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Taking a medication as directed rarely results in compulsive use – but with medications like OxyContin that offer such feelings of well being, it’s easy to start taking a little more than prescribed – and once you start abusing OxyContin it’s a very slippery slope to the compulsive use and loss of control of addiction. 

If you’re serious about beating an addiction to OxyContin, you need to know:

  1. Whether or not you need OxyContin addiction treatment
  2. If you do, what types of addiction treatments are available – and which is right for you.

Are You Addicted or Just Dependent?

OxyContin is an opiate medication, and like with all opiates, if you use the medication regularly your body will become dependent on it. 

Importantly though, opiate dependence is not the same as opiate addiction; and if you are only opiate dependent and not addicted, you do not require addiction treatment.

You can be either:

  1. Opiate dependent but not opiate addicted
  2. Opiate dependent and opiate addicted

Opiate Dependence

The regular use of opiates results in structural changes in the brain. These structural changes cause you to require increasing quantities of opiates to feel the same effects (tolerance) and these changes are the reason you feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop using or when you wait too long between doses.

As you use opiates over time, your brain attempts to restore equilibrium by reducing the number of opiate receptors available. With fewer opiate receptors available in the brain, you need to take a larger dose to get the same effects, and when you take no dose at all, your ‘normal’ levels of endogenous opiates are insufficient, and this causes you to experience withdrawal symptoms.

Anyone who uses or abuses opiates on a daily basis for more than a couple of weeks will develop some degree of physical dependence.

*However, if you are using opiates only as prescribed and never take more than you’re supposed to, then while you may become dependent, you are unlikely addicted and so do not require addiction treatment. People who do not become addicted to opiates can generally stop taking these medications by slowly tapering down their daily dose, as directed by a care physician.

Opiate Addiction

According to the American Pain Society, addiction is characterized by behaviors that include:

  • A loss of control over the use of a drug
  • Compulsive drug use
  • Continuing to use or abuse a drug despite obvious harms from the use1

If you take OxyContin for any reason other than prescribed, then you are an opiate abuser, and if you find that you have difficulty controlling how much or how often you use; then you are likely also an opiate addict.

If you are addicted to OxyContin, you will almost certainly require addiction treatment to break free from the drug.

OxyContin Addiction - Why Treatment Is Needed

Opiate addiction causes changes in the brain. When you try to stop using opiates you will experience:

  • About a week of strong physical withdrawal symptoms
  • Longer lasting negative emotional and cognitive changes
  • Enduring strong drug cravings2

While feeling physically ill and emotionally down and discouraged you are in very poor condition to resist very long lasting and powerful drug cravings, and so most people require addiction treatment to:

  • Receive treatments that reduce the intensity of the physical withdrawal symptoms
  • Gain access to medications like methadone or Suboxone that can stabilize you, eliminate withdrawal symptoms and drastically reduce drug cravings
  • Learn cognitive strategies to overcome temptation that does arise
  • Deal with personal issues that lead to drug seeking behaviors
  • Deal with challenges in other areas of life that if left unattended increase the odds of relapse (find a health living situation, deal with health problems, deal with financial/employment issues, legal problems etc.)
    1. Opiate addicted people who receive no addiction treatment are very likely to relapse back to use
    2. Opiate addicted people who receive some conventional psychosocial addiction treatment combined with opiate replacement medications like methadone or Suboxone are most likely to stay in recovery

    Treatment Options

    The basic types of OxyContin addiction treatment are:

    1. Medical detox only
    2. Rapid opiate detox
    3. Medical or rapid opiate detox combined with residential addiction treatment
    4. Medical or rapid opiate detox combined with continuing outpatient addiction treatment
    5. Opiate replacement therapy with Methadone or Suboxone
    6. Opiate replacement therapy with methadone or Suboxone combined with continuing addiction treatment

    Medical Detox Only

    Getting nursing care and certain medications during the initial withdrawal or ‘detox’ phase improves your comfort during this difficult period and increases your odds of making it through without relapse. Because opiate withdrawal is rarely dangerous, as uncomfortable as it may be, medical care is not needed for safety.

