OxyContin pills were once remarkably easy to abuse. People could simply crush the pills, reducing the contents to a fine powder that could either be inhaled or mixed with liquid and shot into the veins. These steps would allow all of the potent power of the drug to hit the user at once, rather than trickling into the body in slow and steady steps as the manufacturers had intended. In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new formulation of OxyContin that would be a little more difficult to abuse, as the pills are hard to crush and they turn into sticky goo when they’re mixed with water.
There is some evidence that this new formulation reduced the incidence of abuse. For example, in a study in the Journal of Pain, researchers found that OxyContin addiction levels dropped by 41 percent when the new formula was released. Even so, some people are still abusing OxyContin, and they may be following a predictable timeline that leads from abuse to addiction.
Typical Addiction Patterns
People who take in OxyContin for the very first time often report feeling overwhelmed by the sensations that wash over them. They may feel intensely relaxed, as though life is a pleasant dream that holds no consequences. They may also feel no pain or discomfort. Chemical changes inside the brain are to blame for these sensations. The active ingredients in OxyContin attach to specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord, and the chemical changes that take hold can be astonishing. They can also be persistent, resulting in feelings of agitation and loss when sobriety returns.
The length of time that transpires between the first hit of OxyContin and the arrival of addiction can vary from person to person. Those who snort the pills, for example, tend to have a more robust reaction to the drug, and they might develop an addiction much more rapidly than would people who simply take the pills orally. But anecdotal evidence suggests that people who start abusing develop addictions rather quickly. For example, a young man interviewed by NPR moved from the first incident of abuse to a full-blown addiction in less than a year. The drug is powerful, and as a result, it can make addictions manifest quite quickly.
Physical Dependence Issues
As an addiction develops, the body becomes accustomed to the constant presence of OxyContin. Brain cells seem to need the substance in order to function normally, and the person might feel ill when the drug isn’t available. This issue can play a role in the recovery process, as people who attempt to get sober might be hit with withdrawal symptoms akin to the flu, and they could last for up to a week.
Medications can help to soothe this distress, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggests that medication work can begin just as soon as a person begins to experience even the smallest twinge of discomfort due to withdrawal. But not everyone who abuses OxyContin needs this kind of therapy. Some people find that they’re able to get through a week of detox by leaning on:
- Warm soaks to soothe sore muscles
- Bland, soft foods to amend digestive distress
- Cool drinks of water, allowing toxins to leave the body
- Soft, welcoming beds, with frequent sheet changes
The experience isn’t likely to be positive, but it can pass in relative comfort. In no time at all, people might be ready to examine how the addiction began and what might be done in order to keep it from springing to life in the future. Therapy can make that happen.
People who abuse OxyContin may feel as though the abuse began suddenly, with no real precursors at all. In reality, people who abuse drugs tend to have tiny little triggers that dot each and every day. Strong emotions, terrible memories, interpersonal conflicts and even negative self-talk can lead to desperation that only medication seems capable of healing. Unless people change their habits for good, they’ll always be mired in a pattern of substance use and abuse. Changing habits like this can be tricky, however, and it can take a significant amount of time. As a result, most treatment programs for addiction aren’t measured in terms of days. Instead, they’re measured in months or even years.
In general, the longer the treatment lasts, the better. In a study of the issue, in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers found that those who spend less than three months in treatment have recovery rates similar to those who never got help for an addiction issue. All of the old patterns just seem to persist, and perhaps even grow stronger, when only a few months of therapy are in play.
In addition, some people who have addictions to OxyContin need to live outside of the home while they get care, and they may need to live in these facilities for many, many months. The drug is just too easy to get in the community, and temptation might always be around the corner. Family conflicts and old wounds can also be too painful during recovery, leading people to feel an intense urge to use and abuse OxyContin.
In a sober home, on the other hand, people live in a community with others who are also in recovery, and all residents agree to keep the home free of drugs and alcohol. The person is in a new environment, so the urge to use might be lessened, and there are fewer temptations available. Some people choose to live in facilities like this for six months or even longer, before they feel capable of returning to their homes without the use of OxyContin.
The therapies a person needs, and the length of time that care might be required, can vary dramatically from person to person. That’s why personalized care is so important. In a customized program, experts can tailor the care they provide based on:
- The length of time the OxyContin addiction has been in play
- The presence of mental illnesses that might complicate recovery
- The personal preferences of the person in care
- The person’s past experiences with the recovery process
- The family’s availability to participate in care
This is the kind of care we can offer at Black Bear Lodge. Our clients aren’t just numbers to us, and we never try to make our clients conform to a plan that might not be best for them. Instead, we draw up elaborate plans before we provide any kind of care, and we check in with our clients each step of the way, ensuring that they’re happy with the help they’re getting. It’s a comprehensive approach, and we’d like to tell you more about it. Please call us to get the conversation started.