What Are the Signs of Oxycontin Abuse?

Signs of Oxycontin Abuse and AddictionOxyContin comes in tablet formation in different sizes and colors depending on the dosage. The tablet is made in 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 60, 80 and 160 mg dosages. Typically, “OC” is imprinted on at least one side of the tablet. If the OxyContin is acquired by prescription, there will subsequently be pharmacy bottles in the person’s residence, car, workplace, school locker, or other points of convenient access.

As doctors practicing in the area of pain management must observe strict prescription-writing rules, they do not provide patients with more OxyContin than necessary, and they usually require a follow-up appointment each month to prescribe a refill. For this reason, it is likely to be a sign of abuse when a person is in possession of OxyContin pharmacy bottles that overlap in date, come from different doctors, or have been filled at different pharmacies.


Paraphernalia associated with OxyContin abuse depends on the method of administration. The following list of paraphernalia corresponds with the possible route of use:

  • Pipe (to smoke or snort)
  • Crusher, such as a barista’s tamper for an espresso maker or a hammer (to smoke, snort, or inject)
  • Aluminum foil or strips (to smoke or inject)
  • Razer (to snort)
  • Syringes (to inject)
  • Spoons with burn residue after heating liquid/OxyContin (to inject)
  • Crumpled aluminum balls (after smoking or injecting)
  • Lighters (to smoke or inject)
  • Baggies, wax paper, or small envelopes (street dealers do not typically use bottles as pill containers)

Physical Signs of OxyContin Abuse

OxyContin abuse is associated with a host of negative health effects that have different onset times. In the timeframe immediately after use, those experiencing the effects of OxyContin may appear:

  • With pinpoint pupils
  • Fatigued
  • Dizzy
  • To be sweating
  • Confused
  • To have cold, clammy skin
  • To be itchy or excessively scratch themselves
  • To be breathing shallowly

As Mayo Clinic notes, physical signs of chronic drug use include a person having decreased mental sharpness and ill health.

Behavioral Signs

Some of the clearest signs of chronic abuse of OxyContin are the behavioral signs associated with addiction in general. The following are some behavioral indications that substance abuse is at, or progressing beyond, the moderate stage:

  • Having a neglected appearance or not keeping up with one’s familiar grooming routine
  • Not fulfilling important obligations related to family, work, or school, or demonstrating poor performance in these spheres
  • Changes in behavior, such as making excuses, being overly secretive, or being deceptive about one’s whereabouts and people with whom one is associating
  • Exhausting financial resources (e.g., paycheck, savings, credit cards) in an uncharacteristic way
  • Uncharacteristically seeking personal loans
  • Money or valuable items going missing from the home

Although it is unscientific, individuals who have gone through the experience of helping a loved one into recovery often advise others never to underestimate the power of intuition or one’s gut instinct. As OxyContin is a powerful narcotic with strong psychoactive effects and has a high addiction profile, the person’s attitude, appearance, and behavior are likely to be affected. These types of shifts, however subtle, can serve as red flags.

Finding Help

If a concerned person is in the stage of investigating if OxyContin abuse is occurring, one of the best approaches is to learn about signs of abuse and then learn how to take helpful action if OxyContin abuse is in fact occurring. In the event a concerned person identifies that OxyContin abuse is occurring, it is useful to learn about treatment options.

At present, admission to a structured rehab program, which can provide medications and therapy for OxyContin addiction recovery, is considered the gold standard for treatment. Medical detox is needed for opiate detox, so individuals should never attempt to detox from opiates on their own. Professional help can address existing health and personal problems associated with OxyContin abuse and also help to avoid a worsening of health conditions and circumstances.

Is It Time for an Intervention?

A person struggling with an addiction to opioids like OxyContin often needs encouragement and even a little pressure from friends or family to overcome the condition. The best way to show support, encouragement, and concern is through an intervention.

