It’s a common misconception that teens who become addicted to OxyContin come from low-income families and have pervasive difficulties at school long before they turn to drugs. The truth is that OxyContin addiction can happen to almost any teen, including teens who don’t fit the standard profile for drug addiction.
Consider the story of Christopher, reported by NPR. When he was in high school, he was affectionate and close to his mother, and he was captain of his football and wrestling teams. He lived in a middle-class suburb in Massachusetts. His grades were good. Then, he was injured in sports and given Percocet. Soon, with the help of his friends, he developed a taste for OxyContin. He developed an addiction to the drug, and when in college, transitioned to heroin. Christopher died of an overdose in 2005.
OxyContin is a powerful medication that can quickly be addictive. Teens with OxyContin addictions face serious health consequences, and they need the help of their parents in order to recover. If, after reading this article, you recognize the symptoms of OxyContin addiction in your own child, please contact us at Teen Rehab, and find the right program to help your child recover.
Ironically, OxyContin was first developed as a response to concerns about abuse and addiction. Where pills made of simple hydrocodone could be taken in large quantities and cause immediate intoxication, OxyContin pills wrapped their active ingredients in time-release bubbles, making it harder for people to take in large doses for the high they craved. At least, that was the theory. Unfortunately, people quickly discovered that they could crush the pills and thereby release the chemicals from their time-release properties. By doing this, they could feel the entire impact of the drug all at the same time, in one big rush.
For some teens, this stair-stepping dosage levels of OxyContin provides an added layer of attraction. The body becomes accustomed to dealing with OxyContin coursing through the veins, and as a result, it begins to scale back its reaction to the drug. Addicted teens may find they need more and more OxyContin in order to feel the same effect. Some teens just take more pills but others look for pills that contain a higher per-dose strength. They can slowly increase their dose in this way.
The Link to Heroin
There may come a time, as the user continues to take drugs and the body continues to react, when the teen is spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on OxyContin. Doctors may never approve prescriptions at the strength the teen needs, and if the teen is buying the drugs from friends or dealers, the habit may become simply too difficult to sustain. Unfortunately, many of these teens turn to heroin as a reasonable substitute. Heroin works on the same receptors as OxyContin, but it’s often available at a much lower price. Users can feel the same, or even a stronger, response from heroin than they could from OxyContin, and they may not spend nearly as much money.
According to an article published in the journal American Family Physician, this movement between OxyContin and heroin is quite common. Half of the people in this study, which was quite small, transitioned from OxyContin to heroin, and they mentioned that they never would have tried heroin had they not being addicted to OxyContin. This sort of result has caused some medical professionals to label OxyContin a “gateway drug” that can lead a user to a lifetime of addiction.
Risks of Addiction
Teens who abuse OxyContin can face a wide variety of serious health problems as a result of their abuse. For example, the pills they crush and snort may contain ingredients that don’t readily dissolve. These ingredients are designed to help the pill stay together as it moves through the digestive system.
Users who crush and snort these pills may be snorting in materials that hang together and travel to delicate organs like the:
When they arrive, these materials can become stuck and cause ongoing irritation. Sometimes, that material can even cause infections, and those infections can be life-threatening.
In addition, teens who are addicted to OxyContin are often taking extremely high doses of the drug in order to feel the sensations they expect. OxyContin, when taken at these doses, can cause a severe depression of breathing and heart rate, and this could prove fatal. As more and more people develop addictions to OxyContin, the death rates from overdose seem to also go up. According to an article published by the National Drug Intelligence Center, the number of times that oxycodone was mentioned by the Drug Abuse Warning Network Medical Examiners increased by 93 percent between 1997 and 1998. It’s clear that the drug is dangerous, and people can die due to overdose, even if they have extensive experience in abusing the drug.
Why Help Is Needed
Teens who abuse OxyContin do not suffer from a lack of character or an inherent case of laziness. Parents may be tempted to use a “tough love” approach, locking kids in their rooms until they’ve cleared the drugs from their systems and seem able to handle the real world alone. In general, this is a bad idea. Teens with an addiction need compassion and assistance, rather than punishment. Their addictions have changed the wiring in their brains, making clear thinking difficult and abstinence almost impossible. Teens will often need medication therapy, to retrain their bodies to survive without OxyContin. They’ll also need extensive counseling, so they can learn more about addiction and how it can be successfully controlled as they move through adolescence and to adulthood. Parents will need to support their children on this journey, and they may even need a few lessons of their own on addiction. Together, parents and their teens can successfully recover from OxyContin addiction. They just need a little help in order to get started. Please contact us to find out more.
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