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  • OxyContin Side Effects | Short-Term & Long-Term Health Effects

    man holding a bottle of Oxycontin

    OxyContin is a brand name prescription painkiller used for daily management of severe pain. It is an extended-release drug that provides pain relief for up to twelve hours. OxyContin is usually prescribed for long-term pain relief which can lead to abuse, dependency, and addiction. 

    The active ingredient in OxyContin is oxycodone, which is a potent opioid with a high potential for dependency and addiction. Oxycodone is also available in combination with acetaminophen in the brand name prescription drugs Percocet and Roxicet. 

    Short-Term Effects Of OxyContin

    OxyContin and other opioids provide pain relief by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system. Once the oxycodone binds to these receptors, it blocks pain, slows breathing, and can cause a euphoric sensation. 

    The longer you take OxyContin, the more your brain relies on it to feel pleasure and pain relief. This can make it more difficult to come off of it because you may become psychologically dependent. 

    Side Effects

    Even when taken as prescribed, you may experience side effects along with pain relief when you take oxycodone. Side effects vary depending on your dose and how your body reacts to opioid medications. 

    Common side effects may include:

    • dry mouth
    • drowsiness
    • nausea
    • mood changes
    • lightheadedness

    Serious side effects that may require medical help include:

    • loss of appetite
    • hives
    • dizziness
    • chest pain
    • changes in heart rate
    • muscle stiffness

    Higher doses of OxyContin can lead to more intense side effects and adverse reactions. You can report these to the food and drug administration (FDA) at 1-800-FDA-1088.

    Long-Term Side Effects Of OxyContin

    Along with short-term side effects, you may experience other physical and psychological health effects from long-term oxycodone use. 

    Opioid-Induced Constipation (OIC)

    According to the National Institute on Health, opioid-induced constipation occurs in up to 60% of people who are prescribed opioid pain medications. Constipation can lead to a bowel blockage in severe cases, which can lead to hospitalization or death. 

    Symptoms of opioid-induced constipation include:

    • bloating
    • constipation
    • diarrhea
    • nausea

    Constipation is a serious side effect in long-term use of oxycodone because it leads to poor quality of life. Many people stop taking their pain medication because of chronic constipation, bloating, and stomach pain. 

    Other Physical Effects

    OxyContin can also affect several other areas of your body:

    • respiratory system: Oxycodone causes breathing to slow and if taken long-term can lead to sleep apnea, irregular breathing, and low oxygen levels in your blood. 
    • cardiovascular system: Long-term use of opioids is associated with increased risks for heart attacks and heart failure.
    • central nervous system: You may develop an increased sensitivity to pain, which may cause you to perceive the medication to be insufficient in treating your pain. 
    • hormones: Oxycodone affects hormones, which can lead to infertility, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, and low testosterone.

    OxyContin Tolerance & Dependence

    Long-term use of oxycodone can also lead to tolerance and physical dependence. Tolerance is when your body needs higher doses of the drug to maintain its pain-relieving effects. You may eventually become dependent on oxycodone and experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop taking it. 

    Withdrawal symptoms may include: 

    • anxiety
    • cravings
    • muscle aches
    • runny nose
    • cramping
    • goosebumps

    Withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity depending on how high your dose is and how long you have been taking oxycodone. 

    OxyContin Overdose

    One of the biggest risks of long-term use of OxyContin is a life-threatening overdose. Overdoses are caused when you take more than the prescribed amount or if you take your next dose too soon. OxyContin is especially dangerous because it is an extended-release tablet that stays active in your system for twelve hours.

    Oxycodone and other opioids cause low blood pressure and slow your breathing, especially in high doses. This can lead to respiratory depression and your body eventually stops breathing on its own. Overdoses can be reversed quickly if naloxone (Narcan) is administered in time.

    Signs of oxycodone overdose:

    • pale or bluish skin
    • clammy skin
    • vomiting or gurgling 
    • breathing problems 
    • unconscious 

    Mixing oxycodone with alcohol, benzodiazepines, and illicit drugs increases the risk of fatal overdose. These substances have similar effects to oxycodone that can lead to extreme tiredness, coma, and shallow breathing. 

    If you think you or a loved one may be experiencing an overdose, call for emergency help immediately.

    OxyContin Abuse & Addiction

    The opioid epidemic is an ongoing public health crisis in the United States. Using opioid pain relievers to manage chronic pain increases your risk of addiction. Addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes compulsive drug use. 

    Drug abuse, dependency, genetics, and mental health can all play a role in addiction. 

    Signs of oxycodone addiction include:

    • taking more than the prescribed amount of medication
    • seeking early refills on a prescription
    • taking oxycodone to cover up feelings
    • failed attempts to stop taking oxycodone

    If you think you may be addicted, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health Specialist to discuss treatment options.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on February 9, 2023
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