People experience pain in different ways for many reasons. The various causes and severities of pain mean that what works for one person might not work for another. To treat these variations, there are many types of medications used to treat pain.

OxyContin is one of the strongest types of prescription opioid pain relievers available. This powerful painkiller is the drug of choice for lots of people who use and abuse prescription painkillers. Continue reading to learn more about OxyContin, its uses, side effects, contraindications, dangers, and how to find treatment for OxyContin abuse.

What is OxyContin?

OxyContin is a prescription medication used to treat severe pain. People often confuse it with oxycodone, another prescription painkiller. OxyContin is a brand-name medication that uses oxycodone as the active ingredient. Oxycodone is also used to make other painkillers such as Percocet and Percodan.

What is Oxycontin

OxyContin is specifically manufactured as an extended-release form of oxycodone. Instead of providing all the pain-relieving effects at once, the medication provides relief over an extended period. This means patients who use the medication as prescribed don’t need to use it as often. Doctors use OxyContin to treat pain that is moderate to severe, often as part of treatment for longer-lasting pain, such as the late stages of chronic diseases.

OxyContin is credited by some as one of the main medications that created the opioid epidemic in the United States. Its powerful effects were far stronger than users realized and people became heavily dependent on the drug.

Who Made OxyContin?

OxyContin is made by Purdue Pharmaceuticals, located in Stamford, Connecticut. Purdue Pharma is responsible for making multiple kinds of medications used to treat pain, including OxyContin, hydromorphone, codeine, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. The company was not the first to manufacture oxycodone but they were the first to create the extended-release version: OxyContin.

OxyContin was first introduced in 1995 and seen as Purdue Pharma’s incredible improvement in the realm of pain management. The time-release feature of the drug made the potential for OxyContin addiction seem lower than its oxycodone alternative. In reality, though, the medication is no less addictive than any other prescription painkillers on the market.

What is OxyContin Made Of?

OxyContin is made of oxycodone, its active ingredient. This leads to some confusion between OxyContin and oxycodone. OxyContin is the brand-name version of the active ingredient. Oxycodone is used in other prescription pain reliever drugs such as Percocet and Percodan. The difference between OxyContin and these drugs, though, is the extended-release feature of OxyContin.

When used as prescribed, its pain-relieving effects last between 10 and 12 hours. This makes it a helpful option for patients experiencing severe and long-lasting pain. At the same time, this also means the drug contains a higher concentration of the active ingredient oxycodone. People who abuse the drug experience much stronger effects than they do with other prescription opioid alternatives.

Chemistry of OxyContin

The chemistry of OxyContin is complex. OxyContin’s chemical formula is 4, 5α-epoxy-14-hydroxy-3-methoxy-17-methylmorphinan-6-one Hydrochloride. The medication uses the active ingredient oxycodone, the chemical name of which is derived from codeine. Oxycodone has a similar chemical structure to both codeine and hydrocodone, with slight differences in particular structure features.

The chemistry of OxyContin ranges slightly depending on the strength of the medication. OxyContin tablets are available in concentrations of 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, 80 mg, and 160 mg. The stronger tablets are intended only for people with opioid tolerance and can be fatal when used by people with no prior opioid exposure.

What is OxyContin Used For?

OxyContin was formulated to create an extended-release version of oxycodone. Oxycodone is a faster-acting pain reliever so patients with chronic, long-lasting pain needed to use it more frequently. OxyContin is used for these severe pain cases because patients don’t need to take as much of it as they do with other types of prescription painkillers.

What is Oxycontin Used For

Pain Relief

OxyContin is used for pain relief in patients with severe long-term pain. Other medications like Vicodin or Percocet are great for short-term pain relief. Since OxyContin is an extended-release medication it provides pain relief for longer periods.

After Operations

Physicians may prescribe OxyContin for use after medical procedures such as operations. Invasive procedures that cause severe pain could be grounds for an OxyContin prescription.


OxyContin is used for the intense pain associated with arthritis. It provides some lasting relief without requiring patients to take as much.


Treatment for various kinds of cancer also makes use of OxyContin. People who have severe pain caused by cancer find that OxyContin provides ongoing pain relief when other medications don’t last as long.

Recreational Use

Outside of approved medical uses, OxyContin is also used for recreational use. People seeking the high of opioid pain relievers often look to OxyContin because of its high concentration and powerful effects.

How Does OxyContin Work?

OxyContin is an opioid prescription pain reliever made from the active ingredient oxycodone. It is part of a class of medications called opiate analgesics. OxyContin works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It attaches to and activates opioid receptors throughout the body, providing relief from intense pain.

How Oxycontin Work

What Does OxyContin Do?

