Taking any kind of opioid medication can be dangerous. Oral consumption, which is typically the directed way to take OxyContin, can lead to abuse and addiction because it activates the reward regions in the brain, prompting people to use more of the drug in different ways. Snorting, smoking, or injecting OxyContin, which is highly common, increases the dangers of use.
From health risks like lung infections to the spread of disease, abusing OxyContin can have deadly consequences. An OxyContin overdose can be fatal, and the risk of overdose is substantially increased when the drug is snorted, smoked, or injected. Abusing OxyContin in these ways also raises the risk of moving on to other drugs that are cheaper and more available, like heroin.
Understanding OxyContin Abuse
OxyContin is the brand name for the opioid/opiate medication oxycodone. Oxycodone affects the brain in ways that cause euphoria and relaxation, which is a major reason the drug is commonly abused. Anyone who takes OxyContin, even as directed and with a prescription, runs the risk of developing an addiction.
OxyContin abuse occurs when the drug is taken in larger amounts than directed, without a prescription, or for prolonged periods of time. Because of a desire for the quick onset of effects, OxyContin is typically abused by snorting, smoking, and injecting. All these routes of administration have various dangers, including an increased risk of addiction.
The Dangers Of Snorting OxyContin
People snort OxyContin by crushing tablets into a powder. Snorting OxyContin means the drug quickly enters the bloodstream and brain. The fast onset of effects is appealing to those struggling with OxyContin abuse. Snorting OxyContin not only increases the risk of addiction but can also have damaging side effects.
Some of the dangers of snorting OxyContin include:
- blocked nasal airways
- breathing problems
- damage to the nasal membrane
- inflammation of the nasal lining
- lung infections
The nose isn’t meant to snort any kind of powder, especially a crushed OxyContin tablet. While some medications are designed for insufflation (up the nose), OxyContin is not. There are impurities found in every tablet of any prescription medication, and these impurities can cause damage to the nose. Permanently damaged nasal passages can cause problems in the lungs and affect the overall quality of air a person breathes.
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The Dangers Of Smoking OxyContin
Some people place an OxyContin tablet on a piece of tin foil, heat it, and inhale the vapors with a straw or other device. Like snorting, smoking OxyContin allows the drug to get to the brain quickly, producing near-instantaneous effects. Smoking OxyContin, which is becoming more popular among young people, is dangerous because it can lead to:
- addiction and dependence
- lung and throat problems
- respiratory problems
- risky behaviors
When people smoke OxyContin, they unwittingly inhale various chemicals and additives that may be harmful to their health. OxyContin is also often mixed with marijuana. Although marijuana is becoming more acceptable, it still carries a high potential for abuse and perpetuates drug-seeking behaviors.
Mixing OxyContin with marijuana causes an intense high that will likely slow reactions and cause disorientation, making it dangerous to partake in daily activities like driving.
The Dangers Of Injecting OxyContin
Among people suffering from addiction, injecting drugs is often the desired route of administration. Once a person becomes dependent on OxyContin, they may turn to injection for a stronger and quicker high. Injecting OxyContin is both risky and dangerous because it can lead to negative health consequences and cause permanent damage.
Some dangers of injecting OxyContin include:
- heart problems
- scarring and needle tracks
Sharing needles when injecting OxyContin can lead to the spread of disease. While the transmission of HIV through needles is rare, the risk is increased in environments where needle-sharing is a common practice. Besides the dangers of intravenous injection, the risk of overdose is greatly increased when a person injects OxyContin into their body.
OxyContin (Oxycodone) Overdose
OxyContin is one of the leading prescription drugs responsible for overdose deaths. In 2016, over 45 people died each day from prescription drug overdoses, with over 40 percent of all opioid-related overdose deaths stemming from prescription medications. Snorting, smoking, or injecting OxyContin increases the risk of overdose.
Symptoms of an OxyContin overdose can include:
- bluish-colored fingernails and lips
- difficulty breathing
- weak pulse
Because OxyContin slows breathing, an untreated overdose can result in death. To avoid losing someone, call 9-1-1 immediately in the event of an overdose. Overdose can be deadly and may cause brain damage and other health problems if the overdose isn’t treated straight away. Taking opioids with alcohol or other drugs, like benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin), increases the risk of overdose and death.
OxyContin Addiction Treatment
Taking OxyContin in ways other than directed increases the risk of addiction. Once addicted, stopping the use of OxyContin can be very difficult. For opioid addiction, withdrawal symptoms (“dope sickness”) can be very uncomfortable and lead to further drug use. Entering a medically supervised detox program can help people beat withdrawal by providing comfort and safety in a supportive setting.
Medically supervised detox programs also help prepare people for additional treatment. An OxyContin addiction is usually treated with a combination of medications and behavioral therapy. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone), and naltrexone (Vivitrol) are government-approved and useful for reducing cravings, lessening dependence, and decreasing the risk of overdose.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of these medications alongside behavioral therapy. Therapy is the most common form of addiction treatment and helps people to change their thinking and attitudes towards drugs. Common therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing (MI).
Inpatient rehab programs can be effective because they likely offer everything a person needs to overcome OxyContin addiction: medical supervision during detox, medications, behavioral therapy, and peer and professional support.
Additional resources from DrugRehab.org:
- What Is The Difference Between Methadone And Oxycodone?
- The Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Oxycodone
- Oxycontin Drug Rehab and Detox Facilities For Addiction
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Prescription Opioid Overdose Data
- Drug Enforcement Administration: Drug Fact Sheet — Oxycodone
- Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior — Potential Complications of IV Drug Use
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Hydrocodone/Oxycodone Overdose