One of the most common prescription drug problems in America for the last two decades
has been with OxyContin. OxyContin is helpful in the treatment of cancer symptoms and chronic
severe pain when used correctly and provides extended relief of pain. However when it is
abused, the negative effects are many and varies from individual to individual and potentially
life threatening especially when the tablets are crushed and snorted, chewed, or mixed with water
and injected or smoked eliminating the time release factor and allowing for a quick and intense
rush to the brain.
In recent years OxyContin has become the illegal drug of choice for many young people
who start out abusing just to get high without ever having a doctor prescribe it for any legitimate
OxyContin has effects not just on the brain but can also have long-term physical effects
on the body. It alters the chemical composition and changes the pathways of the neural
transmitters. When OxyContin along with other opioid enter through the bloodstream up to the
brain, the chemicals attach to specialized proteins, called mu opioid receptors, which are on the
surface of opiate-sensitive neurons (Kosten,George 2002).
When they link up the domino effect starts to role and the brain triggers the mesolimbic
(midbrain) reward center. This then generates a signal in a part of the brain called the ventral
tegmental area that results in the release of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens (Inaba and
Cohen). With the release it causes feelings of pleasure. Feedback from the prefrontal cortex
to the VTA helps us overcome drives to obtain pleasure through actions that may be unsafe or
unwise, but this feedback appears to be compromised in individuals who become addicted to
drugs (Kosten,George 2002). Other areas of the brain imprints the memory that is associated
with these good feelings with the circumstances and environment they occurred in and can lead
to the craving for the drugs when the abuser reencounters those persons, places or things.
The most serious risk associated with OxyContin is respiratory depression. Some
common side effects include constipation, nausea, sedation, dizziness, vomiting, headache, dry
mouth, sweating, and weakness. The high effects can last up to 5 hours of a sedate, that of a
euphoric feeling (Kosten,George 2002).
Long term effects of OxyContin can result in increased tolerance to the drug in which
higher doses of the medication must be taken to receive the initial effects. Tolerance occurs
because the brain cells that have opioid receptors on them gradually become less responsive to
the opioid stimulation therefore, more opioid is needed to produce pleasure comparable to that
is provided in previous drug-taking episodes. Slowly over a period of time these individual can
become physically addictive causing a person to experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug
is not present. Symptoms of withdrawal stem from changes in the locus ceruleus. The neurons
in this area produces a chemical, noradrenaline and distribute it to other parts of the brain where
it stimulates wakefulness, breathing, blood pressure, and general alertness(US DHHS). When
the opioid connects to the receptor sites, they suppress the neurons releases the noradrenaline
causing a drowsiness, slowed respiration and low blood pressure. When the drug is not present
production of withdrawal symptoms are triggered which can include restlessness, muscle and
bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg
movements (Inaba and Cohen).
We have become a nation of pill poppers. Statics taken in 2010 according to Wall Street
analysts Cowen & Co there were 254 million prescriptions for opioids that were filled in the
U.S. The social effects that OxyContin addiction displays are plenty. It can vary by person...
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