OxyContin Addiction Causes and Effects

Sunrise Recovery Ranch provides OxyContin addiction treatment rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier, more satisfying life, without addiction.

Understanding OxyContin

Learn about OxyContin and substance abuse

OxyContin, which is the trade name for the generic drug, oxycodone, is a powerful prescription medication that is designed to relieve individuals from moderate to severe pain. As a narcotic opioid, OxyContin is a Schedule II controlled substance that has a high potential for abuse and addiction. While the function of the drug works to alleviate the discomfort that individuals experience, it can also invoke pleasurable sensations that entice individuals to continuously abuse the substance as it not only relieves their pain, but also provides them with a sense of overall wellbeing, relaxation, and euphoria. However, the abuse of this substance can lead to psychological and physical dependence, resulting in the onset of opioid use disorder, and ultimately wreaking havoc on the user’s life. Once a dependency or an addiction to OxyContin has developed, it can be exceedingly difficult for individuals to overcome without professional intervention. Fortunately, there are treatment options in existence that can successfully help these people defeat their addiction.


OxyContin statistics

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that between 26.4 and 36 million people abuse opioid substances worldwide. In the United States alone, NIDA reports that approximately 2.1 million suffer from substance use disorders related to the prescription opioid pain relievers, including OxyContin. Furthermore, the number of deaths that have resulted from unintentional overdoses on prescription pain medications has quadrupled since 1999.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for OxyContin addiction

The causes and risk factors that impact an individual’s susceptibility for abusing opioids, including an addiction to OxyContin, are described briefly in the following:

Genetic: The American Psychiatric Association (APA) notes that genetic factors play a predominant role in determining an individual’s vulnerability to suffering from opioid use disorder. Individuals who have family members who struggle with this type of addiction are more likely to suffer from similar concerns than are those who do not have a similar familial background. Additionally, the APA states that certain temperamental factors can impact whether or not an individual is drawn to the abuse of drugs like OxyContin, and such temperaments can be genetically determined.

Environmental: The environments to which individuals are exposed can also play a significant role enhancing their vulnerability to developing an addiction to OxyContin. Being surrounded by peers who abuse substances can influence an individual’s decision to do so as well. Additionally, the ease of access with which one can obtain OxyContin can also promote his or her abuse of the substance. Furthermore, suffering from an injury or a chronic pain condition that warrants the prescribing of a pain medication like OxyContin will inevitably increase an individual’s risk for abusing the substance.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Associating with peers who abuse drugs, including OxyContin
  • Having gone through surgery or suffering from an injury or complex pain condition that warrants the prescribing of a pain medication
  • Being male (The APA states that rates of opioid use disorder are higher in males than they are in females.)
  • Personal history of conduct disorder in childhood

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of OxyContin addiction

The signs and symptoms of opioid use disorder, including an addiction to OxyContin, will vary from person to person depending upon the frequency with which one is abusing the substance, as well as the amount that the person takes at any given time. Examples of possible symptoms are listed in the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Engaging in regular patterns of OxyContin use
  • Planning and attending to daily activities in a way that is centered on obtaining or using OxyContin
  • Slurred speech
  • No longer participating in activities that were enjoyed
  • Failing to fulfil obligations at home or at work
  • Using the substance in situations that are physically dangerous (e.g. driving while being high on OxyContin)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Relationship disturbances
  • Continuing to abuse OxyContin despite the onset of disturbances in functioning
  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions of the drug

Physical symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Pupil constriction

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impairment in attention
  • Impairment in memory
  • Impaired judgment
  • Experiencing continued cravings to use OxyContin

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Apathy
  • Feeling in a state of unease (dysphoria)


Effects of OxyContin abuse

OxyContin abuse can elicit any number of disturbances in an individual’s life. All aspects of functioning, including social, personal, familial, and occupational functioning, can be negatively affected by the ongoing use of this detrimental substance. Additionally, a person’s physical health is at risk when the use of this substance persists. Specific examples of various effects that are known to arise can include the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Visual disturbances
  • Vital organ damage
  • Injured veins / track marks (in those who inject the drug)
  • Decline in occupational functioning, potentially resulting in job loss and subsequent financial strain
  • Disturbances within social relationships
  • Marital discord
  • Familial strife
  • Onset of new, or exacerbation of current, symptoms of other mental health conditions

Co-Occurring Disorders

OxyContin addiction and co-occurring disorders

When individuals are suffering from opioid use disorder, they are at risk for experiencing symptoms synonymous with other mental health disorders as well. Examples of disorders that are cited by the APA as commonly co-occurring alongside opioid use disorder include the following:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of OxyContin withdrawal & overdose

Effects of OxyContin withdrawal: When an individual stops using OxyContin, he or she is at risk for going through a period of withdrawal. During this period of withdrawal, individuals may experience significant distress and/or impairment in their ability to function. Symptoms and effects of OxyContin withdrawal may include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Dysphoric mood
  • Sweating
  • Dilation of pupils

Effects of OxyContin overdose: The longer that a person continues to abuse OxyContin, the greater his or her risk for overdosing on the substance becomes. The reason for this lies in the fact that, as a person’s body becomes more tolerant of the substance, he or she requires higher dosages in order to achieve the same pleasurable effects. Once an individual ingests more of the substance than his or her body is capable of metabolizing, he or she is at risk for overdosing. Overdosing should be viewed as a medical emergency with immediate treatment being sought. Signs that someone has overdosed on OxyContin may include the following:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Shallowed breathing
  • Extreme confusion
  • Severe dizziness
  • Highly slurred speech
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Sudden sleepiness
  • Cold, clammy skin

Thanks to Sunrise Recovery Ranch, my daughter was able to get the lasting recovery she deserved from her addiction and her co-occurring mental health disorder. I am super grateful!

– Michelle A.
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  • Department of Health Care Services

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