OxyContin is a potent analgesic in the opioid family of painkiller medications that have wreaked havoc in the U.S. over the past two decades. Promoted early on as a highly effective painkiller with a low likelihood of causing addiction, the brand swiftly became the darling of the medical and dental community. The shine was off the penny, however, when it became abundantly clear that OxyContin and other opioid pain medications in its category were indeed highly addictive drugs. Over the past ten years, overdose deaths due to opioid addiction have skyrocketed to the status of an epidemic never seen in the U.S. before.
Many patients were entirely unaware that by filling the prescriptions provided by their doctors after an injury or surgery they were dramatically impacting their brain chemistry, or the system of neurotransmitters. Within weeks, someone taking these drugs would find themselves facing highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which kept them asking for a new refill. When doctors eventually denied the refill requests, many who were now addicted to the drug turned to the Internet to locate the drug, or would switch to heroin. The long-term effects of OxyContin on the brain have created a powerful and dangerous drug dependency.
Those who switch over to heroin take the additional risk of purchasing, unbeknownst to them, heroin that has been lace with a deadly drug called fentanyl. Fentanyl deaths have become the single most deadly trend of the past couple of years, with more than 30,000 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Short-term Effects of OxyContin on the Brain
So what exactly happens to the brain when an individual takes OxyContin? Our bodies are equipped with a system of receptors in the brain, including natural opioid receptors. When someone takes an opioid drug, like OxyContin, they attach to these receptors and create a rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that signals the body to feel pleasure. This sets up a message to the brain that the effect of the drug was pleasurable and should be repeated.
With repeated use of OxyContin the amount of the drug and the frequency used is increased due to tolerance developing. Eventually, the body no longer experiences the pleasurable effect at all, but by then the individual is addicted and to stop taking OxyContin means to experience withdrawal symptoms. The long-term effects of OxyContin on the brain culminate with the brain ceasing to produce natural dopamine at all, having become completely dependent on the drug. In addition, imaging studies of opioid-addicted brains show a decrease in the amygdala volume and other structural changes in brain matter.
How OxyContin Impacts the Body
OxyContin has serious negative effects on the body and the brain. Some of the long-term effects of opioid abuse include:
- Gastrointestinal distress, including chronic constipation and vomiting
- Muscle spasms and jerky movements
- Blockage, inflammation, or infection of the respiratory tract
- Slowed heart rate and respiratory rate
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Soft-tissue infections if used intravenously
How to Treat the Long Term Effects of OxyContin on the Brain
Treatment for an OxyContin addiction is multi-pronged. The initial step in recovery is to undergo a medical detoxification, during which the body will purge the drug and its toxins out of the system. During medical detox medical interventions will be provided to help ease the withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment consists of psychotherapy, in both individual and group formats, and emphasis is on changing the maladaptive addictive behaviors using cognitive behavioral therapy. Some inpatient programs also incorporate recovery group meetings, such as 12-step or a non 12-step such as SMART Recovery, to enhance peer support. Treatment programs are designed to educate the individual about how addiction develops, what happens in the brain that creates dependency, so the client will have a much better understanding about the dangers of these drugs. In addition, a carefully considered relapse prevention plan is created to anticipate potential triggers and have necessary coping tools in place.
Certain experiential therapies have been found to be quite useful in aiding clients in recovery from opioid addiction. This is because the holistic type therapies promote relaxation and reduce stress. Some of these complimentary therapies include:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Massage therapy
- Equine therapy
- Art therapy
- Exercise therapy
Medication assisted treatment is a significant part of the recovery plan for an opioid dependency. Drugs such as Suboxone, methadone, or buprenorphine are used to ease withdrawal symptoms, especially the intense drug cravings, and help to step the client down from the OxyContin incrementally over time.
After Care for OxyContin Addiction Recovery
Once the inpatient program has been completed, it is important to have a solid aftercare plan in place. These strategies will significantly increase the chances for a successful, sustained recovery. Aftercare measures might include possibly residing in a sober living home for several months before transitioning back home. Sober living helps the client get stronger in their recovery before facing possible triggers.
Ongoing outpatient counseling is another important component of aftercare. Weekly or twice weekly meetings with a therapist or group offer a solid source of support in early recovery. Attendance at N.A. or a similar recovery community is another good aftercare option that should be considered.
Solutions 4 Recovery Treats OxyContin Addiction
Solutions 4 Recovery is a premier drug and alcohol treatment center located in Orange County, California. Solutions 4 Recovery has developed a specialized treatment program to treat this serious opioid addiction. The program is specifically tailored to the individual client’s unique treatment needs, ensuring that the client will be engaged and responsive to the therapy. The program includes psychotherapy, adjunctive therapies, and experiential therapies that work together to provide a comprehensive approach to treating the addiction and the long term effects of OxyContin on the brain. Solutions 4 Recovery will also provide sober living resources and outpatient therapy as part of a comprehensive aftercare plan. For more information about the program, please contact Solutions 4 Recovery today at [phone-number]