What Is OxyContin?
OxyContin is a prescription form of oxycodone, which is a generic synthetic opioid. Millions of prescriptions are written for OxyContin every year, and it’s one of the most prescribed opioids in America. However, OxyContin is also commonly misused.
The medicinal uses for OxyContin include pain relief. OxyContin works well for pain management because it can block pain signals, induce relaxation, and increase endorphins, elevating a person’s sense of well-being. A person who takes OxyContin may describe the dissipation of physical pain and the sensation that sadness and stress melt away. Of course, when OxyContin wears off, the pain and any negative emotions a person was experiencing come back.
If a person is prescribed OxyContin for a legitimate reason, such as chronic pain, it’s considered safe and effective. However, due to the strength of OxyContin and the nature of opioids, it’s still possible for a person to become tolerant and dependent on OxyContin, even if they aren’t exceeding the amount prescribed by their doctor. In the prescribing information for OxyContin, the FDA even warns about developing dependence and addiction with normal use.
OxyContin Tolerance and Dependence
Tolerance can occur whenever someone takes a drug over a long period, which is common for OxyContin users. Prescriptions for OxyContin are often geared toward long-term use to help with ongoing pain management. The first risk of taking OxyContin for a long period is that a person will probably become tolerant to their dose. Tolerance means that a person no longer feels the same effects from the same dose.
Taking opioids affects brain chemistry, and taking an opioid like OxyContin on a regular basis can eventually alter brain chemistry to the point of tolerance and dependence. Someone who has taken OxyContin for some time will find that their dose no longer offers the same pain relief or elevated mood it once did. This can lead them to taking more of the drug. At the same time, altered brain chemistry also represents a dependence on OxyContin.
When a person develops dependence on a drug, they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms as the drug wears off and leaves their system. For instance, if a person is prescribed a dose of OxyContin that is supposed to last 12 hours, they may begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms as the end of the 12-hour period approaches. In cases of dependence, withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks or until the person takes the drug again.
Tolerance poses a problem because it means a person will need to increase their dose to continue experiencing the same effects of OxyContin. A person who has been prescribed OxyContin can ask their doctor about their options, and they may recommend reducing the dose for a while to “reset” the system or temporarily switching to a weaker opioid for the same reason. For those taking OxyContin without a prescription, tolerance is risky because it means they’ll likely start taking more of the drug and/or taking it more often to continue experiencing the high they’re after. Increasing dosage puts them at a greater risk of overdose.
Dependence poses a problem because it makes quitting OxyContin that much more difficult. Once dependence happens, a person cannot simply stop taking OxyContin — it’s extremely difficult, and stopping suddenly could prove dangerous. OxyContin actually alters the brain chemistry overtime, so reducing the dose or stopping it altogether can lead to internal and external side effects.
Ultimately, tolerance and dependence themselves are not representative of misuse or addiction. In fact, both tolerance and dependence are expected in people who have been prescribed OxyContin for long-term use. Misuse and addiction happens when a person takes OxyContin without a prescription, in higher doses than prescribed, for purposes other than prescribed, or in a manner other than prescribed (i.e., crushing the tablet to inhale the powder).
OxyContin Withdrawal and Detox
Whether someone is misusing OxyContin or not, a person must go through a detox process to stop taking OxyContin and safely get it out of their system. How quickly dependence on OxyContin forms depends on the amount a person is taking, their history of opioid use, and certain environmental and genetic predispositions. It’s important to distinguish physical dependency from emotional dependency as well.
Physical dependency can occur in anyone who is taking OxyContin for a long period of time because it will alter the brain’s chemistry. Emotional dependency occurs primarily in those misusing the drug. Physical dependency is a hurdle to overcome whether or not a person wants to stop taking OxyContin because it’s purely a chemical side effect of long-term OxyContin use.
Once that dependency has formed, quitting OxyContin must be treated as a process and not an event. Suddenly stopping OxyContin puts a person at risk for severe withdrawal symptoms and potentially dangerous side effects. This is why a medical detox is the best route to take.
In a medical detox, the care provider assesses the person’s physical, mental, and psychological well-being to help come up with a personalized plan. Typically, a person will gradually taper off OxyContin as a doctor decreases their dosage with time. In some cases, they may switch a person off of OxyContin and onto a weaker opioid with fewer symptoms and/or a reduced risk of misuse (like Suboxone).
During detox, a person can experience side effects that feel similar to flu symptoms. These side effects begin with physical symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sweating, and tremors. Even in those who have not misused OxyContin, psychological side effects are also common during withdrawal, and that is the case with all opioids. For some, the psychological side effects can be most intense during OxyContin detox.