OxyContin provides long-term pain alleviation over the course of about 12 hours. Rather than releasing all the medication at once, it provides release throughout the entirety of those hours. The exact effects of OxyContin depend on a few different factors:

  • The form of the medication
  • The strength of the medication
  • The amount you take
  • How you ingest the medication
  • Whether you’re experiencing pain

Generic oxycodone comes in various forms such as a tablet or pill, a liquid, or a concentrated solution. OxyContin itself comes in an extended-release tablet that is usually taken by mouth. When used as prescribed, OxyContin provides lasting pain relief for people experiencing chronic, long-term pain.

Some people crush these extended-release tablets and snort the powder. Snorting OxyContin causes much more intense effects. It also leads to possibly dangerous effects if someone takes too much or if they combine it with other substances. Overdosing on OxyContin is a very real and potentially fatal possibility.

How Long Does OxyContin Take to Work / Last?

The amount of OxyContin needed to experience relief of pain depends on the person. Some require larger doses while others notice relief at lower doses. Doctors start patients on a lower dose to ensure they only take as much as needed. They don’t want patients developing dependence any quicker than necessary.

OxyContin should always be taken by mouth and with food. When the medication is taken by mouth, you usually feel the effects of OxyContin within 20 to 30 minutes. The drug reaches peak concentration around the three- or four-hour mark.

OxyContin is an extended-release version of oxycodone so it lasts longer than other forms of the medication. The relieving effects of OxyContin should last for around 12 hours, even after the peak concentration time around three to four hours. The medication shouldn’t be taken any more often than every 12 hours.

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Contraindications and Dangers

OxyContin is a powerful pain medication that helps individuals who suffer from conditions like chronic pain. The medication is not safe for use in everyone, though. It is contraindicated with certain conditions and does come with some risk and danger. OxyContin is contraindicated in individuals who have the following conditions:

  • Unmonitored bronchial asthma
  • Respiratory depression
  • Hypercarbia
  • Ileus or GI obstruction (either known or suspected)
  • Sensitivity to OxyContin

You should always consult with your doctor or physician before using OxyContin. They will consider your medical history before placing you on the medication. If you do start using it, let them know of any adverse effects that may arise. You should also consult them before stopping using the medication to avoid the possibility of withdrawal symptoms.

OxyContin and Alcohol

Taking OxyContin and alcohol together can result in some severe consequences. Both substances are depressants that slow the functioning of your brain and body. Combining OxyContin and alcohol amplifies the effects of both substances. This can lead to serious health risks or a medical emergency.

The effects of mixing OxyContin and alcohol include:

  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Death

You may think you know how you’ll respond to mixing these substances but it’s easy to overdo it. You’re at risk of dangerous consequences if you try to combine them. Avoid drinking alcohol or using any other substances if you’re taking OxyContin.

The Risks of Combining Oxycodone and Alcohol | Infographic

Can a Person Overdose on OxyContin?

Your body can only tolerate a certain amount of OxyContin. Taking more than your body is capable of processing will cause an overdose. If you’ve never used it before, your tolerance for the medication will be very low. That’s why you should always consult with your doctor or a physician before taking OxyContin. You want to avoid the risk of accidental overdose.

Overdosing on OxyContin is dangerous and possibly fatal. Signs of an OxyContin overdose include:

  • Stomach pains
  • Spasms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Coma
  • Seizures

If you notice these signs in a loved one, call for immediate medical attention. There is a high risk of death due to overdose on OxyContin.

Side Effects of OxyContin

The use of OxyContin comes with many different side effects. Some are only mild discomforts that dissipate within a few days or weeks of starting use. Others are severe reactions that may require medical attention. Know the possible side effects of OxyContin before starting use.

Side Effects of Oxycontin

General Side Effects

General side effects of OxyContin include:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Itchiness
  • Sweating

Cardiovascular Side Effects

Cardiovascular side effects of OxyContin include:

  • Slowed or abnormal heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Low blood pressure

Dermatologic Side Effects

Dermatologic side effects of OxyContin include:

  • Sweating
  • Rash
  • Sensitivity to the sun

Gastrointestinal Side Effects

Gastrointestinal side effects of OxyContin include:

  • Lower appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tongue inflammation

Neurologic Side Effects

Neurologic side effects of OxyContin include:

  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Hallucinations
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Seizures

Respiratory Side Effects

Respiratory side effects of OxyContin include:

  • Coughing
  • Slowed breathing

Addiction to OxyContin

Abuse and addiction to OxyContin are major concerns. It is a powerful and highly addictive medication. OxyContin addiction and abuse can cause serious and even life-threatening outcomes. The drug is often credited as being a significant catalyst in the expansion of opioid addiction throughout the United States. Addiction to OxyContin and other opioids has become a severe problem throughout the country, especially in rural areas and Appalachia.

