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OxyContin Addiction

Table of Contents

OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone, a prescription opioid used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. OxyContin is notorious for being one of the prescription painkillers to kick-start what would become the current opioid crisis that continues to take its toll on the United States. 

Today, OxyContin is still prescribed, but its use is heavily restricted, and it has long been considered a gateway drug to stronger, more dangerous substances. 

Despite all of the widely known dangers associated with OxyContin abuse, many people still find themselves slipping into substance abuse behaviors, often without even realizing it. Because it is a prescription medication, some will continue to have the perception that it is “safer” to misuse than illicit opioids like heroin. 

How Does OxyContin Work?

OxyContin works in the same manner as essentially all opioids, slowing down activity in the central nervous system to prevent nerve impulses that carry feelings of pain and stress from reaching the brain.

This is a process that is already being carried out by natural opioids produced by the body to regulate pain. What OxyContin does is mimic these opioids so it can bind with what’s known as opioid receptors. 

It then activates these receptors over and over, stimulating them to the point of overproduction and flooding the brain and nervous system with opioids. This is how OxyContin provides much more potent feelings of pain relief and sedation than the body ever could on its own. 

OxyContin also affects a brain chemical called dopamine, which plays a role in key brain functions like emotion, cognition, and how the brain processes motivation and reward. OxyContin causes a significant spike in the brain’s dopamine levels, creating feelings of pleasure and euphoria, which is what gets people “high.” 

It’s also what gets people addicted to OxyContin as repeated use rewires the brain’s reward system. This causes the brain to associate using OxyContin as an activity that gets rewarded with feel-good dopamine, and this, in turn, creates the cycle of dependence and addiction. 

What Are the Signs of OxyContin Addiction?

While at first, someone might be under the impression that the signs of OxyContin addiction are easy to spot, especially when thinking of all the potential red flags and abnormal behaviors at once. However, when someone is engaging in substance abuse, they are not exhibiting all of the signs all the time, even as they are progressing toward addiction.

In the moment, it can, unfortunately, be all-too-easy to dismiss isolated signs of OxyContin abuse, even if you are the one who is abusing it. Often, it is only after the negative impact of someone’s OxyContin addiction has become too obvious to miss that the pattern of abuse becomes apparent.Catching an OxyContin addiction before it has the chance to fully develop can help ensure that the person in question gets the treatment they need before they become severely addicted or accidentally overdose. The physical and mental side effects commonly associated with long-term OxyContin abuse can serve as clues to a growing problem, including:

  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Depression
  • Chronic constipation
  • Anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dizziness
  • Frequent drowsiness
  • Bouts of nausea and vomiting

The divide between substance abuse and addiction is based on control. When someone is abusing OxyContin, they still maintain some ability to control how often and how much they use. When someone has become addicted to OxyContin, however, they will use compulsively and obsessively, with no level of control. 

Because of this, using OxyContin becomes the main priority in their life and the driving force behind nearly all of their actions, no matter the consequences, including job loss, legal problems, deteriorating relationships, and worse. Other signs of OxyContin addiction, as well as substance use disorders, in general, include:

  • Using OxyContin more often or in larger amounts than prescribed
  • Increasing tolerance to OxyContin’s effects
  • Experiencing cravings and withdrawal symptoms when not using OxyContin
  • Using OxyContin without a prescription
  • Forging prescriptions or “doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
  • Stealing money or valuables to pay for OxyContin
  • Noticeable decline in personal hygiene and appearance
  • Becoming socially withdrawn and isolated
  • Hiding OxyContin use from others
  • Feeling unable to function or be “normal” without OxyContin
  • Inability to stop using OxyContin, even after trying to quit

If you have recognized these signs in your own behavior or observed them in the actions of someone you care about, do not wait to get help from a professional addiction treatment center. The longer you wait to seek treatment, the greater the risk of a potentially fatal overdose.

What Is Involved in OxyContin Addiction Treatment?

Effective OxyContin addiction treatment needs to start with a carefully supervised medical detox to flush out every trace of OxyContin as well as any other accompanying toxins from someone’s system. This process is meant to help treat acute intoxication and get the individual physically and mentally stabilized. 

Like most opioids, the withdrawal symptoms associated with OxyContin detox are on the milder end of the spectrum and almost never as potentially dangerous as those related substances like benzodiazepines. 

However, OxyContin detox should never be attempted alone without professional medical intervention. OxyContin withdrawal can still be extremely painful and uncomfortable, with a high risk of relapse. At a professional detox center, doctors can use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to ease withdrawal symptoms as well as slowly and safely taper down OxyContin usage by a substituting weaker opioid, like buprenorphine or methadone, and then tapering that done as well. 

After completing detox, the next phase of OxyContin addiction treatment is entering into continuing care in an addiction recovery treatment program. Detox alone is not enough to quit OXyContin. It can get someone sober, but it can’t do anything to keep them that way.

If someone addicted to OxyContin wants to avoid relapse, then they must follow up detox with either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program to understand and address the issues at the root of their addictive behaviors. Only then will they be able to work through them and learn the tools and skills necessary to manage their addiction and maintain sobriety in the long-term. 

How Dangerous Is OxyContin?

As the ongoing opioid epidemic illustrates, whether they are illicit or prescription, opioids are incredibly dangerous, and OxyContin is no exception. While it is easily potent enough on its own for someone abusing it to overdose on, OxyContin is also frequently mixed with alcohol to strengthen its sedative effects. This both increases the risk of an overdose and can cause more damage to the kidneys and liver.

OxyContin overdose symptoms include:

  • An extremely weak pulse
  • Uncontrolled vomiting
  • Dangerously shallow and slow breathing
  • Bluish skin around the lips and fingernails
  • Impaired reflexes
  • Difficulty moving
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Slipping in and out of consciousness
  • Coma

If someone is exhibiting signs of an OxyContin overdose, it is vital they get emergency medical attention immediately. However, even if emergency services are alerted in time to reverse the overdose and prevent death, there is still the chance of severe and permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen, which could involve:

  • Memory loss
  • Impaired vision or hearing
  • Difficulty processing complex thought
  • Impaired coordination
  • A nonresponsive, vegetative state
  • Coma

OxyContin Abuse Statistics

  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, nearly half of all opioid-related overdose deaths involved prescription painkillers, with OxyContin being one of the most common.
  • In 2017, just under 4 million people reported as having misused OxyContin and other oxycodone products within the past year. 
  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), almost 80% of heroin users in the U.S. reported as misusing prescription opioids like OxyContin before using heroin.

Your Journey to Recovery Can Start Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to OxyContin, don’t wait to get help, because addiction won’t. At Ocean Breeze Recovery, we understand that quitting is never easy, but together, we can make it a reality.

Our dedicated team of experienced doctors and staff will help you or your loved one get out from under addiction with our full continuum of care, lasting beyond treatment with a strong network of support through our alumni program. So call 844-554-9279 now for a free and confidential consultation with one of our specialists, who can help answer any questions or concerns you might have about finding the treatment program that’s best for you or your loved one. You can also contact us online for more information.


Foundation for a Drug-Free World. WARNING SIGNS OF PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLER DEPENDENCY. (Retrieved 2019 November) from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, August 01). Prescription Opioid Overdose Data. Retrieved from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, June 07). Prescription Opioids. Retrieved from

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018, September). 2017 NSDUH Annual National Report. Retrieved from

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