OxyContin is a narcotic painkiller, one that is potent and commonly prescribed for patients who are struggling with moderate to severe pain.
Also known as oxycodone, OxyContin is a highly addictive substance, and though most people will be able to take the drug as prescribed without incident, those who abuse the drug may struggle with increased rates of accident, addiction and overdose.
Physical dependence upon the drug is often the primary concern for patients who abuse OxyContin, but this can be addressed easily by tapering off the dose slowly under a doctor’s supervision. Unfortunately, for those who are addicted to the drug (e.g., patients who are struggling with both a psychological dependence and a physical dependence), detox is far more complicated. A professional detox and addiction treatment program is recommended in order to ease the experience of withdrawal symptoms and more rapidly – and safely – stabilize in recovery.
Signs of OxyContin Abuse
OxyContin is a slow-release pill prescribed to those who need pain relief around the clock. This means that each pill contains multiple doses that were meant to be released regularly over a long period of time. Though extremely effective for patients living with chronic pain, these pills are often abused by people who would like to access all of those doses at the same time in one big hit in order to get high. Crushing OxyContin pills prior to swallowing, snorting, or dissolving the drug in water and injecting it is a major red flag for OxyContin abuse.
Other signs include:
- Using OxyContin more often or in larger doses than prescribed by the doctor
- Combining the use of OxyContin with the use of other mind-altering substances (e.g., alcohol, marijuana, or other prescription medications)
- Using OxyContin for any reason without a prescription from a doctor
- Getting multiple prescriptions for OxyContin or other opiate medications from different doctors
- Filling a single OxyContin prescription at multiple pharmacies
- Often claiming to lose pills and seeking “emergency” replacement scripts from the doctor or the emergency room
- Abuse of opiate medications is common. Medline Plus reports that an estimated nine percent of the American population have abused opiate drugs like OxyContin.
- Of all opiate medications, OxyContin is one of the most commonly abused.
- A study published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases found that OxyContin addiction is a progressive disease that begins with occasional abuse of OxyContin and progresses over time, often to injection use – one of the most dangerous methods of abuse of any drug.
- Since 1990, deaths caused by drug overdose have more than tripled. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more than 14,500 Americans lost their lives to prescription drug overdose in 2008 alone. Additionally, almost a half-million emergency room trips were triggered by abuse of prescription opiate medications like OxyContin in 2009.
No use of OxyContin outside the bounds of a prescription is safe. Chronic abuse of the drug can increase the likelihood of succumbing to overdose or developing a deadly addiction that culminates in overdose.
Professional Detox Is Recommended
It is important to note that everyone is different, and the exact order of symptoms, the specific symptoms experienced, and the severity of those symptoms will vary from person to person.
No matter what the circumstance, however, it is recommended that no one who experiences OxyContin detox when they are without the drug attempt to undergo detox alone. Medical emergencies caused by unexpected complications, especially when there is an issue with underlying medical or mental health disorders, may be an issue, and relapse is likely if the patient does not have the support necessary to see the process through to completion.
Detox and Treatment Timeline
There is more to recovery from an OxyContin abuse or addiction problem than simply surviving the withdrawal symptoms associated with detox. Rather, intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment that addresses all of the issues that may have informed the person’s use and abuse of OxyContin is recommended if long-term abstinence and a new life in recovery are the goal.
Every person’s treatment plan may vary, just as their experience of withdrawal symptoms may vary, but in general, patients can expect the following timeline of events when they seek to recover from OxyContin abuse and addiction:
- Stabilizing in recovery: The initial throes of detox can be stressful on the body and the mind. Especially if there are co-occurring mental health or medical issues, the patient may require assistance in stabilization as they work through withdrawal symptoms. This may require medical care or medication for the duration of detox.
- Evaluation and diagnosis: Once the withdrawal symptoms have been managed, the patient may turn his attention toward assessment and treatment. Comprehensive care will provide treatment for all issues that may be informing his use and abuse of OxyContin; thus, it may be necessary to undergo a thorough evaluation for the purposes of diagnosis of all co-occurring mental health and medical disorders.
- Treatment plan: A treatment plan comprised of traditional and alternative therapies will be created for each patient on a case-by-case basis in order to address all the issues and symptoms related to the disorders identified during the evaluation process. This will be structured around the achievement of specific treatment goals and adjusted as those goals are reached.
- Holistic support and care: In addition to medical and psychiatric care, each patient should have access to a wide range of holistic and alternative treatment options. These will serve to help the patient to continue to detox and grow more physically and mentally healthy after OxyContin abuse through options that may include nutritional therapy, yoga and meditation, and other treatments.
- Practical support: Long-term OxyContin abuse can wreak havoc on a person’s life, and simply stopping use of the drug and learning how to avoid relapse doesn’t change some of those consequences. As a result, comprehensive rehabilitation should provide support to the patient as needed to address such issues as legal problems, financial issues, career struggles, difficulties in relationships at home, and any other area that may impact the person’s ability to remain sober after rehab.
- Medication maintenance as needed: It is not uncommon for patients in recovery from OxyContin abuse and addiction to opt for pharmacological assistance to address different issues. In some cases, it may be necessary for the treatment of co-occurring mental health disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression) as well. Ongoing support for use of medications, dose adjustment and medication changes may be a part of treatment as a result.
- Aftercare treatment and support. Recovery does not end when rehab is over. Aftercare support is always necessary to provide the patient with the best possible chance of long-term success in creating a new life in sobriety. Ranging from intensive aftercare options like sober living and/or outpatient treatment to a unique combination of therapies, 12-Step meetings, and other therapeutic support options, an aftercare plan is personalized to the needs and level of readiness of each patient as they transition into independent living in sobriety.
If you are, or your loved one is, struggling with abuse of OxyContin and experience withdrawal symptoms whenever without the drug for any period of time, OxyContin detox and treatment are recommended.
Contact us at the phone number listed above today to be connected to the right program for you and your family.
Further Reading About OxyContin Abuse and Withdrawal Timelines
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.