Pain & Addiction to Oxycontin

Man holding his back from chronic pain

America has an opioid problem. Opioid overdose is one of the leading causes of death in the United States [1]. There are several different kinds of opioids. Some are prescription drugs, like Oxycontin, and others, like heroin, are street drugs.

Prescription opioids like oxycontin are used for pain management. While it’s good that scientists have figured out ways to help people get relief from pain, these medications can also lead to a lot of harm. There are a few ways that access to prescription opioids can lead to addiction:

Chronic Pain & Continued Use

For people with chronic pain, they may rely on oxycontin to manage their symptoms. While oxycontin may be prescribed for short-term use, such as after an injury or surgery, people with chronic pain may be using these drugs.

The problem with this is that if someone is regularly using, they are going to build a tolerance to the drug. This means the original dose they were using to get relief will eventually not give the same effect. The dose will have to be increased to give someone the same effect.

This can be dangerous because if someone increases the dose without guidance from a doctor, they could overdose. Overdose is extremely dangerous and can be fatal.

Continued Use After Short-Term Use

Someone’s doctor may prescribe them Oxycontin to manage pain for a short amount of time. During this time, someone may discover that they like the way this medication makes them feel emotionally and physically.

Man struggling with Oxycontin addictionOpioids give users a feeling of extreme happiness. This can lead someone to continue using even after they no longer need to use these types of drugs to control pain. If someone likes the way it makes them feel, they may continue using.

While people can develop a physical dependence on opioids, there is such a thing as emotional dependence as well. Someone could use pain medication like Oxycontin in order to manage their mood or untreated mental health symptoms.

Develop a Physical Dependence to Oxycontin

Opioids impact the brain by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that gives people that feel-good and euphoric feeling. This is an oversimplified explanation, but basically, more dopamine makes people feel happier, which is why opioids make users feel really happy.

Over time, the brain can become dependent on opioids to produce dopamine. This means that without the drug, people may feel emotionally and physically bad. This can make it extremely difficult to stop using.

While pain medications can work miracles in helping people recover from injuries or manage pain, they should be taken with caution and with medical supervision. Addiction is destructive, and overdosing on Oxycontin can even cost someone their life.


[1] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.) Opioids.

[2] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, May) Prescription opioids drugfacts.

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on March 31, 2021
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 31, 2021
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