Is Medication Necessary in OxyContin Rehab?

Prescription opiate pain relief medications, while effective, can cause a range of unforeseen adverse effects when abused or used for recreational purposes. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, OxyContin, one of the more powerful opiate drugs carries an extremely high addiction potential that’s wreaked havoc in more than a few lives:

  • 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008
  • 475,000 emergency room visits in 2009
  • With over 12 million Americans abusing OxyContin and drugs like it in 2010

While it may be easy to attribute these large numbers to OxyContin’s popularity in terms of the intense “high” effect it delivers, this drug’s mechanism of action in the brain and body creates an insatiable desire for more of the same. By the time a person seeks out needed treatment help, OxyContin’s effects have become ingrained within his or her brain chemistry, making it all the more difficult to maintain abstinence for any length of time.

For these reasons, OxyContin rehab programs administer medication therapies in cases of long-term drug use and severe addiction. In effect, the need for medication in OxyContin rehab depends on the extent of damage caused by the drug.

OxyContin Effects

oxycontin addiction help

It is often recommended that people take medications while working to overcome opiate addiction.

Commonly prescribed to treat moderate and severe pain symptoms, OxyContin tablets produce a slow-acting effect that works to relieve pain symptoms for up to 12 hours. When used for recreational purposes, users grind up the tablet into powder form and inject the drug. This method delivers the full effects of the drug all at once.

Like most every opiate-type drug, OxyContin works by interfering with nerve signal transmissions throughout the central nervous system. It does this by stimulating individual brain cell sites to secrete dopamine and serotonin, both being essential neurotransmitter chemicals.

By the time addicts enter OxyContin rehab, brain cell sites have undergone considerable deterioration causing widespread chemical imbalances throughout the brain. In cases of long-term drug abuse, OxyContin rehab must address the damage caused to brain cell structures as well as deal with the addiction mindset that comes with chronic drug abuse.

Withdrawal Aftereffects

The widespread deterioration of brain cell sites can have lasting effects on overall brain function. People recovering from long-term addictions may well still experience withdrawal aftereffects from OxyContin long after they stop using the drug.

Withdrawal aftereffects take the form of deep depression and intense drug cravings that can persist for years into the recovery process. These aftereffects account for the high rate of relapse that occurs in opiate addiction recovery. In the absence of needed medication treatment, any progress made in OxyContin rehab will likely be short-lived.

The Role of Medication Therapies in OxyContin Rehab

OxyContin rehab programs offer medication therapies as a treatment option. In effect, these medications help to support damaged brain structures and restore a normal chemical balance in the brain.

Once brain chemical levels return to normal, withdrawal aftereffects subside to a point where a person starts to feel normal again. Otherwise, the discomfort that comes with withdrawal aftereffects makes it all but impossible for those in recovery to benefit from OxyContin rehab treatment.

Types of Medication Therapies

As different people enter OxyContin rehab with their own sets of circumstances and histories, the types of medication therapies used in treatment can vary depending on a person’s specific treatment needs. Many of the medications used in OxyContin rehab are also opiate drugs, through synthetically made to produce certain therapeutic effects.

The types of medication therapies used in OxyContin rehab fall into three categories –

  • Agonists
  • Antagonists
  • Partial agonists

Agonist-type medications are synthetically made opiates. As opiates, these drugs can alleviate most all of the withdrawal aftereffects brought on by chronic drug use. Unlike addictive opiates, agonists carry a considerably lower potential for addiction.

Antagonist-medications also may contain opiate ingredients, though these drugs cause brain cell sites to expel any existing opiate materials. In effect, these drugs work to reduce the likelihood of relapse by bringing on unpleasant withdrawal effects when relapse occurs. OxyContin rehab programs use antagonist medication therapies in much the same way as alcohol rehab programs use Antabuse.

Partial agonists work in much the same way as agonist-type medications, though with a milder, slow-acting effect. Partial agonists may also produce a combined agonist-antagonist effect by helping to relieve withdrawal aftereffects while at the same time reducing one’s potential of relapse.

Medications Used in OxyContin Rehab


Methadone medication therapy has the longest history as an opiate addiction treatment, spanning over 50 years. Methadone is a synthetic opiate drug that produces agonist-type effects.

With methadone’s long-history as an opiate addiction treatment, standard protocols have been put in place for administering this drug. Since methadone does produce opiate-like effects, these protocols help to reduce rates of methadone abuse.

Typically, methadone doses are administered on a daily basis at the start of OxyContin rehab treatment. As a person progresses through the program, take-home doses may be prescribed.


As one of the more recent opiate addiction treatment medications, buprenorphine comes in two forms known as Subutex and Suboxone. Buprenorphine acts as a partial agonist treatment.

Subutex contains opiate ingredients and so most resembles methadone in its effects. Suboxone contains an added antagonist component for “anti-relapse” purposes. In general, partial agonists carry a lower addiction potential than agonist-type treatments.

Newer Medication Treatment Therapies

Within the past decade, OxyContin rehab treatment approaches have incorporated new medication treatment therapies that can be administered in different ways. Some of the more commonly known treatments include –

  • LAMM
  • Probuphine implant
  • Vivitrol

LAMM works in much the same way as methadone, but produces long-acting effects that can last for up to three days. Probuphine implants contain buprenorphine. As an implant device, Probuphine can deliver an ongoing dose of the drug into the bloodstream for up to six months. Vivitrol is a non-opiate based treatment that works to reduce drug cravings as well as guard against relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


For people coming off long histories of OxyContin use, medication therapies provide a much needed support in recovery. As drug addiction, in general, affects the body in much the same way as disease, the medication therapies used in OxyContin rehab work much like insulin does in managing diabetes symptoms. Ultimately, relapse prevention becomes the overall objective when taking medication treatments in recovery.