    Although medical detox does help you to make it through the initial withdrawal period without relapse, it does little to help you withstand the cravings and temptations to come. Medical detox is not really considered addiction treatment, but rather a preparatory stage that gets you ready to fully participate in addiction treatment. Those that leave the process after detox only are very likely to relapse back to opiate use.

    Rapid Opiate Detox

    Rapid or ultra rapid opiate detox promises a much more comfortable detox period by accelerating the progression of withdrawal symptoms with certain medications, given while the patient lies under anesthesia – the idea, in a nutshell, is that you sleep through the worst of it!

    Although great promises are made (often by people out to benefit financially by offering the technique) not everyone thinks ultra rapid opiate detox is the best idea.

    Some critiques include:

    • People awake from the anesthesia still in considerable discomfort
    • The procedure is more dangerous than a conventional medical detox
    • The procedure is generally far more expensive than a conventional medical detox
    • Since significant continuing addiction treatment is rarely offered after the procedure, relapse rates for those who undergo a rapid opiate detox are high; comparable to those who undergo a conventional medical detox only

    The American Society of Addiction Medicine released a policy statement on ultra rapid detox, advising that:

    • Ultra raped detox is not recommended unless it’s offered as an initial part of an ongoing addiction treatment program
    • The research does not yet reveal whether the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks
    • Patients considering the procedure need to be made aware of alternate treatments, such as methadone or buprenorphine therapy, so they can make a decision with informed consent3

    Detox Combined with Continuing Residential or Outpatient Addiction Treatment

    Addiction treatment is essential for most that become opiate addicted – and addiction treatment only begins after the detox stage.

    You can get addiction treatment in a residential setting (a drug rehab) or on an outpatient basis. There are advantages and disadvantages to both settings for treatment, but what’s most important is that you get a level of care that meets your situation. (Read outpatient versus inpatient treatment to find out what’s best for you).

    It is important that you realize that recovery takes time and that there are no quick fixes to an opiate addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) opiate addiction treatment programs (not including methadone or Suboxone programs) that have the best track records are long term residential programs that are between 3 and 6 months in duration.4

    When selecting an addiction treatment program, remember that swimming pools and spas are less important than evidence based behavioral therapies and the length of the program (longer is better). Look for a program that:

    • Is clean and well run
    • Employs licensed and state accredited staff
    • Accepts your insurance, or will find a way to work with you to develop a payment plan that works for you and that you can afford
    • Uses medication when appropriate
    • Uses evidence based behavioral and psychosocial therapies
    • Offers programs or links to programs for assistance with medical health, mental health, vocational or legal needs or housing
    • Offers long term continuing care programs
    • Gets the family involved in the recovery process5

    Methadone or Buprenorphine Treatment

    Getting into a treatment program that incorporates methadone or Suboxone with other conventional addiction therapies gives you the very best chance at maintaining your recovery from opiate addiction.

    Although these drugs are sometimes stigmatized and often misunderstood, they are long proven the most effective treatments for those with opiate addictions.6

    Both methadone and Suboxone are medications that replace or substitute for OxyContin. When you take either methadone or Suboxone, you:

    • Feel no withdrawal symptoms
    • Feel minimal drug cravings
    • Feel stabilized away from the highs and lows of opiate addiction
    • Can work on getting your, health, work/school, relationships, living arrangements etc. back on the right track – developing a very solid base for your long term recovery before you ultimately taper down off these medications

    Because medication assisted therapy is proven the most effective way to break free from an addiction to opiates, you should learn about the risks and benefits of these medications before making any decision about the kind of treatment you need or want.

    To learn more about treatment with methadone or Suboxone and to find out which one might be best for you, please also read the following articles: 1) What is Suboxone?, 2) What is methadone?, and 3) Is Suboxone going to work for you?

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    Page last updated 27/09/2015

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