What Side Effects Does OxyContin Have?
OxyContin is an opioid drug with very similar side effects to its ‘sister’ drugs morphine and heroin. Common OxyContin side effects include:
- Stomach pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy or drowsiness
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Dry mouth
- Decreased ability to feel pain
In some cases, users will experience extreme side effects including respiratory depression, apnea, circulatory depression, low blood pressure, symptoms of shock, and even death.
OxyContin Abuse and Addiction
All opiates are extremely addictive. Most drugs that are prescribed medically mimic the action or reaction of something naturally produced in the body. Opioids mimic peptides, which are naturally produced by the body when in pain. The peptides in the opioids break down and bind to the opioid receptors the same way that the body’s own peptides do. This means that, over time, the body naturally adjusts to changing levels of opioids in the body, as a defense mechanism. Just like the body adjusts to an increase in sugar or caffeine, it adjusts to an increase of opioids – leading to tolerance. Tolerance means that the same amount of the drug no longer has the same effect and you have to take more to get the same effect. This can worsen exponentially – so that long-term users can no longer get pain relief from oral OxyContin at the recommended dose.
This increase in tolerance can cause even prescription users who follow the recommended dosage to become physically (chemically) addicted to the drug. This means that the person’s body has adjusted to having OxyContin in their bloodstream and in their brain, and the body must adjust or go through withdrawal when the drug is taken away. Many people also become mentally dependent on painkillers like OxyContin. Because OxyContin causes relaxation and pain relief, and a sense of well-being and euphoria, even a prescription user recovering from surgery can come to rely on the drug as their means of getting through the day, dealing with stress, or coping with pain. This mental dependence is harder to move past than physical withdrawal. This is especially true considering that OxyContin maintains a euphoric feeling and thus an emotional high in the user. When off the drug, long-term users experience something known as emotional blunting, where they are unable to feel regular emotions to a normal intensity. So, a long-term user will increasingly seek out OxyContin for relief and pleasure – simply because the drug causes them to feel less of either in everyday life.
OxyContin is a slow-release form of OxyCodone, which releases opioids into the body over a period of about 12 hours. Most patients take two per day to assist with severe and long-lasting pain, quickly building tolerance. Because the drug is typically never fully out of the system before the user takes another pill – even with prescription use – most users become chemically dependent fairly quickly. However, with doses ranging from 10mg to 80mg, the speed and strength of chemical dependence can vary significantly.
OxyContin withdrawal symptoms are very similar to other opioids such as morphine and heroin but vary depending on use. Larger doses and more frequent use result in stronger withdrawal systems. Users who mix OxyContin with other drugs may experience very strong and dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
In most cases, OxyContin withdrawal is divided into two phases, early and acute.
Early withdrawal begins 12-14 hours after taking the last dose and is characterized by mood changes, anxiety, irritation, restlessness, agitation, and sleeplessness or insomnia. Most will also experience cold or flu symptoms, such as muscle cramps, runny nose, sweating, fever, chills, and congestion. These can range from moderate to severe depending on the level of chemical dependence.
The second stage of OxyContin withdrawal can set in anytime within 24 hours of the last dose and can last for up to two weeks. These symptoms include stomach upset including nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, reduced appetite, blurry vision, dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat, and increased blood pressure. Most also experience shivering. These symptoms can be quite painful, but are rarely life-threatening.
However, dehydration and choking are risks. Most should not detox on their own. The risk of relapse is also very high, as withdrawal symptoms are severe enough that many users seek out more opioids to relieve them.
Most acute symptoms clear up within 3-7 days. Some symptoms will last up to 2 weeks. Many users also experience continued psychological withdrawal symptoms for months after detox.
Medical-assisted opiate withdrawal with detox typically includes courses of methadone or buprenorphine to alleviate withdrawal systems – which can help the user to recover more quickly. Because OxyContin withdrawal can cause anxiety and depression, some doctors also prescribe anti-anxiety medication like clonidine to help with anxiety and the cold and flu symptoms of withdrawal.