OxyContin is the brand name for a prescription opioid pain reliever oxycodone. It is one of the most highly abused prescription drugs on the market.

Across 27,816 people who sought treatment for substance abuse in America between 2001 and 2004, prior use of OxyContin was reported by 5 percent of them, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry. Rates of abuse have been so high that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently issued a statement to doctors, detailed by USA Today, to stop prescribing drugs like OxyContin for chronic pain.

This push was important because many of the people who were abusing these drugs were doing so with their own prescriptions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that 27 percent of people abusing prescription opioids are misusing medication prescribed to them by a doctor.

In fact, the issue of prescription drug abuse extends to those in the medical profession. HealthDay reports on a sample of doctors who were being monitored due to drug abuse. In the sample, 69 percent of the doctors admitted to abusing prescription drugs, and drugs like OxyContin were the most commonly cited.

Prescription rates are rising much more quickly than the population is increasing. The American College of Preventative Medicine reports that the United States’ population grew by only 13 percent between 1992 and 2002, but there was a 154.3 percent increase in prescription rates for controlled drugs.

Adverse Effects of OxyContin Abuse


The risks involved with abusing opiate drugs like OxyContin are numerous. From 2013 to 2014, the number of drug-overdose deaths related to prescription opioids jumped by 14 percent, according to the CDC. Many of these deaths stem from physical health effects caused directly by OxyContin, like:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Itching
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Vertigo
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety

OxyContin and other prescription opioid painkillers cause a lot of side effects that impact mental health too. This is even more problematic for individuals who abuse OxyContin who already suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders.

Of further interest, individuals who suffer from both mental illness and recurrent pain are more likely to become dependent on the medications used to treat their discomfort. Psych Central reports about half of people in a treatment sample who had higher levels of depressive symptoms or anxiety experienced less improvement in pain levels and abused opioids painkillers more. Those with depression and anxiety were more likely to experience increased pain and abuse painkillers as a result.

Treating OxyContin Abuse


Fortunately, most of the side effects of OxyContin abuse can be stopped or reversed entirely if treatment is sought soon enough. Treating OxyContin addiction requires expertise that experienced staff members at an accredited facility can offer.

Opiate addictions are among the toughest to treat and without the right tools, relapse is a serious risk. In the absence of medicated opioid treatment programs, the change of recovering from an addiction to OxyContin is just 5-10 percent, according to the California Society of Addiction Medicine.

Medications are often used in opioid addiction recovery. Methadone maintenance programs require the client to take a daily dose of methadone – a full opioid agonist medication. The same process is used when clients take buprenorphine every day, which is a partial opioid agonist; however, buprenorphine is believed to have less abuse potential and more flexibility in prescription guidelines. An additional form of buprenorphine is combined with naloxone to inhibit the ability for people to take increased doses of the drug and get high off it.

Medication is only one component of a treatment program, and it does not constitute addiction treatment on its own. It must be combined with a thorough therapy program to fully address obstacles to recovery.