addiction treatment in Vegas at Desert Hope.

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