OxyContin is one of the most commonly abused prescription painkillers in America. Often called “hillbilly heroin,” OxyContin affects the user much like heroin, and is just as dangerous if not treated with care.
A part of the opiate family of drugs, OxyContin targets the nervous system, providing relaxation and relief for moderate pain. Doctors often prescribe this drug for people that have had surgery or suffer from chronic pain and discomfort. Over time, however, this drug can be addicting, and many people use it in large quantities to get high.
- According to the NIDA, between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States addicted to opioid pain relievers in 2012.
- The number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers has more than quadrupled in the United States since 1999.
- The Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration reported that 182,748 visits to emergency rooms in the past year across the United States were the result of use or misuse of oxycodone products, including OxyContin.
- According to the Monitoring the Future Survey, 70 percent of high school seniors who reported abusing prescription drugs received them for free from a friend or relative, while 21 percent admitted to stealing them from friends and family.
Effects of OxyContin Abuse
What does it feel like to be addicted to opiate painkillers? It feels like you are in a daze. It feels like you have lost control over what you do; all you know is that you have a good feeling while you have the drugs in your system. Then, when you stop using or the high wears off, you feel irritable and moody and you crave another high.
If you think you might be addicted to prescription painkillers, take a close look at your life and behavior and ask yourself the following questions. Do you crave the drug? Do you take more than prescribed? Do you lie to get more of your medication? Do you visit multiple doctors or pharmacists to get your drug? Do you crush and snort or inject your drug? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should seek help for dependence or addiction.
If you think a loved one might be using OxyContin or another prescription painkiller other than as prescribed, there are several warning signs you should watch for. Those who are addicted to painkillers will often show changes in mood and behavior, a drop in grades or work performance, and a change in friends and habits. Physical signs of OxyContin abuse include sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and constipation. Someone who abuses OxyContin is at risk for overdose. Opiate overdose can cause severe confusion, unconsciousness, respiratory distress, coma, and death.
Ways to Reduce the Risk of OxyContin Abuse
- Always take medications as prescribed.
- Keep medications in a locked and hidden container.
- Educate children and teens about the importance of using prescriptions as directed, and about the dangers of prescription painkiller abuse.
Experts have studied the cost associated with prescription painkiller abuse, and the numbers are staggering. According to a study published in Pain Medicine, the total U.S. societal costs of prescription opioid abuse were estimated at $55.7 billion in the most recent year studied. Workplace costs (due to decreased production and lost employment) accounted for $25.6 billion (46%), health care costs (excess medical and prescription costs) accounted for $25.0 billion (45%), and criminal justice costs (correctional facility and police costs) accounted for $5.1 billion (9%). Prescription painkillers are driving many individuals and families into poverty because of the unending drive to buy more and more of the medication.
Treatment for OxyContin Addiction
Treatment for opiate addiction includes detox, behavioral modification, and counseling. If you are addicted to OxyContin or another opiate, you must first cleanse your body of the substance, and then cleanse your life of the baggage that contributes to addiction. Through therapy and counseling, you will learn why you abuse painkillers and what you need to do to stop. During rehab, you will develop skills you need to deal with stressors and problems in life, so that you don’t need to rely on substances any more.