OxyContin Abuse & Addiction Effects, Signs & Symptoms

At Mount Regis Center, we offer an intensive, evidence-based approach to OxyContin abuse and addiction treatment. We offer a variety of therapeutic interventions that help our clients build a strong foundation for long-term recovery.

Understanding OxyContin

Learn about OxyContin addiction and substance use disorder

Often termed “Hillbilly Heroin,” OxyContin is a narcotic opiate painkiller prescribed by a doctor in order to manage chronic and unrelenting pain such as pain associated with cancer. Available in an extended-release formula, this drug has been touted a miracle drug by many chronic pain sufferers. Unfortunately, some individuals who use OxyContin do go on to develop an addiction to the narcotic. This had led many individuals to refuse to take the drug for legitimate purposes and many prescribers to refuse to prescribe the narcotic for those who could wildly benefit from its 12-hour painkilling effects, which is a large setback for the medical community.

In addition to providing consistent pain relief for those struggling with pain, Oxy is also known for its ability to create feelings of pleasure and euphoria in the user. It is this feeling of euphoria and happiness which can lead an individual to continue taking OxyContin far after the pain has subsided. Many use Oxy and other narcotic painkillers in order to experience emotional numbing and to relieve emotional pain. Withdrawal from opiates such as OxyContin also known as “OC,” “Oxycotton,” “Kicker,” and “Hillbilly Heroin,” does lead to depression in chronic users, which in turn leads to more abuse of the drug.

On the street, the high content of the narcotic oxycodone in OxyContin is what makes the drug popular. Until September of 2013, OxyContin was available in a form allowing addicts to chew the tablet, crush it and snort the tablet, or dilute the powdered form in water before injecting it. This process allowed for the disabling of the time-release mechanism to allow for the full euphoric effects of the drug. That high is comparable to the high achieved by heroin abuse. In 2013, the manufacturers of OxyContin developed a crush-resistant formulation of Oxy to discourage abuse among addicts.

Many erroneously believe abusing prescription narcotics is far safer than using its illegal street version – heroin. This could not be farther than the truth as overdoses from the usage of OxyContin are on the rise. One of the things making Oxy so dangerous is not only its addiction potential, but its lethality. The drug allows you to feel as though you can take more and more of the substance, but it can lead to respiratory failure and death. The risk for life-threatening side effects of “Hillbilly Heroin” only compounds when used with benzodiazepines and alcohol – two other substances which are a major cause of respiratory depression. Some individuals use Oxy as a way to mellow out the high from stimulants, such as crystal meth and cocaine, which can cause other life-threatening consequences.

Oxy addiction can be treated and managed with the right therapies and proper medication management.


OxyContin addiction statistics

OxyContin has only been available by prescription since 1995, but this potent narcotic has major addiction potential. By the year 2006, estimates are that 8.3% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 had abused at least one Oxy during the course of the month. It’s estimated one million individuals have used OxyContin for a non-medical purpose in their lifetime. It’s clear oxycodone abuse is a growing problem in the United States.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for OxyContin addiction

Most addictions do not have a clear-cut reason for the development of an addiction to a substance such as OxyContin. Most researchers suspect addiction is a multifaceted disease comprised of many factors.

Genetics: Many individuals who grow up with a parent or sibling who is addicted to a narcotic painkiller such as Oxy or struggle with other addictions are at greater risk for developing an addiction later in life.

Biological: Individuals who are struggling with chronic pain disorders are at greater risk for developing an addiction and tolerance to narcotics as many conditions require narcotic pain relief such as OxyContin in order to function.

Environmental: Individuals who grow up in troubled homes or suffered trauma as a child may abuse opioid narcotics such as Oxy in order to emotionally numb the pain from their abuse.

Psychological: Individuals who are struggling to treat the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental health condition such as depression or anxiety may attempt to self-medicate with OxyContin in order to control their symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of OxyContin addiction

Symptoms of OxyContin abuse do vary among individuals, the length of time a person has been addicted, and the amount of Oxy an individual uses, but general symptomatology of oxycodone includes:

Mood symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Delight
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Taking more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects
  • Stealing or borrowing narcotics from friends and family
  • Forging prescriptions for OxyContin
  • Robbing pharmacies
  • Crushing or chewing the tablet to achieve a greater high
  • Risky behaviors
  • Legal problems
  • Isolation from friends and loved ones
  • Preoccupation with obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of Oxy
  • Neglecting personal appearance
  • Neglecting personal responsibilities
  • Poor academic and occupational functioning

Physical symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sweating
  • Itching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Urinary retention
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hypotension
  • Respiratory depression
  • Heart attack
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Coma
  • Death

Psychological symptoms:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Worsening of mental illnesses
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions


Effects of OxyContin addiction

The long-term effects of OxyContin abuse will vary among individuals but do impact nearly every area of an individual’s life. The effects include:

  • Addiction
  • Legal problems
  • Swelling of the throat leading to death
  • Consequences of risk-taking behaviors
  • Incarceration
  • Worsening of mental and emotional health
  • Broken interpersonal relationships
  • Divorce
  • Domestic abuse
  • Respiratory depression
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Circulatory collapse
  • Coma
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

OxyContin addiction & co-occurring disorders

Most addictions have some roots in an untreated mental illness. Some of the most common mental illnesses associated with OxyContin abuse include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Conduct disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of OxyContin withdrawal and overdose

The effects of withdrawal from long-term Oxy abuse can be extremely unpleasant, especially if the drug is discontinued abruptly rather than tapered down. Withdrawal from OxyContin should always be performed under the careful eye of trained medical professionals. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Muscular weakness
  • Fevers
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Renal impairment
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Liver damage
  • All-over body pain
How Severe Is Your Addiction?
Take a Free Online Assessment

I could never say enough great things about Mount Regis Center! From admissions to nursing to the phenomenal clinical team, this is the place to go if you want to get better and learn how to stay clean! They saved my life and I will be forever grateful.

– Former Patient
Marks of Quality Care
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • The Jason Foundation