Oxycontin – the brand name for oxycodone hydrochloride – is one of the opioid medications that was originally a widely prescribed painkiller, before we started to see the full effects of the opioid crisis and doctors began cutting back on the number of prescriptions they wrote. It’s sometimes referred to as O.C., Oxycet, Oxycotton, Oxy, Hillbilly Heroin, and Percs. It is used to treat moderate to severe pain when around-the-clock pain relief is needed for an extended period of time, and because it is an extended-release medication, one pill is meant to be taken every 12 hours. People who misuse Oxy will often remove the coating that makes it slowly release and then snort, inject, chew, or smoke it.
Like all opioids, chronic use of Oxy can lead to a tolerance for the drug, meaning more is needed to achieve the same effect as before, and dependence or addiction. Even when used properly, some of the side effects can be changes in heartbeat, agitation, hallucinations, fever, sweating, confusion, fast heartbeat, shivering, severe muscle stiffness or twitching, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, inability to get or keep an erection, irregular menstruation, decreased sexual desire, and chest pain. People who take opioids are also at risk for respiratory problems.
When Oxy is snorted, it enters the bloodstream quickly, allowing the effects to directly reach the brain. While this fast reaction is desirable for people abusing the drug, it can lead to a variety of problems including blocked nasal airways, breathing problems, damage to the nasal membrane, inflammation of the nasal lining, and lung infections. This is more difficult today because the extended-release version of Oxy now comes in a tamper-proof form. When someone attempts to crush it, it turns into a gel.
Some people smoke Oxy by putting it on a piece of tin foil, heating it, and inhaling the vapors, usually with a straw or similar device. This allows for nearly instantaneous effects, but can also cause infections, lung and throat problems, and respiratory problems.
People also inject Oxy, and typically they will crush and dissolve the tablets in water, creating a solution. Any injected drug puts you at risk for abscesses, infections, and scarring (known as track marks). Sharing needles increases the chances of contracting HIV and hepatitis. You’re more likely to become addictive because of the effects of all the medication hitting your brain at once. The chances of overdose are also higher when injecting Oxy.
Oxycontin addiction is treated by a combination of medication and therapies. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone), and naltrexone (Vivitrol) can reduce cravings and help lessen dependence. Usually inpatient treatment is preferred for people with opioid addictions, because it allows for a medically assisted detox along with therapy.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.