OxyContin Symptoms & Effects

OxyContin is a prescription medication that is used primarily to treat moderate to severe pain. The active ingredient in OxyContin is oxycodone, a powerful synthetic opioid that has a high potential for abuse, with use possibly leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.

In addition to its analgesic effects, OxyContin can also ease anxiety and induce a sense of relaxed euphoria, which makes this drug an enticing substance for individuals who are looking for a recreational high. As is also the case with other medications that contain opioids, the abuse of OxyContin can put a person at an increased risk for significant physical, mental, and emotional damage.

Opioid addiction does not have to be a life sentence, though. Substance abuse treatment centers have developed effective programming to treat this insidious form of chemical dependency. With professional help, individuals who have become dependent upon OxyContin can overcome their addiction and learn how to live a drug-free life.

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Statistics

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), about five million Americans use prescription opioids for nonmedical purposes each year, and OxyContin is one of the most commonly abused medications. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that prescription drugs including OxyContin contribute to about 15,000 deaths every year. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that about two million people are currently suffering from a substance use disorder related to prescription opioid pain relievers.

Causes and Risk Factors for OxyContin Abuse

OxyContin abuse and addiction may be influenced by several genetic and environmental factors, including the following:

Genetic: Having a family history of substance abuse increases the likelihood that a person will have a problem with chemical dependency. If a person’s first-degree relatives (parents or siblings) have abuse or addiction issues, it is much more likely that the person will have a similar problem. Family history of mental illness and/or personal experience with chronic pain can also raise the risk of developing a problem related to OxyContin abuse.

Environmental: Children who grow up in houses where the abuse of OxyContin or other prescription medications is common may believe that this is an acceptable behavior, which can increase their risk of developing a substance use disorder. Another powerful environmental influence is trauma. Experiencing trauma can lead to the development of an OxyContin addiction, as can being injured and being prescribed this medication for pain.

Risk Factors:

  • Chronic pain
  • Physical injury
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Early exposure to substance abuse
  • Personal history of prior substance abuse
  • Personal struggle with mental illness
  • Trauma
  • Poverty

Signs and Symptoms of OxyContin Abuse

The following symptoms may indicate that a person has been abusing OxyContin:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Neglect of grooming and personal hygiene
  • Lying or being otherwise deceptive regarding one’s whereabouts or activities
  • Unexplained decline in performance at school or work
  • Unexplained absences from school or work
  • Borrowing or stealing money
  • Dramatic mood swings

Physical symptoms:

  • Problems with balance, coordination, and reflexes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Pupil dilation
  • Itchiness
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • Numbness to pain
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slowed heart rate

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Problems with concentration or focus
  • Poor visual-spatial processing
  • Memory problems
  • Impaired judgment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Anxiety, panic, and/or paranoia
  • Obsession with drugs
  • Unprovoked anger
  • Loss of interest in non-drug-related activities
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of OxyContin Abuse

Chronic OxyContin abuse can lead to a wide range of negative outcomes, including the following:

  • Vision damage
  • Heart and lung damage
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Academic failure
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Legal problems
  • Financial problems
  • Family discord
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

The abuse of and addiction to OxyContin is often accompanied by one or more mental health disorders. The following also often co-occur in individuals who are dealing with OxyContin abuse or addiction:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of OxyContin withdrawal: When individuals who have become dependent upon OxyContin cease or significantly reduce their abuse of this drug, they may experience the following withdrawal symptoms.

  • Intense drug cravings
  • Shakiness and muscle spasms
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia

Effects of OxyContin overdose: Overdosing, or ingesting more OxyContin that a person’s body can safely metabolize, can be dangerous and even deadly. Anyone who displays the following symptoms after abusing OxyContin may be in need of immediate medical attention:

  • Clammy skin
  • Bluish lips and fingernails
  • Breathing problems
  • Severely constricted or dilated pupils
  • Excessively slow heartbeat and/or low blood pressure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Coma
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