What Is Oxycontin? — Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects
If you have ever had a severe injury or surgery, chances are you've been offered a narcotic painkiller to help you get through the discomfort of recovery. Doctors widely prescribe these medications as short-term pain relief to temporary medical issues.
Unfortunately, continued use of these pills can quickly lead to abuse and addiction. For one, OxyContin is an infamously addictive drug that can be helpful yet extremely dangerous. Before you start a prescription for OxyContin, the information in this guide can help educate you on both its potential benefits and potential drawbacks.
What Are the Benefits and Uses of OxyContin?
Oxycodone hydrochloride, standardly known as OxyContin, is a strong painkiller available by prescription in the United States. It is regularly prescribed for legitimate relief from moderate to severe pain resulting from:
It belongs to a class of drugs called opioid analgesics, which act on opioid receptors to produce euphoric morphine-like effects. These drugs, including OxyContin, work in the brain to change how your body feels and how it responds to pain.
High strengths of this drug — anything more than 40 milligrams (mg) per tablet — are only prescribed to patients who were previously taking lower doses but now find them ineffective. For example, someone with an ongoing cancer battle will build up a tolerance to the lower dosages and need more to feel relief. However, these higher concentrations can cause an overdose or death if the person has not been regularly taking opioids. This medicine is not intended for use on an occasional, as-needed basis.
What Does OxyContin Look Like?
Each OxyContin tablet is imprinted with the number of milligrams it contains on one side and the letters "OC" on the other. However, according to the dosage, the pills will vary in size and color.
What Are the Various Doses of OxyContin?
OxyContin is available in doses of 10, 20, 40, or 80 mg. This medicine is not for sudden, breakthrough pain, so take it regularly, usually one pill every 12 hours, as directed by your doctor.
Remember, your dosage is prescribed based on your particular medical condition and personal response to treatment. So do not take it upon yourself to ingest OxyContin more frequently, increase your dose, or continue your regimen for longer than prescribed. If you feel that your prescription needs to be adjusted, consult your doctor first.
How Do You Take OxyContin?
Always swallow these slow-release tablets whole. By chewing, crushing, dissolving, or breaking the pills, the drug will be released all at once, increasing the risk of an overdose. Also, do not lick or wet the pills before putting them in your mouth. When swallowing, drink enough water to swallow them completely.
If you get nauseous when taking OxyContin, consider taking the pill with food. Lying down for an hour or two with minimal head movements can also help. If nausea persists after this window, contact your doctor. They might consider giving you a lower dosage or a different medication.
Can You Take Other Medications at the Same Time?
As with all medications and vitamins, always tell your doctor or pharmacist what other drugs you are taking so they can check to see if there are any drug interactions or if you will experience any adverse effects. Other pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can safely be taken with OxyContin, but again, ask about the dosage. When mixed with Oxycontin, certain medications may increase your risk of sedation, coma, and other life-threatening breathing problems.
What Are the Side Effects of OxyContin?
As a narcotic medication, OxyContin has a litany of side effects, some more serious than others. If you have been using it for an extended period of time or in high doses, stopping this medication suddenly is likely to cause withdrawal, which can be very uncomfortable, involving nausea, restlessness, muscle cramping, and irritability.
Some common side effects when taking OxyContin as directed are:
- Cold sweats
- Being dizzy or lightheaded when getting up suddenly from a seated or lying position
- Difficulty or labored breathing
The following side effects are slightly rarer, and if you experience them, you should contact a doctor immediately:
- Blood in your urine
- Chest pain
- Swelling or bloating of the face, arms, legs, hands, or feet
- Difficult, painful, or frequent urinating
- Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
- Itching, hives, or skin rash
- Extreme thirst
Drinking grapefruit juice or eating grapefruit can increase these side effects. So avoid this citrus fruit while using OxyContin until your doctor says it is safe to reintroduce into your diet.
OxyContin and Addiction
Although this medication helps many people, it is also highly addictive. The risk for addiction is higher if you have a substance abuse issue with drugs or alcohol. OxyContin is a Schedule II narcotic, which also includes methamphetamine and cocaine. Not following the dosage set by your doctor can lead to severe physical and psychological dependence.
Even if you follow every rule and suggestion set by your healthcare provider, you still run the risk of addiction. The transition from use to abuse to full-blown addiction can be swift and dangerous, even deadly. Oxycontin produces a euphoric effect that is similar to the feeling one gets with heroin.
High school students abuse OxyContin and other prescription drugs second only to marijuana. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that OxyContin use by 12th graders has risen 40% in just three years.
The tablets are meant to be swallowed whole as part of their controlled release feature. But abusers chew or crush them instead, getting the entirety of the opiate all at once. When OxyContin pills are crushed, they can also be snorted or dissolved in water to inject the medicine directly into the veins. This intensifies the high, the addiction, and the withdrawals.
Here are signs to note if you suspect someone is overdosing from OxyContin:
- Cold, clammy skin
- Constricted pupils that look like pinpoints
- Unusual drowsiness or unresponsiveness
- Coughing up a frothy pink sputum
- Increased sweating
- Fast, slow, shallow, irregular breathing
- Blue or pale lips, skin, or fingernails
If you witness these signs, immediately call 911. Your quick response to any of these symptoms can be the difference between life and death.
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