Oxycontin Abuse and Addiction: Symptoms & Warning Signs
This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 15th 2021
A person abusing Oxycontin finds it very difficult to do so without exhibiting certain warning signs and symptoms. As such, you can learn to recognise Oxycontin abuse by learning what the warning signs and symptoms are. If you are using Oxycontin, it is even more important that you educate yourself about abuse and addiction. What you learn could save you from a lot of unnecessary trouble.
Using Oxycontin under the supervision of a doctor is an effective way to relieve moderate to severe pain. Unfortunately, the UK is seeing more and more people abusing Oxycontin. Some start after receiving a legitimate prescription while others purposely use the drug recreationally. In either case, untreated abuse can easily lead to dependence and addiction.
There are certain warning signs and symptoms that go hand-in-hand with Oxycontin addiction. As such, learning those signs and symptoms is one way to make it possible to recognise an addiction scenario. If you know someone who uses Oxycontin, the very real risk of addiction should be good motivation to learn the warning signs and symptoms.
When Does Drug Use Become Drug Abuse or Addiction?
The fact that Oxycontin can be used legally with a prescription presents the need to clearly explain how such legal use becomes abuse or addiction. First, note that not all instances of Oxycontin use lead to abuse. There are millions of people who use the drug and never have any problems with it. The key is sticking to the doctor’s instructions.
An Oxycontin prescription comes with detailed instructions printed on the bottle. Moreover, doctors tend to explain how to use Oxycontin and other opiates correctly. Abuse is not a problem as long as the patient stays within the given boundaries. Oxycontin use becomes abuse when those boundaries are exceeded.
Oxycontin abuse can occur as the result of using a prescription in ways in which it was never intended. But a prescription is not necessary for abuse to begin. A person who buys Oxycontin on the street or online without a prescription abuses the drug the minute he or she starts taking it.
Abuse becomes an addiction once a person has reached a physical and psychological state of compulsion. In other words, an abuser still able to control how much he or she uses is not addicted. The person who has lost control is. In simple terms, addiction is characterised by an inability to say no to drugs. The addict is driven by compulsive thoughts and cravings.
The negative effects of Oxycontin addiction are well documented. In fact, those effects are the same effects experienced by people abusing all kinds of psychoactive substances; they are not just limited to Oxycontin.
Negative effects begin with the physical. Like most other drugs, Oxycontin interrupts normal body functions. It can lead to cardiovascular problems, respiratory problems, accidental injuries, and more. Some of the damage caused by Oxycontin addiction can even be permanent.
The psychological effects are also very real. It is not uncommon for Oxycontin addicts to experience long-term depression or anxiety. Some addicts lose cognitive function, either temporarily or permanently.
Finally, the negative effects of Oxycontin addiction go beyond the physical and psychological to influence the addict’s relationships, finances, work ability and social skills. Untreated addicts often reach a place of complete isolation in which everything they do is influenced by the desire for Oxycontin.
How it Can Change Your Loved One
Are you abusing Oxycontin? If so, please consider how your actions might influence your loved ones. We will use the example of a spouse to illustrate the point. Note that even if you are not married, other loved ones in your life may be affected in the very same ways.
A person living with a drug addict lives under extremely stressful conditions that can easily create emotional and psychological problems. Spouses of addicts are known to demonstrate signs of depression and anxiety; they can become physically ill as a result of the stress.
Your spouse may come to a place where he or she can no longer trust you. Your spouse may be fearful of you as a result of your erratic behaviour. Your spouse might become so physically and emotionally drained that he or she turns to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
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Shifts in Behaviour
One of the ways to identify an Oxycontin addiction is to look for in certain behavioural shifts. A number of behavioural warning signs are listed later in this guide. For now, it is enough to know that behaviours change due to the way Oxycontin affects the brain.
In addition to blocking pain signals and producing feelings of euphoria, Oxycontin also has a sedating effect. This sedating effect has all sorts of behavioural implications. For example, the Oxycontin addict tends to sleep a lot more than was normal in the past. Continual feelings of drowsiness and sleepiness are normal.
Continual sedation inhibits the addict’s ability to perform at school or work. As such, younger addicts do not tend to keep their grades up while older addicts cannot hold onto a job. This creates additional behavioural problems – like needing other sources of money to continue funding the Oxycontin habit. Addicts may beg, steal from family members, or resort to a life of crime.
Oxycontin Addiction and the Brain
Addiction is classified as a brain disease characterised by a person’s inability to stop using alcohol or drugs. In terms of Oxycontin addiction, the inability to stop using is related to how the drug affects brain function.
Oxycontin affects the brain by binding to and activating opioid receptors. This encourages the brain to increase production of endorphins and neurotransmitters. Both kinds of chemicals are responsible for sending signals throughout the central nervous system. In a person who is addicted to Oxycontin, the brain has become so dependent on what the drug does that it is incapable of sending normal signals on its own.
It might help to think of Oxycontin addiction as similar to how a stray cat, taken in by a human being, would become dependent on that person for food and shelter. Given enough time to grow accustomed to human companionship, the cat may reach a place where it can no longer fend for itself. Drug addiction works in very much the same way.
