Addiction has been a problem since people started using addictive psychoactive drugs. But in recent years, the issue has gotten even worse. For the past decade, addiction and overdose rates have seen dramatic increases. Each year, more people are killed in fatal overdoses than the year before. Overdose is now the leading cause of death for people under 50 years old, and it has overtaken other high casualty sources like violence committed with firearms and car accidents. Many factors have contributed to the spike in overdose deaths, but opioids seem to be a major one.
Opioids are a psychoactive substance used in medicine and recreational drug use. In medical settings, drugs like OxyContin are used to treat pain symptoms. In recreational use, drugs like heroin are used for their powerfully euphoric effects. However, these two areas of use aren’t as separated as we’d like to think. Opioid addiction rates are, in large part, due to the high availability of heroin in the United States.
Heroin is the easiest illicit drug to obtain after marijuana. Mexican cartels and transnational criminal organizations have a strong influence on American black markets and continue to be a significant source of heroin supply. More than ever, heroin is shipped to the U.S. over land and sea.
However, heroin isn’t the only avenue for opioid abuse and addiction. Prescription drugs like OxyContin are a major source of opioid abuse and represent many user’s first steps toward substance use disorders. Opioids are prescribed in large quantities every year. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that 17 percent of Americans had at least one opioid prescription filled in 2017.
This marks a dramatic increase from previous years with no real indication that Americans are reporting more pain. Opioids are prescribed for everything from the treatment of cancer-related pain to recovery from routine dental procedures. In many cases, patients receive more opioid pills than they need, and the excess is kept in medicine cabinets to be accessed later or by someone else. Many people give pills away to friends and family, which represents a large portion of prescription opioid abuse.
When someone becomes addicted to a prescription opioid, it can be a difficult addiction to maintain. Prescription pills are often expensive and difficult to acquire. When users become desperate, they will look for alternatives, and the one that’s the most readily available is heroin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), prescription opioid abuse is a major risk factor for heroin addiction.
If you or someone you know has been prescribed OxyContin, or if you are using it without a prescription, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of OxyContin addiction. Learn the signs of an opioid use disorder and how it can be treated.
OxyContin is a brand name for the drug oxycodone, which can be used to treat pain from injuries, surgeries, chronic illnesses, and cancer. The drug is an opioid that is fairly mild compared to other options, especially powerful synthetic opioids. However, it is still a potent pain reliever, and it can be used as a recreational drug.
Opioids work by acting on opioid receptors that can stop pain signals from reaching the brain. Opioids attach to binding sites that are normally reserved for naturally occurring endorphins. However, medicinal and recreational opioids are much more powerful than endorphins and can lead to feelings of deep relaxation, sedation, and euphoria.
OxyContin can cause both chemical dependence and addiction when used improperly. If you stop using after becoming dependent you may experience flu-like withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings. However, it’s notoriously difficult to stop using opioids on your own after a chemical dependence develops.
OxyContin addiction is a serious disease, but it comes with a few common warning signs. Learning to recognize these signs can help you get the help you need as quickly as possible. Typically, the first sign of addiction will be a growing tolerance. As your body gets used to the drug, it will take more to achieve the same effects. If you feel like your normal dose is weaker, then you should speak to your doctor about limiting the dose or cutting back until your tolerance level recedes. If you try and fail to stop or cut back, you may be showing another sign of addiction: chemical dependency.
Chemical dependency is characterized by feelings of intense craving or uncomfortable symptoms when you try to stop using. In opioids, these signs will mimic a particularly bad case of the flu with body aches, nausea, and vomiting. If you continue to use without seeking medical advice or treatment, you risk developing a severe opioid use disorder and addiction.
Addiction is related to dependence, but they are actually two different things. Addiction is marked by the continued use of a drug despite experiencing consequences. If you get a DUI, if you overdose, or if you experience some other negative consequence of using and you keep using, you may be addicted. Still, even at this point, there are effective treatments available to you.
As an opioid, OxyContin addiction is incredibly challenging to get over on your own and usually requires treatment to achieve long-lasting sobriety. Addiction treatment is a process that addresses psychological, biological, and social issues that may be directly or indirectly contributing to a substance use disorder.
While addiction treatment is complex, the goal is fairly simple: to address and resolve issues that stand in the way of a fulfilling life in recovery. Those issues can be biological, psychological, social, legal, or financial, so addiction treatment should cover all of these categories.
The first step in addiction treatment is to address a person’s basic needs, which often means medical treatment. Opioids like OxyContin aren’t known to be deadly or life-threatening during withdrawal, like other drugs like benzodiazepines can be. However, symptoms are extremely uncomfortable, so much so that it can be a significant barrier to achieving sobriety.
Opioid withdrawal is characterized by flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, body aches, and other common symptoms. In some cases, these symptoms can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous without medical help. For that reason, medical detox is the safest first step in addiction treatment.
In medical detox, you will be treated with medications and 24-hour medical care to help ensure your safety through withdrawal. Detox usually lasts for about a week before your condition is stabilized and you are out of the woods for the most severe symptoms. Medical detox is also the ideal setting for clients who have co-occurring medical issues like infections or injuries that need immediate care.
After detox, you will be connected to a level of care that is appropriate for your psychological, biological, and social needs. This can include inpatient or residential services if you have ongoing medical or psychological needs that would be best served in a 24-hour clinical setting. If you can live independently, you may move to outpatient or intensive outpatient services.
Through treatment, you may go through a variety of therapies including individual therapies, group sessions, and family therapy. The 12-step model and cognitive behavioral models are common therapies used to motivate your continued commitment to recovery. Therapies also help address underlying issues like mental health problems and help you learn how to prevent relapse.
CDC. (2017, August 30). Opioid Overdose. from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing.html
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, August 09). Overdose Death Rates. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates