OxyContin Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Effects and Treatment

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Are You Addicted to OxyContin?

OxyContin is a prescription opioid medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. However, it is often misused, and the risk of addiction is a serious issue with this drug. Professional treatment programs can help people who have trouble controlling their use of OxyContin.

This article will explore the following:

Is OxyContin Addictive?

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Yes, OxyContin is addictive.

OxyContin is an opioid, a class of drugs that attach to opioid receptors in the brain and reduce the perception of pain. However, the use of OxyContin and other opioids also can lead to feelings of euphoria in some users, who may either take more than the prescribed dose or snort or inject the drug to try to intensify these effects. 1

Regular abuse or misuse of OxyContin can lead to physical dependency and addiction. Over time, changes take place in the brain that make it difficult for the person to control his or her compulsion to use the drug, and people who regularly abuse OxyContin may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using it.

A person who abuses the drug will also develop tolerance and need greater amounts of OxyContin over time to feel the same effects as before. 1

How to Tell if You or a Loved One Is Addicted

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition), a person may be diagnosed with an opioid use disorder (a clinical term for addiction) if he or she exhibits at least 2 of the following symptoms within a 12-month period: 2

  • The person takes more of the drug than he or she planned on taking.
  • The person has difficulty controlling use of the substance.
  • The person spends a significant amount of their time obtaining, using and recovering from the use of the substance.
  • The person craves the drug.
  • The person fails to carry out major life roles in areas such as work, school or home because of their use of the drug.
  • The person continues to use the drug despite experiencing negative social consequences as a result of using it.
  • The person gives up or reduces involvement in other activities that were important to them, such as work or friendships.
  • The person uses the drug even when it involves dangerous conditions, such as driving.
  • The person continues to use the drug even though it causes or aggravates a psychological or physical issue.

Watch Dr. Paul Hokemeyer discuss the 3 key signs of an OxyContin addiction.

Credit: Howcast

Cost and Paying for OxyContin Addiction Treatment

Couple talking to doctor about OxyContin addiction treatment

The cost of OxyContin addiction treatment varies a great deal. It will depend on whether you choose inpatient or outpatient, and how long it is necessary for you to stay, which also depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the OxyContin addiction.

A wide range of treatment facilities exist, and the more luxurious programs, which can include private rooms, specially trained chefs, massages, and other amenities, will cost more than a basic program with shared rooms and cafeteria-quality food.

Many people worry about paying for a rehab program. Insurance programs often cover all or a portion of the cost of a program. However, for those without insurance, payment options can include borrowing money from a bank or from family members. In addition, you can finance treatment for OxyContin addiction by paying for a program with credit cards or starting a crowdfunding campaign.

If you or your loved one does not have insurance, and cannot finance treatment in other ways, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information for assistance locating low-cost programs to help with an OxyContin addiction.

Getting Treatment and Starting Recovery

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Treatment programs can be inpatient or outpatient, and the right program for a particular person is based on many factors, including the severity of the addiction, the length of time a person has been addicted to OxyContin, and if the person is addicted to other substances as well as OxyContin.

Whether the program is outpatient or inpatient, treatment will usually consist of either group counseling, individual counseling or a combination of both.

  • Inpatient treatment is typically the best form of treatment for people who have more severe addictions and co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression. It consists of a live-in program that may last 28 to 30 days to 60 days to 90 days, or more if necessary. Most inpatient centers offer medical care and medically supervised detoxification as well as aftercare planning. Most residents also participate in activities together such as outdoor recreation.
  • Outpatient treatment can occur for a variable number of hours each week. These programs offer individual counseling and group therapy, and some may offer detox.
  • Group counseling provides a person with a supportive group of people who have worked on their own recoveries. Studies have shown that group therapy is particularly effective for substance abuse treatment. Being able to see people who have overcome addiction can provide inspiration to those in the early stages of recovery. Groups also provide recovering persons with social interaction, which can be helpful since many people who abuse substances experience isolation. 3
  • Individual counseling usually involves cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people struggling with addiction and recovery to learn new patterns of behavior and to avoid triggers that lead to the use of substances, such as OxyContin. In addition, programs often use contingency management, which provides a person with rewards for staying abstinent from substances.
  • Adolescents have unique challenges in substance abuse treatment. Some programs work specifically with adolescents on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. Multidimensional family therapy is often used with this population as it deals with both recovery from addiction and overall family functioning. 4
  • Dual diagnosis programs help people who have both a mental health diagnosis and are in need of addiction treatment. The programs use an integrated and comprehensive treatment program that treats both conditions at the same time.
  • 12-step programs are free and widely available for people recovering from addiction to OxyContin. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) helps to give a recovering person a supportive environment in which to work on maintaining a drug-free lifestyle and to help prevent a relapse. Twelve-step programs are also an important part of aftercare following other forms of treatment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

OxyContin is an opioid, and treating addiction to opioids often involves the use of medication-assisted treatment. A physician will prescribe a medication and either gradually taper down the dose once the person has completed detox or maintain the person on a certain dose for a period of time. The medication treatment is combined with behavioral therapy. Medications can be used to ease withdrawal symptoms and control cravings.

  • Clonidine is a commonly used medication to help counter the symptoms of withdrawal from OxyContin. Clonidine assists with managing the anxiety, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose and cramping that often occur in the early stages of withdrawal from opioids. 7
  • Buprenorphine has also been found effective for helping persons addicted to OxyContin manage their withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, it can be used for long-term maintenance to keep a person from relapsing. Subutex is the oral form of buprenorphine and is given in rehab programs to help people stop using OxyContin. Suboxone is another form of this medication that also contains naloxone. 5
  • Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioid-containing drugs or medications, decreasing the incentive to continue using them. Naltrexone may also help to reduce cravings and, ultimately, prevent a relapse.
  • Methadone can be used to help a person detox from OxyContin, to help stabilize a person who is in early recovery or to help someone remain abstinent from OxyContin and other opioids long-term.

Choosing a Program

Choosing a treatment program requires careful consideration. Programs vary tremendously, and doing careful research will enable a person to find the right program for them.

  • Location. Some people may want to be close to home so that their families can participate in treatment, or they may not be able to afford the cost of transportation to another state. On the other hand, some people benefit from being in a new environment during recovery.
  • Accreditation. Many rehab programs are accredited by the major accrediting bodies for behavioral health and substance abuse, such as The Joint Commission, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), or the Council on Accreditation (COA). Accreditation does not guarantee quality, but treatment programs must meet certain standards in order to be accredited.
  • Staff qualifications. Staff in the program should meet certain qualifications to provide services, such as being a certified addiction counselor. Psychiatrists, doctors and nurses should also have special training in treating substance abuse.
  • Program philosophy. The program philosophy is also important to consider. Some programs may incorporate a more “tough-love” approach, whereas other programs may use a 12-step approach or evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Short- and Long-Term Side Effects of OxyContin Dependency

  • Short-term effects. In the short-term, OxyContin dependency can lead to drowsiness and mental confusion, as well as constipation. Overdose is a risk with any opioid and can occur when abusing drugs such as OxyContin. When people become addicted to OxyContin, they will seek more and more of the medication, even though it is harmful to their bodies. 6
  • Long-term effects. Chronic use of OxyContin can lead to dependence and addiction as well as the continued risk of overdose. In addition, OxyContin can cause severe constipation that can lead to complications that may even require surgery. Many people who abuse prescription opioids for a long time develop problems with relationships, finances, and employment or school. 2,8

Find a Treatment Program for OxyContin Addiction

Whether you have concerns about your own OxyContin addiction, or are seeking help for a family member or friend, call 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information today. Our specialists will help you locate a treatment center in your area based on your insurance coverage and what best suits your needs for treatment and recovery.

If you do not have health insurance call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for a referral to a low-cost or free program in your area.


[1]. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2012). Prescription Drug Abuse: How do Opiates Affect the Brain and Body?

[2]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

[3]. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US) (2005). Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.

[4]. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2016). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.

[5]. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US) (2006). Physical Detoxification Services for Withdrawal From Specific Substances. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45.

[6]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2015). Types of Commonly Abused and Misused Drugs.

[7]. National Library of Medicine. (2013). Opiate withdrawal.

[8]. Tuteja, A. K., Biskupiak, J., Stoddard, G. J., & Lipman, A. G. (2010). Opioid-induced bowel disorders and narcotic bowel syndrome in patients with chronic non-cancer pain. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 22(4), 424-496.

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