Signs of an Overdose
Despite Oxycontin is a very common prescription medication, and it is possible to overdose on it. The signs of overdose are similar to most other opioids. Here are the most common among them:
Significant breathing problems
Low blood pressure
Reduced heart rate
Severely constricted pupils
A bluish tint to lips and fingernails
Muscle weakness and loss of motor function
Extreme fatigue and sleepiness
Loss of consciousness and/or coma.
Oxycontin overdose is a medical emergency that could prove fatal if not addressed quickly enough. Patients can die of either respiratory or cardiac arrest. Patients who lapse into a coma are at risk of permanent brain damage should they survive the ordeal.
The best way to prevent Oxycontin overdose is to never use the drug outside of the supervision of a doctor. A person can never overdose on the drug if he or she does not abuse it.
When used according to a prescription, the key to overdose prevention is twofold. First, do not exceed what the prescription calls for. Second, do not mix Oxycontin with other sedatives. This includes alcohol, other opioid pain medications, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants.
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Early Warning Signs of Teen Oxycontin Use
Teens using Oxycontin often exhibit early warning signs. A good place to start is to simply observe a teenager’s behaviour upon returning home after being out with friends. If the child has been using Oxycontin, he or she will demonstrate fatigue, drowsiness, and unexplained euphoria.
Parents should also be on the lookout for frequent mood swings. They can check to see if the child is struggling in school. Lastly, parents can be on the lookout for defensiveness or secretive behaviour. Teens using Oxycontin tend to behave this way in hopes of keeping parents from finding out.
Common Physical Warning Signs of Oxycontin Addiction
Oxycontin addiction creates certain physical warning signs. Again, they start with the basics: drowsiness, sleepiness, muscle weakness. etc. Additional symptoms include:
regularly constricted pupils
unexplained weight loss
bouts of slurred speech
episodes of severely itchy skin
episodes of vomiting
Common Emotional and Social Warning Signs of Oxycontin Addiction
A person addicted to Oxycontin will demonstrate certain emotional and social warning signs. Be on the lookout for:
a lack of interest in personal appearance
a lack of interest in social activities
a lack of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies
gradual isolation from both family and friends
more frequent mood swings
episodes of depression or anxiety
reduced performance at school or work.
Behavioural Warning Signs of Oxycontin Abuse
Pay attention to a person’s behaviour if you are concerned about Oxycontin abuse. Here are some of the behavioural warning signs:
A willingness to doctor-shop for Oxycontin prescriptions
Defensiveness over one’s use of the drug
Attempts to purchase Oxycontin on the street or online
A willingness to steal in order to get the drug
Leaving behind old friends in exchange for new friends who also use
Frequent episodes of erratic behaviour.
Symptoms of Oxycontin Withdrawal
Oxycontin users demonstrating the symptoms and warning signs listed above are good candidates for treatment. The first step of treatment is detox, and it produces certain withdrawal symptoms. They are listed below. Note that addicts experience early withdrawal symptoms between doses.
Changes in mood – Withdrawal can lead to anxiety, agitation, irritability, and restlessness. In some people, withdrawal creates feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
Sleep problems – Withdrawing addicts often suffer from insomnia. Some may develop temporary sleep apnoea.
Aches and pains – Oxycontin withdrawal is known to cause a headache and muscle aches. Both can be treated with an OTC analgesic.
Gastrointestinal problems – Oxycontin withdrawal frequently causes gastrointestinal distress including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Changes in body temperature – Withdrawal influences body temperature to the point of creating alternating episodes of cold and warmth. Patients exhibit shivering, goosebumps, and even a cold sweat.
Respiration and heart rate – Withdrawing from Oxycontin tends to increase both respiration and heart rate. Patients breathe heavier, demonstrate a higher pulse, and experience high blood pressure.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do drug abuse and addiction develop?
Drug abuse begins whenever a person uses Oxycontin outside of a doctor’s prescription. Untreated abuse often leads to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
How to know when your teen has a drug problem?
Teens who use and abuse drugs exhibit physical, psychological, and social warning signs. Parents can learn to spot drug problems in their children by learning what those warning signs are.
Are heroin and Oxycontin the same thing?
In a word, no. Both are opioids, but Oxycontin is a semi-synthetic drug where heroin is completely natural in its derivation.
How can you know if a family member is addicted to Oxycontin?
You can get a good idea of whether a family member is addicted to Oxycontin by learning the warning signs and symptoms. Those signs and symptoms are physical, psychological, social, and behavioural.
What does Oxycontin treatment involve?
Oxycontin addiction is treated in a three-phase process that includes detox, rehabilitative therapies, and aftercare. Treatment is offered in inpatient settings.
What to do if you are concerned for a loved one?
The most important thing you can do is learn the warning signs and symptoms of Oxycontin addiction. Should your loved one display those signs and symptoms, encourage him or her to seek medical treatment. You can research treatment options at the same time.
When to go to rehab for Oxycontin addiction?
Rehab is appropriate as soon as an Oxycontin addiction is recognised. The sooner the addict gets into a good rehab programme, the greater the chances of eventually achieving permanent abstinence.