OxyContin is a prescription medication from the opiate family of drugs. The active ingredient is oxycodone, a semi-synthetic opiate analgesic. It is prescribed for moderate to severe pain that occurs with certain cancers and chronic pain conditions. As with most medications, OxyContin may cause side effects in some users. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help reduce or eliminate these side effects to get the most out of your medication.
Common Side Effects
Side effects common to OxyContin use generally involve the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system and nervous system. Among the most frequently reported effects are nausea, vomiting and constipation. Respiratory effects including depressed breathing and apnea are common, while frequently reported psychiatric side effects such as euphoria and paranoia occur with relative frequency.
Rare Side Effects
Less common and rare side effects of OxyContin include allergic reaction/anaphylactic shock, postural hypotension, seizure and irregular heartbeat. According to Drugs.com, between one and five percent of patients taking OxyContin experience anorexia, rash, abnormal dreams or hiccups.
Causes of Side Effects
Like other opiates, OxyContin can cause an increase in histamine levels in the user, leading to allergy-like symptoms including rash, itching, sinus pressure and dizziness. OxyContin binds to opiate receptors in the GI tract, causing the constipation so frequently reported in opiate users. It causes nausea by stimulating an area within the brain’s nausea center, leading to muscle contractions in the stomach and eventual vomiting. Bypassing the GI tract unfortunately does little to allay these effects.
Addiction and Withdrawal
Like other opiate medications, OxyContin has the potential to cause physical dependence and psychological addiction with frequent use. Discontinuing use of OxyContin abruptly after a period of daily use can lead to symptoms of withdrawal, which may include diarrhea, nausea, increased sensitivity to pain, insomnia and cravings for the drug. These symptoms may begin as shortly as six hours after your last dose and vary in duration and intensity depending on extent of use and personal physiology.
Preventing Side Effects
Side effects are an unfortunate reality of OxyContin and medications like it. Fortunately, there are ways you can prevent or lessen the severity of many of these.
To decrease symptoms associated with histamine release, take an over-the-counter antihistamine lsuch as Dramamine or Benadryl 45 minutes beforehand. Taking OxyContin on a semi-full stomach can help prevent nausea, as can concurrent use of anti-emetic herbs like ginger and peppermint. If nausea or dizziness should occur after taking OxyContin, lying down and being as still as possible can prevent vomiting.
To decrease the risks of respiratory depression, avoid going to sleep immediately after taking OxyContin, especially if you suffer from sleep apnea. Never take OxyContin with other depressants such as alcohol, benzodiazepines or sedative medications. Adhering to a dosing schedule can help reduce the risks of addiction, as can taking periodic breaks from the medication to allow your tolerance to decrease.