Prescription Misuse Can Lead to Oxycontin Addiction

By Lori Wilkerson Hilliard

Many people don’t understand the ease with which a person can become addicted to oxycontin. This is partly because many people don’t understand exactly what oxycontin is and how it works.

About Oxycontin

Oxycontin is just one form of the drug oxycodone, an opiate-based narcotic used in prescription form to relieve pain, particularly severe, long-term pain. Oxycodone is available in many forms. For instance, a mixture of oxycodone and aspirin is prescribed under the brand name Percodan, while a mixture of oxycodone and acetaminophen is prescribed as Percoset.

Oxycontin is formulated specifically as a time-released medication. There is a special coating on the outside of each oxycontin tablet that allows it to take effect slowly over 12 hours, giving continual pain relief without the individual having to take a new pill every four, six or eight hours. If someone wants a euphoric “rush,” they can scrape off the enteric coating or crush the pills so that the oxycodone in an oxycontin tablet affects them immediately.

Over time, the person needs more oxycontin to get the same rush, but they risk becoming addicted very quickly. There is also a danger of overdose. Once the “high” wears off, the narcotic effect kicks in and the respiratory system can become severely depressed, leading to coma or death. The following are some of the symptoms of oxycontin overdose:

  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Dizziness or clumsiness
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Small pupils
  • Clammy, cold skin
  • Nausea and vomiting

Misuse of Prescription Oxycontin

When oxycontin first hit the market as a slow-release prescription pain medication, it was hailed as a valuable tool against severe and chronic pain. Over time, however, a pattern of oxycontin addiction in some patients became apparent because some people didn’t follow the dosing instructions.

As with any narcotic, there is a chance that an individual will take more than is prescribed. In most cases, this is because they feel they will get more pain relief if they increase the dose. Others may begin taking the prescribed doses closer together to make sure they won’t run the risk of pain breaking through between doses. Both of these behaviors are extremely risky.

The more oxycontin a person takes, the more they will need as they develop a tolerance. Taking doses that overlap is particularly dangerous because the medication is time-released. If you take one before the other wears off, you are essentially putting twice as much in your system for a period of time.

Once individuals become addicted to oxycontin, they usually begin looking for ways to get more of the drug into their system faster. They crush or break the tablets and smoke, ingest or snort the powdered oxycontin to get the heroine-like high. Because oxycontin is much stronger and more concentrated than any other form of oxycodone, the high is immediate, intense and extremely dangerous.

Oxycontin is readily available by prescription to anyone who has undergone major surgery or sustained a major injury, which increases the potential for misuse. Often, teens will get their hands on oxycontin for the first time because their parents or another relative or friend keeps leftover oxycontin after they’ve stopped taking it. Because the medication wasn’t prescribed for them and they aren’t aware of the risks, teens may abuse the leftover prescription and quickly become addicted.

For this reason, you should never keep prescribed oxycontin where it can be easily found by others. If you don’t take all of your oxycontin prescription, make sure you destroy what is left. Do not keep it on hand “just in case.” Every person is different, and the dose that is safe for you could be fatal or addictive to someone else.

Never break a tablet in half so that you can give someone else just a small amount for pain. Although it seems like a smaller amount would be safer, a broken tablet is actually extremely dangerous because the drug will hit their system immediately, rather than being released over time.

Avoid any chance of oxycontin abuse by following your doctor’s instructions precisely, never taking it more often than recommended, and only taking oxycontin when absolutely necessary. If possible, use less powerful prescriptions or an over-the-counter pain reliever.