Addictive Effects of Oxycontin on the Brain
In addition to Oxycontin’s ability to reduce the perception of pain, the opiate also affects brain chemicals — known as “neurotransmitters” — that regulate mood. Additionally, the repeated use of Oxycontin affects the brain’s reward pathways, as the brain associates triggers and cues for use with pleasure, euphoria and relaxation, laying the foundation for psychological addiction.
Oxycontin’s active ingredient — oxycodone hydrochloride — provides pain relief by binding to receptors situated throughout the spinal cord and brain, known as opiate receptors. Once opiate receptors are effectively blocked, the drug triggers the release of dopamine in the brain — a brain chemical associated with feelings of well-being and pleasure.
As Oxycontin changes the perception of pleasure and pain, brain chemistry becomes altered. The brain adjusts to these altered dopamine levels, causing the user to feel “normal” only when the drug is active in the system, experiencing withdrawal symptoms from chemical deficiencies when Oxycontin exits the body.
Psychological Effects of Oxycontin Beyond Addiction
In addition to the development of chemical dependency, Oxycontin can also significantly affect the brain’s functions. In many cases, pain sensitivity actually increases once Oxycontin is no longer present in the body after prolonged use. Oxycontin can also affect the brain’s regulation of automatic functions, leading to problems with respiration. Oxycontin can also affect the brain’s ability to form, retain and recall information, leading to memory problems (and even amnesia in severe and chronic cases of addiction).
Oxycontin addiction can also lead to emotional difficulties in the long run, including the incidence of delusions, hallucinatory effects, and even the onset of delirium when long-term addiction occurs. Cognitive processes may also be disrupted, leading to disorientation and confusion, particularly during the withdrawal phase. Due to alterations in natural brain chemistry, prolonged Oxycontin use can also trigger mood swings, clinical depression, panic attacks and sleep disorders.