OxyContin contains oxycodone, an opioid agonist that is primarily used for analgesia. In addition to pain relief, OxyContin can elicit effects including euphoria, respiratory depression, feelings of relaxation, cough suppression and constipation. With OxyContin, like all pure opioid agonist analgesics, there is increasing pain relief as patients are administered increasing dosages. To contrast, with non-opioid analgesics or mixed agonist/antagonists, there is no analgesic benefit to increasing dosages.
What is OxyContin and How Does it Work?
OxyContin comes in the form of a controlled release tablet that provides controlled delivery of the medication over 12 hours. The precise way in which OxyContin works to produce pain relief isn't known. There are, however, specific opioid receptors in the brain and body that have been identified as playing a role in the process.
OxyContin works directly on respiratory centers in the brain stem to cause respiratory depression. Cough suppression is brought about because OxyContin works on the cough center in the brain's medulla. This may happen at a lower dosage than what's needed for analgesia. Constipation is a real concern for people who take OxyContin and other opioids. The drug reduces motility in the body and hampers food digestion in the small intestine.
The Biology Behind OxyContin Dependency
Patients who are taking OxyContin or are considering it should speak with a doctor first to make sure that benefits outweigh potential risks. OxyContin is considered to be a drug of abuse and has led to numerous accidental overdoses. It can also be habit-forming, leading to dependence and addiction.
Opioid addiction is recognized as a central nervous system disorder brought on by a continuous intake of these drugs. Long-term use of these drugs can cause nerve cells in the brain to stop functioning correctly. In a healthy body, these nerve cells would produce endogenous opioids, which are endorphins, or natural painkillers. The body eventually stops producing these endorphins because they are receiving opioids. This degeneration of nerve cells is what's responsible for the physical dependency.