The psychological side effects of OxyContin withdrawal and detox include anxiety, irritability, agitation, and sudden changes in mood. A person may also have trouble sleeping or concentrating. These symptoms can undoubtedly affect a person’s daily life, which is why a medical detox is so beneficial. A doctor overseeing the detox can provide tools and medications to help manage the symptoms to make the detox process less severe.
How Long Does OxyContin Detox Last?
The length of the detox process varies depending on multiple factors, including how long the person has been taking the drug, how much they have been taking, and the history of opioid use. Usually, the most intense part of OxyContin detox lasts for 5 to 10 days. However, long-term replacement medications may be needed to help prevent withdrawal symptoms that can occur weeks after stopping OxyContin.
The early-stage detox symptoms generally peak within 3-5 days of entering detox. These symptoms can set on as early as 8 hours after taking your last dose. Early symptoms are characterized by agitation, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, yawning, irregular heart rate, sweating, fever, runny nose, and high blood pressure.
After 3-5 days, a person transitions into late-stage detox, which is characterized by additional symptoms. Late-stage detox is generally when the nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, chills, drug cravings, depression, and trouble concentrating begin. At most, these symptoms tend to last from a few days to a week, but the psychological side effects of OxyContin detox can last much longer.
Your personalized treatment plan will have a timeline based entirely on you. It’s important to remember that even when the detox process is officially over, it does not represent recovery — in fact, it’s just the start. The detox process is the first phase of OxyContin recovery. Near the end of detox, a person enters the rehabilitative phase of OxyContin treatment.
OxyContin Addiction Treatment
The medical detox is step one of three in OxyContin addiction treatment. As the medical detox comes to a close, a person will enter into the rehabilitative phase where they will be introduced to a variety of tools and therapies that will support lasting recovery. The rehabilitative phase is often rooted in talk therapy and peer support groups, but the plan will look different for each individual.
At Windward Way Recovery, we believe in offering personalized care, but we also keep our practices firmly grounded in leading scientific and medical research practices. We also believe in taking a holistic approach to addiction recovery to set a person up for lasting change. During rehabilitation, a person overcoming OxyContin addiction may receive guidance in the areas of wellness, nutrition, goal-setting, and countless other key areas of concern.
The goal of the rehabilitative process is to understand why a person began taking OxyContin, what triggered them to misuse OxyContin, and what changes need to take place to avoid OxyContin misuse in the future. From there, rehabilitation may work on family dynamic, personal goals, overcoming challenges, and designing a path to a brighter future. Another important aspect is ensuring each person is surrounded by supportive, caring individuals.
As structured rehabilitative treatment comes to a close, the third and final phase of OxyContin addiction treatment is continuing care. For many, this phase is an ongoing endeavor where they continuously seek to improve themselves and their lifestyle while leveraging the lessons they learned during their treatment.
In the weeks and months following rehabilitation, Windward Way Recovery ensures that each individual has ongoing support and resources to help them achieve the long-term goals they have set out to work towards. Continuing care plays a big role in helping a person avoid relapse, but if relapse does happen, it ensures that the person can pick back up and keep moving forward.
Options for OxyContin Recovery
For any person experiencing dependence on OxyContin, the detox is an unavoidable first step. While unpleasant, it’s necessary to overcome the detox process to get healthy, and the right medical professionals can make it as comfortable as possible. Beyond detox, though, a person has many options as to how they wish to pursue OxyContin treatment.
The most common options for OxyContin recovery include:
- Inpatient Care: With this option, a person is admitted to a residential treatment center where they’ll receive around-the-clock care and assistance. This is the most intense treatment option, with daily meetings and ongoing supervision and accountability.
- Outpatient Care: An outpatient treatment program will probably involve meetings multiple times a week, and it may also involve random drug testing to hold people accountable to their plan. In addition to one-to-one or group therapy, other activities may also be prescribed, like wellness classes.
- Partial Hospitalization: Somewhere in between inpatient care and outpatient care, partial hospitalization allows a person to continue residing in their own home, but they’ll be asked to come in for treatment anywhere from 3 to 7 days each week.
Choosing the type of treatment program that’s right for you begins with an honest assessment of your condition, your support system, and your needs. If you’re having trouble making that assessment, an addiction specialist can help walk you through your options and give you a more personalized idea of what each program would look like for you.
Are you interested in learning more about your options for OxyContin recovery? Do you have questions about the detox or treatment process? The friendly professionals at Windward Way Recovery are standing by to answer your questions and walk with you on your journey to a brighter future. Contact us today to learn more.