Your Soul for a Pill

Offer the devil your soul and in return you’ll receive many of the delights your heart desires. But, as the legend goes, the results will be illusory and much less than expected.

Kind of like opioids.

Not that opioids can’t do much good.

If you’re in catastrophic pain, or even chronic pain, an opioid can free you from the unbearable. Living with pain is much more than just about being uncomfortable. Pain can make even the most modest physical activities feel unmanageable: Working, exercising, cooking, lifting or carrying things, even sitting or lying down can be a challenge and sometimes impossible. If untreated, undertreated, or mistreated, chronic pain may cause a host of its own symptoms. It can affect heart rate and blood pressure, physical equilibrium, and even cause functional changes in the brain.

Encoded for Pain

Even worse, pain over time sensitizes the nervous system. The body is trained to continue to experience pain even if the initial source of the pain goes away. This “phantom” pain – pain which is now encoded into the nervous system – hurts just as much as any “actual” pain.

Opioids can treat this encoded pain, but the effectiveness fades over time. The reason for this is that the body adapts to the presence of the drug and will grow new receptors to accommodate the presence of the drug. Higher and higher doses will be necessary to experience the same effect. And, of course, the longer they’re used, the greater the chance of addiction. Because of this, doctors now will more often only recommend a drug like OxyContin for short term therapy.

The Recreational Drug of Choice

OxyContin was designed for to treat pain for 12 hours a dose. The promise was that a someone taking the drug for pain would not have to wake up in the middle of the night to take another dose. It would turn out that this was not the case –despite approval by the FDA, users of the drug experienced a much shorter interval – and users would often find themselves feeling the return of the pain along with withdrawal symptoms while waiting the recommended 12 hours. This would become a powerful motivator for people to take more drugs.

OxyContin has been called the “most dramatically successful” opioid as well as the most abused. Though, this status has been changing recently with its “abuse-deterrent” reformulation. (In the “abuse-deterrent” version binders are added to turn the pills into a gummy goo when crushed to make it more difficult to smoke or snort.) The active ingredient in OxyContin is a time released form of oxycodone, a synthetic form of morphine found in other painkillers like Percodan and Percocet. OxyContin is a more potent form. According to a study, oxycodone was the recreational opioid of choice by significantly more users, much more than hydrocodone.1 The reason: The quality of its high.

Oxycodone vs. Oxymorphone

While the “abuse-deterrent” version of OxyContin has made it harder to abuse, it hasn’t made it impossible. It has had some positive effect on lowering the abuse of OxyContin. Unfortunately, it hasn’t eliminated opiate abuse. Some claim to have found ways around the new formula. But, as OxyContin’s use becomes more restricted, heroin use has soared. Up to 70 percent of former users switched to heroin.2

This change to OxyContin has also increased the use of Opana. Opana is oxymorphone, a stronger medication that oxycodone. Oxymorphone is 10 times more potent than morphine and about twice as strong as oxycodone (oxycodone and hydrocodone have equivalent potency).

A Clean and Dangerous High

Users of OxyContin will attest to its “clean high.” They will say there’s no nod or loaded feeling like you get with heroin. In its euphoria, users can fell invincible, like nothing or no one can bring them down; they feel happy, energetic, and pain-free. Troubles can seem to float away on a pink cloud.

It is these qualities that make OxyContin one of the most abused, most dangerous, and possibly most addictive drugs available. With increased use, users may feel they can tolerate more of the drug and in the process encounter lethal doses. The consequences can include respiratory failure, especially when combined with other medications or alcohol. Users can become both physically and psychologically affected by the drug in a matter of weeks. As the effects taper and more of the drug is needed to match to same feeling, users will ingest larger amounts to boost their highs. In doing so they begin to see the state of not being high as being “sick.” The body develops a craving to the drug and reacts negatively to a lack of it in the system. Once this happens, to stop taking the drug will be difficult and will result in serious withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction vs Pain Management

To withhold medication from someone in pain is inhumane. Doctors have come under increasing pressure to be more careful with how they prescribe opiates like OxyContin. Doctors have been asked to more carefully consider a patient’s previous personal or family history with addiction. Also, people who are addicted or are more likely to become often have a high aversion to pain. This can include more than physical pain but also emotional, psychological, and even familial pain. An addict is quick to ask for relief when dealing with some amount of pain on their own is necessary.

Some doctors have argued that no one should be treated with opiates for more than two weeks, especially those with a family history of addiction. To go beyond that should require extraordinary need and careful monitoring by someone expert in the addiction field. (Most doctors don’t have the training.) Otherwise, other types of non-narcotic medication should be offered – such as Toradal – as an alternative. Non-traditional therapies such as massage may also be recommended. Chronic pain usually comes as an expression of some past trauma, such as an injury or accident. This tightening of access to drugs like OxyContin has also made it harder for patients with legitimate need to get the medications they need.

If you or a loved one feels a need to overcome an addiction, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout Southern California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.


OxyContin: The Most Dangerous Drug Ever?