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Why is OxyContin So Addictive?

By Taylor Weeks
Medically Reviewed by Yilang Tang, MD, PhD on June 28, 2021
Learn what makes OxyContin so addictive, and how to identify addiction in yourself or a loved one.

Is OxyContin addictive? OxyContin is a prescription opioid medication that is widely prescribed in the United States to treat severe or chronic pain. But this medication can be addictive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 25% of patients who are prescribed opioids for a long period of time may become addicted. 

What Makes OxyContin So Addictive?

OxyContin is an extended-release version of a medication called oxycodone. Although the extended-release formulation is supposed to make OxyContin less addictive than oxycodon, using it in a way in which it was not intended increases the risk of addiction, Asif Ilyas, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and president of the Rothman Institute for Opioid Research & Education, tells WebMD Connect to Care. When used as directed, the medication will work slowly over several hours. But when crushed and snorted, the user experiences the full effect of the drug immediately, which is more likely to lead to addiction.

Another problem with OxyContin is that people who use the drug may quickly build up a tolerance, Ilyas explains. When a tolerance has been built, the drug dosage the person usually takes no longer has the desired effect. So the person using OxyContin will often have to keep taking more and more of the drug in order to feel high.

Oxycontin Addiction Symptoms

Mary Gay, PhD, LPC, an addiction treatment specialist at Summit Wellness Group in Atlanta, tells WebMD Connect to Care that a hallmark sign of addiction to any opioid medication is experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. These symptoms include:

  • Muscle or bone pain
  • Problems sleeping
  • Cold flashes or chills
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

Another sign of OxyContin addiction is obsessing over or craving the drug, Gay explains. As with addiction to any drug, a person addicted to OxyContin may also experience changes in their mental state or behavior, including:

  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Avoiding social interaction

Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help. 

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