OxyContin
and Depression

Every year, the incidence of opioid abuse steadily increases, with no end in sight.

The number of prescriptions for opioids skyrocketed from 76 million to over 200 million between 1991 and 2013. And out of this number, 2.4 million people in this country misuse these legally prescribed drugs. The situation has gotten so bad, that opioid addiction has contributed to 40,000 American deaths over the past 20 years.

One of the deadliest of all opioids is oxycodone, which has been in the news a lot in recent years. The United States alone uses 81% of the world’s supply of this drug! Is there a link between OxyContin and depression? Let’s explore that question.

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid pain medication, and one of many narcotics obtained from the opium poppy.

It’s used when a medication is needed to manage extremely severe pain. For example, pain like a patient in the last stages of cancer might experience.

The higher strengths of this drug should only be taken by people who have already been taking moderate to large amounts of opioid pain medication. At this dosage, the medication can cause a fatal overdose if an individual hasn’t been taking opioids regularly.

Oxycodone works by switching on certain neurotransmitters in the brain that alter how the body feels pain. So, OxyContin and depression both affect the brain’s neurotransmitters. Are there any other links between Oxycontin and depression.

Oxycodone vs. OxyContin

Oxycodone is a medication that belongs to the class of drugs known as “opioid analgesics.” It’s considered an opiate agonist, which means it replicates the opiate-like effect of endorphins that the brain naturally produces.

Purdue Pharma makes OxyContin, which is a patented brand version of oxycodone. It’s also the extended-release version of the drug, which means it’s supposed to help with 12 hours of continual pain management.

An investigation by the LA Times was revelatory. It showed that while Purdue claimed OxyContin would provide relief for 12 hours, this wasn’t true for some patients—causing them to experience pain well before the 12 hours were up. That same investigation revealed that Purdue knew about the problem but continued to claim in their marketing materials that it provided 12 hours of relief.

Can OxyContin/Oxycodone Cause Depression?

Prescription opioids such as oxycodone can increase the risk of depression. In one study conducted by researchers at St. Louis University, 10% of all patients taking opioids were diagnosed with depression after taking the drug for only one month.

These patients were taking the drug for conditions such as post-surgical pain, bone fractures, and arthritis. They hadn’t received a diagnosis of depression before treatment. That makes it appear that OxyContin and depression are closely related.

There’s a two-way relationship between oxycodone use and clinical depression, meaning suffering from one condition increases the likelihood you’ll suffer from the other condition. In other words, they feed off each other. Oxycodone is less effective if depression is already present, which can lead to increased use by those who abuse it.

Some patients report that their euphoria sometimes instantaneously transforms into its complete opposite. This dysphoria then clouds their thinking with thoughts of doom and despair. Withdrawal from oxycodone can also cause feelings of depression.

Why Might a Person Turn to Oxycodone When Depressed?

A person might turn to OxyContin when in the depths of clinical depression because the ecstatic high produced by the drug annihilates the negative feelings. It’s a mistaken attempt to medicate oneself with these medications without the guidance of a doctor or pharmacist. But, OxyContin and depression are an unsafe combination.

How Could OxyContin Make a Depressed Person Feel Better?

Oxycodone can trigger a rush of dopamine to your brain. This chemical is a neurotransmitter that has many functions, including helping to intensify feelings of pleasure. OxyContin and depression both affect the pleasure centers of the brain.

Can You Become Addicted to OxyContin/Oxycodone?

Treatment for OxyContin/Oxycodone Addiction?

When it comes to treatment for oxycodone addiction, a three-pronged strategy consisting of the following parts is best:

Residential treatment

Medication

Therapy

The first step in residential treatment is detox. This is the process of clearing the drug from the body. Withdrawal from this medication starts within eight hours after the last time you took a pill. A doctor in the treatment center will often prescribe buprenorphine to help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal.

After detox is completed, the patient will stop treatment for OxyContin and depression treatment will begin. There will also be treatment to minimize the chance of relapsing. This includes medication and various kinds of therapy.

What was the OxyContin Lawsuit about?

The OxyContin scandal had its genesis in the 90s, when pharmaceutical companies, in their rush to put profits over people, told the medical community that opioids shouldn’t be just for severe pain, but for any kind.

Purdue Pharma released their new drug OxyContin on the public in 1996. They marketed it to physicians. By the year 2000, 6 million prescriptions for the medication were being written. They followed the lead of other companies, and disingenuously told doctors that it was okay to use this powerful painkiller to treat everyday maladies such as back and knee problems.

Purdue Pharma

In October 2017, The New Yorker published an article about how the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, manipulated the oxycodone markets. The article showed how the Sackler’s business practices led to the rise of addiction to oxycodone in the United States.

In 2019, the New York Times published an article alleging that Mortimer Sackler, one of the owners of Purdue Pharma, told executives of the company that the greater the strength of the pills they sold, the greater their success would be. So, their pharmaceutical reps found ways to hawk ever-increasing pill strengths to physicians.

This was verified by documents in the lawsuit that the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey brought against Purdue Pharma. These files proved, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that Purdue Pharma knew that high doses of OxyContin drastically increase the risk of severe side effects, including addiction.

The lawsuit alleges that the company’s marketing minimized addiction risks, leading to more widespread prescription of opioids. This fueled the opioid crisis, and society is still paying the price today with countless human lives sacrificed to greed.

Purdue Pharma proposed a $12 billion settlement. However, the Attorney Generals of 23 states (including Massachusetts) rejected the settlement offer in September of last year.

So, the case continues . . .

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