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Understanding Oxycontin Side Effects

Oxycontin—an opioid containing oxycodone typically prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain—causes a wide variety of effects both expected and desirable as well as dangerous and potentially deadly. When first beginning use of Oxycontin on a medically-prescribed basis and under the care of a physician, typical side effects include the gastrointestinal symptoms of constipation, nausea, stomach pain, a loss of appetite and vomiting. Other expected side effects are somnolence (sleepiness), dull headaches, dry mouth, moderate sweating and a decrease in sensitivity to pain. The majority of these symptoms disappear within three days of beginning a regimen of Oxycontin, however if any of them persist for longer the individual should contact their doctor immediately.

If other side effects appear when first starting the drug—such as chest pains; a fast, slow or irregular heartbeat; hives or rashes; swelling of the face, tongue, throat, lips or extremities; difficulty breathing or lightheadedness when standing or changing positions—it’s vital to seek emergency care at once, as these effects can easily lead to dangerous seizures, coma, cardiac arrest and death.

When a physician prescribes Oxycontin or another drug that contains oxycodone, it’s often intended to be used for an extended period in the treatment of chronic pain as it works on a time-release basis and therefore doesn’t become too rapidly absorbed in the body and lead to dangerous adverse effects. However, when the drug is used in a manner not intended—such as mixed with alcohol or other opioid or narcotic drugs—serious and life-threatening conditions can occur. Aside from a persistent impairment of mental and physical abilities, the more dangerous side effects of Oxycontin abuse can include irregular breathing, difficulty with respiration, extremely low blood pressure and heart failure than can result in cardiac arrest. Additionally, addiction specialists note that many abusers of Oxycontin experience long term effects from their addiction including financial and legal problems, poor decision making skills, issues with family and friends and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts and attempts.

The most common abuse of Oxycontin involves scraping off the time-release coating of the pill, crushing it into a powder and either mixing it with water, inhaling it or injecting it directly into the bloodstream to create an intense and immediate euphoric high and sense of calmness and wellbeing. However, when taken in these manners the drug quickly overwhelms the body’s ability to process the drug, which can cause endocarditis—an infection of the heart—as well as scar and collapse the body’s veins. If the drug is injected, bacterial and soft-tissue infections in addition to boils and abscesses can occur, and liver and kidney diseases are a distinct possibility as these organs cannot metabolize the drug quickly enough when it’s taken in large and unsafe dosages.