Contrary to pop culture depiction, interventions do not need to be performed when the person has hit a low point. If a person exhibits consistent signs of substance abuse, such as trouble at work, intoxication, or performing risky behaviors, an intervention can help them to see how serious the problem actually is. A well-structured intervention will also make clear to someone struggling with addiction that they can get help, and they have support in pursuing recovery.

An intervention may be emotionally charged for friends or family, but again, effective interventions differ from their depiction on TV. An intervention is not a time for emotional outbursts and blame. Instead, an intervention team should:

  • Provide examples of a few specific, destructive behaviors related to the opioid abuse
  • Briefly describe how these behaviors impacted the friend or family member
  • Offer options for detox and rehabilitation
  • Give information about how each person at the intervention is willing to support the person struggling with addiction
  • Set boundaries about what each friend or family member will do if the person struggling with addiction refuses treatment

Staging an Intervention

Friends and family can use some basic steps to plan their own intervention, or they can consult an intervention specialist. If the family decides to work out their own plan, here are some recommended steps to follow:

  1. Make a plan with a core group of friends or family members.
  2. Pick a day and location, which are both neutral.
  3. Make a list of the people who will be on the intervention team, such as friends, family, medical professionals, therapists, religious or spiritual figures of importance, etc.
  4. Ask team members to write a letter to the person struggling with addiction that includes:
  5. An example of a destructive behavior that has impacted that person
  6. Why it is destructive, in a few brief sentences
  7. How the person is willing to support the recovery process
  8. Personal boundaries that person will stand by if the loved one does not accept treatment
  9. Gather information about treatment options that might suit the loved one’s needs and personality.
  10. Rehearse the meeting, so everyone can feel prepared and as calm as possible.
  11. Make sure everyone shows up on time at the right location.
  12. Have a designated leader who can ensure the intervention stays on track and emotions remain in check.
  13. Once everyone has read their letters and presented the person with treatment options, ask them to agree to leave for treatment immediately. If they decline, stress that there will be consequences (such as withdrawal of financial support) but the intervention team will be ready to support them whenever they decide to get help.

Standing by personal boundaries and offers of help is extremely important. The person struggling with OxyContin addiction will need support to successfully complete detox and a rehabilitation program, and they will need continued social support to maintain ongoing sobriety.

The Brief Intervention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that every day in the United States, over 1,000 people are treated for opioid overdoses. OxyContin is one of the most abused opioid drugs in the country. With so many people hospitalized due to struggles with OxyContin addiction and abuse, brief interventions could be a method of reaching more people and getting them the help they need to end their addiction.

Brief interventions are typically performed by professionals – doctors, nurses, case managers, social workers, and therapists – in a clinical setting. The discussion may last an hour or less, but it involves details about how OxyContin abuse harms the individual’s physical, mental, and emotional health. The professional conducting the intervention may discuss data, such as the number of people who die from overdoses or what types of long-term health problems can be expected from continued abuse, such as chronic constipation or brain damage. A discussion of potential resources, such as low-cost rehabilitation clinics and outpatient options, may follow.

In a clinical setting, a brief intervention is geared toward someone who already has health problems; they survived an overdose, or they have the beginnings of other chronic health issues related to their substance abuse. Since a brief intervention is conducted by a professional, it will have a more set format and be less emotionally charged for the speaker. Information will be clearly presented, without blame or guilt.

Studies have shown that brief interventions work especially well for children and adolescents. One study found that brief interventions among middle school students reduced the rate of prescription drug abuse by 65 percent.

Hiring an Addiction Specialist

If friends and family do not feel comfortable creating their own intervention, feel they need an unbiased moderator for the intervention, or simply have questions about how they can create an effective plan for the intervention, hiring an intervention specialist might be the best option. Therapists, counselors, social workers, and many medical professionals can recommend the right specialist for the family. If the person struggling with OxyContin addiction has a co-occurring disorder, such as bipolar disorder, hiring a professional with experience in mental health and substance abuse together can lead to a more effective intervention.