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Oxycontin Addiction

As one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States, Oxycontin addiction is a growing problem worldwide.  This is especially concerning when the relative infancy of the drug is considered – Oxycontin was only introduced in 1995, and oxycontin addiction has since become a serious public health problem in countries around the world.  The problem is unfortunately exacerbated by the fact that the drug is extremely useful as a powerful and effective pain reliever.  In fact, today Oxycontin is one of the most widely prescribed analgesics in North America.  But in addition to its superior pain relieving effects, the drug also produces intense feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and general well-being, which has made Oxycontin addiction an issue of serious concern for health care professionals and family members of those suffering from addiction to the drug.

Oxycontin is a brand name of drug belonging to the opioids family.  Oxycontin contains oxycodone- a pain-relieving synthetic substance derived from the unripe seeds of the poppy plant.  The poppy plant is also used to produce opium, morphine, and heroin- all highly addictive drugs.  These drugs are used primarily to treat severe or chronic pain caused by arthritis, trauma, surgery, injuries, and pain caused by debilitating conditions such as HIV and cancer.  However, because many of these conditions require pain management for significant periods of time, addictions can develop, making Oxycontin addiction treatment necessary in order to break the addiction cycle.

Oxycontin Abuse and Addiction

Abuse of Oxycontin can have serious consequences.  Users may experience confusion, lack of natural inhibitions, dizziness, poor judgment, cardiovascular and pulmonary problems, complications of other existing conditions, the contracting of drug-associated illnesses such as Hepatitis C, and overdoses; some of which can be fatal.  Once discovered, Oxycontin addiction treatment must begin immediately in order to prevent further harm to the body, as well as to reduce the psychological and emotional complications caused by an addiction to pain medication.

Addiction to oxycodone products such as Oxycontin has been shown to have exceedingly disruptive effects on not only the addicted person, but also on their families, friends, associates and communities.  The addiction impulse is so strong that addicts will often destroy their entire lives- and the lives of those around them- in the quest to obtain more and more of the drug.  For this reason, initiation of Oxycontin addiction treatment is the responsibility of anyone involved in the afflicted person’s life. This means that a basic understanding of what is Oxycontin addiction- and what is not- is essential to creating an effective treatment plan.

Nearly everyone who takes prescription pain medications for extended periods of time will develop a tolerance to the drugs, but this does not constitute an addiction.  Once a drug is introduced consistently to the bloodstream, the human body will respond with physiological changes that increase a person’s tolerance to the drug.  This is a natural process and is usually one that can be reversed upon cessation.  However, tolerance is usually the first step toward physical dependence.

Physical dependence on Oxycontin occurs after repeated and prolonged use, but can happen in as little as two weeks.  People who have developed a physical dependence to oxycodone products are not able to stop taking the drug or decrease the amount of the drug without experiencing significant withdrawal symptoms.  Unlike the detoxification process for alcohol or benzodiazepines, Oxycontin rarely produces fatalities during the detoxification process.  Nevertheless, patients may suffer from nausea, vomiting, depression, anxiety, diarrhea, insomnia, muscle spasms, involuntary leg movements, sweating, crying, gastrointestinal issues, and many other problems.  However, these symptoms usually go away within 7 days of the last dose of Oxycontin.

Recognizing signs of addiction is critical for health care professionals, family, or even addicts themselves to begin the process of Oxycontin addiction treatment.  There are three major indicators that an active addiction is present:

Signs and Symptoms of Oxycontin Addiction

1.)    User loses control over the drug.

People suffering from an addiction to Oxycontin may make numerous mistakes in their dosing amounts and schedules.  They may take too much of the drug, not enough, complain that they cannot remember if they took the drug or not, or lose/misplace their prescription.  They may fabricate reasons why they need more medication: they lost it, it was stolen, the drug isn’t working as well or for as long as previously.

2.)    User continues to abuse drug despite serious consequences.

In the throes of a full-blown Oxycontin addiction, users are often unable to discontinue use of the drug despite legal troubles, relationship issues, the loss of property or careers, financial difficulties, and physical deterioration directly caused by the addiction.  Often, users will state that they recognize the problem, want to stop, but simply can’t.  For them, consequences pale in comparison with the urge to continue using the drug. 

3.)    User obsesses over the drug.

Oxycontin addiction is often characterized by a complete obsession with the drug.  A user’s life may be entirely consumed with finding the drug, associating with other addicts, using the drug, recovering from its effects, and obtaining more.  The addict will often spend most of his or her time thinking about the drug, even if their supply is plentiful.

When these symptoms are recognized, a sound Oxycontin addiction treatment plan must be administered in order to prevent disastrous and long term consequences for the addict and their family.  The first and most logical step in such a program is to slowly wean the user from the drug, as any abrupt cessation of the drug can have serious physical and emotional consequences.  Because detoxing from Oxycontin can sometimes be fatal, the detoxification process should never be attempted outside of a professional treatment center.

Once the patient is no longer physically dependent upon the drug, treatment can truly begin.  This usually involves being admitted to a drug rehabilitation center for 30 days or more.  Inpatient treatment is often necessary, as removing the user from the environments and triggers that enabled them to abuse drugs in the first place is essential to create lasting success.  During this time, the patient can be monitored by a medical doctor and a psychologist in order to ensure the proper progression of treatment and the safety of the patient.

Group, individual and family therapy are often an central parts of Oxycontin addiction treatment.  Because many addicts genuinely want to stop taking the drug but feel that they can’t, having a strong support network of healthcare professionals and loved ones can mean the difference between independence from Oxycontin and inevitable relapse.  With especially severe addictions, this may also include monitoring by a medical doctor and frequent drug screenings in order to maintain a patient’s commitment to recovery.

Oxycontin addiction affects thousands of people each year- even people with no prior propensity toward drugs.  Respect for the drug must be shown, because while it has valid medical uses, it also has serious consequences if used incorrectly.  For this reason, Oxycontin addiction treatment should be sought immediately upon suspicion of misuse or abuse of the drug, as quick action may save the life of someone suffering from this difficult-to-break cycle.