Addiction to Oxycontin

Is OxyContin Addictive?

Despite its legitimate uses as a treatment for severe and chronic pain, OxyContin is addictive. Even if you have a legitimate prescription for the medication, there is a serious potential for addiction when using it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that an estimated 25% of patients on long-term opioid care become addicted. That means 1 in 4 people who use the medication for authorized medical purposes still may become addicted.

How Do You Get Addicted to OxyContin?

Not everyone who uses OxyContin develops an addiction. Still, with 25% of people developing dependence or an abuse problem, it’s a very real problem. How do you get addicted to OxyContin, though? Why do some people have a problem while others are able to use it as prescribed?

OxyContin addiction develops because your body develops a tolerance to the medication over time. This means your body adapts to the drug when you take it for an extended period. The longer you take OxyContin, the more you need to take to feel the same effects you did when you first started using it.

You get addicted to OxyContin when you start needing to take more of it to feel those desired effects. Once you’re taking more than prescribed you’ve reached a dangerous point and should consider seeking help for your use.

Why is OxyContin Addictive?

OxyContin is addictive because of its unique extended-release properties. It has a higher concentration of the active ingredient oxycodone in it which makes it a stronger medication. When someone crushes an OxyContin pill and snorts it, they expose themself to more than they would with other prescription drugs.

The producers of OxyContin experienced severe legal repercussions over the last few years for their role in the opioid crisis. They downplayed the severity of why OxyContin is addictive and encouraged doctors to continue prescribing it to patients. Now that the rates of people struggling with opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose are at such staggering numbers, Purdue Pharma is facing the repercussions.

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OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms

Your body becomes dependent on OxyContin when you take it for an extended period. It adapts to the presence of the medication and learns to function effectively while you take it. Your physical and psychological well-being relies upon the regular doses you take. When you stop using it, especially if you stop using it all at once, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms.

Oxycontin Withdrawal Symptoms

OxyContin withdrawal symptoms are the physical and psychological responses to the lack of the drug in your system. They range from mild to severe depending on factors like how much of the medication you use or how long you used it for. When you first stop using OxyContin, some of the withdrawal symptoms you may experience include:

  • Irritation or anger
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Teary eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Yawning

Once the medication clears out of your system, you’ll experience more intense OxyContin withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Digestive problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps

You should never stop using OxyContin suddenly because you put yourself at risk of these uncomfortable effects. A taper is recommended when stopping use to avoid experiencing the withdrawal effects of OxyContin. Consult with your physician or seek medical attention if you plan to stop using the medication.

How Do You Treat OxyContin Addiction?

OxyContin addiction is the most serious risk of using the medication. Although addiction cannot be cured, there are ways you can treat OxyContin addiction. The best option for overcoming substance abuse problems is at a specialized addiction treatment facility.

Addiction treatment programs provide guidance and support when you’re trying to stop using drugs and alcohol. Quitting on your own can be difficult and dangerous; seeking help from a treatment facility ensures you receive the assistance you need.

There are multiple levels of care for treating OxyContin addiction. Effective treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The varying treatment levels provide the amount of treatment that is best for you and your situation.

Medical Drug Detox

Medical detox is often the first stage of a comprehensive addiction treatment program. It separates you from any substances in your system, including OxyContin. Detox provides supervision to make sure you’re safe during the withdrawal period. Some provide medication (referred to as medication-assisted treatment) to relieve the effects of withdrawals and keep you comfortable.

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab is a full-time, residential addiction treatment program. You attend therapy, groups, and more during the day and reside either in the facility or at a connected off-site location in the evenings. It’s a good choice if you feel you can’t stay away from substances on your own and need ongoing accountability and support.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is a step down from inpatient rehab. There are multiple kinds of outpatient rehab programs that offer different amounts of treatment hours during the week. People either attend outpatient as a follow-up to a residential treatment program. Others opt for outpatient treatment because they don’t have the time or ability to step away from their existing responsibilities to attend a full-time treatment program.

Where Do You Treat OxyContin Addiction?

You can treat OxyContin addiction and many treatment facilities throughout the country. If you’re looking for one of the best places to treat OxyContin addiction, though, Hawaii Island Recovery can help. We offer a state-of-the-art, comprehensive approach to addiction treatment on the big island of Hawaii. Find solace and support in the beautiful environment of Hawaii while focusing on overcoming your struggles with OxyContin and learning to live sober.

Get Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one need help, call Hawaii Island Recovery toll-free right now.