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Long-Term Effects of OxyContin


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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.

OxyContin is the brand name of a semi-synthetic opioid drug, oxycodone. National statistics don’t break down overdose deaths from specific opioids, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that overdose deaths involving opioids more than doubled between 2010 and 2017, from 21,088 to 47,600. Another significant increase happened between 2018 and 2020 when the number of opioid overdose deaths rose to 68,630.

Additionally, according to the NIDA, an estimated 2.7 million people in the United States, ages 12 and up, had an opioid use disorder (OUD) in the past 12 months. That figure includes over 2 million with a prescription opioid use disorder.

Long-Term Effects of Opioid Abuse

Overdose isn’t the only significant long-term effect of misuse of oxycodone, OxyContin, or any opioid. Longtime users of oxycodone may experience drowsiness and fatigue. This is because this opioid depresses the nervous system, which also results in feelings of tiredness and sleepiness.

Another part of the body that oxycodone slows down is the digestive system, which can lead to gut problems. Constipation may result, while nausea and vomiting occur when someone is in withdrawal from OxyContin.

Finally, oxycodone depresses a person’s respiratory system. Regular users may find themselves short of breath or they may have other breathing issues. If this occurs, it’s essential to seek treatment sooner rather than later to avoid respiratory arrest or death.

Other significant physical and mental ramifications include:

  • dental problems
  • mood swings
  • reduced sex drive
  • decreased level of testosterone (males) and menstrual problems (females)
  • needing to use more to get the same effect
  • financial, work, or social problems

Additionally, combining oxycodone or any opioid with other substances is extremely dangerous. For instance, pairing alcohol and oxycodone can result in breathing issues and increased confusion. Certain antidepressants, when taken with oxycodone, may cause delirium, convulsions, respiratory failure, and coma.

How to Stop Taking OxyContin

OxyContin and any form of oxycodone are prescribed by a doctor to treat moderate to severe pain. If prescribed, it should only be taken as directed and for as limited a time as possible because of how addictive the medication is.

Because of the severity of the withdrawal symptoms oxycodone causes, it’s vital that anyone prescribed it talk to their doctor before they stop taking it. Possible withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • watering eyes
  • runny nose
  • uncontrollable yawning
  • difficulty sleeping and severe restlessness
  • hot and cold flushes
  • pains in muscles and joints
  • muscle spasms and tremors
  • loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
  • increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • uncontrolled kicking movements

Signs of Oxycodone Overdose

Many significant and life-threatening issues result from the abuse of opioids, including oxycodone. Overdose is a major concern and symptoms include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • slowed or stopped breathing
  • excessive sleepiness
  • limp or weak muscles
  • narrowing or widening of the pupils (dark circle in the eye)
  • cold, clammy skin
  • inability to respond or wake up

If an overdose is suspected, contact 911 immediately. Administering naloxone to someone suspected of an opioid overdose can help. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Treatment is available to help those with a dependence or addiction to oxycodone or any opioid. Several medications, buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone, can help manage withdrawal symptoms. These medications should be used in conjunction with behavioral counseling. Pairing therapy and medication offer a “whole patient” approach, otherwise known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Common behavioral therapies used as a part of MAT are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). CBT teaches a person to recognize distorted thinking and helps them gain a better understanding of their (and others’) behavior and motivation. DBT combines strategies like mindfulness, acceptance, and emotion regulation. It can assist someone in developing healthy ways to cope with stress. Both types of therapy are evidence-based and have been proven helpful in addiction treatment.

Some people view medications used in opioid addiction treatment as substituting one drug for another. This is a falsehood because the medications used in the treatment of opioid addiction are not given in amounts large enough to create a high. They are given as a means of safely managing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Building on a belief that spiritual development and healthy recovery can bring inner peace to clients overcoming addiction and substance abuse, Into Action Recovery Centers takes a people-centered approach to addiction treatment. The center is conveniently located in Houston, Texas, and is led by experienced master’s level counselors and medical professionals who specialize in personalized treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.


Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.

Dr. Saeed is a psychiatry specialist with over 40 years of experience in the medical field. He received training in General Psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he was selected as the Medical Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He currently serves as the medical director at Into Action Recovery Centers. Full Bio

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