Like all opioids, oxycodone (brand name OxyContin) is a pain medication that can also create a “high” if taken at high doses.
People who have experienced an opioid high often describe it as a state of feeling extreme wellbeing, safety, warmth and relaxation.[1, 2] This sensation can be extremely pleasurable and turns on the brain’s “reward system”, encouraging people to use the drug over and over again to obtain the euphoric state. However, with repeated use, patients can become physically and emotionally dependant on the opioid drug, leading to an opioid use disorder (OUD).
Why Does OxyContin Get You High?
All opioids, including Oxycodone, bind to opioid receptors in the brain. Opioid receptors are incredibly complex and lead to a number of different effects in the body. However, simply put, they fundamentally release a chemical called dopamine.
Dopamine creates feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Your brain cells release this chemical naturally when exposed to something pleasant (like a tasty meal). But OxyContin’s release of dopamine is greater and more rapid, creating an artificial feeling of euphoria, or a “high”. 
What Are the Risks of an OxyContin High?
The first and most immediate risk of oxycodone high is an overdose. When opioids bind in the brain, they produce a number of effects, including suppression of the hindbrain, which is responsible for our automatic urge to breath. If this is suppressed, the body can spontaneously stop breathing. This is called an opioid overdose.
An OxyContin overdose causes the following symptoms:
- Pale or clammy skin
- Limp body
- Bluish-colored fingernails or lips
- Slow or stopped breathing
An overdose is a medical emergency. Quick administration of the opioid blocker naloxone can reverse an overdose, and should always be available for anyone using oxycodone, either legally or illegally.
More long term, oxycodone carries a very high risk of addiction and opioid use disorder (OUD). This addiction can develop very slowly or very quickly depending on the individual. Some people have reported developing an addiction after just one prescription.
Overcoming OxyContin With MAT
While people may start using OxyContin to get high or even simply just to treat pain, they may keep using to avoid withdrawal. Brain cells become accustomed to the drug, and when it’s absent, people develop significant flu-like symptoms. Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) programs can help.
In an MAT program, doctors use prescriptions like Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) to manage opioid use disorder. The partial opioid agonist in Suboxone latches to opioid receptors in the brain. As it works, it reduces withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings.
Telemedicine providers like Bicycle Health bring MAT expertise to you through virtual visits. When you work with us, you can conduct your appointments via video chat, and pick up your prescriptions at your local pharmacy. You can also participate in counseling sessions virtually, so you can build a healthier life.
Contact us to find out more about how this works and see if it’s right for you. You can get started on your recovery today.
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH
Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where ... Read More
- Opioids Can Feel Like Love. Here's How That Helps Our Understanding of Addiction. WBUR. https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2021/12/16/the-void-opioids-fill. December 2021. Accessed April 2023.
- What Is Heroin and What Does It Feel Like? Drug Policy Alliance. https://drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/what-is-heroin. Accessed April 2023.
- Attractiveness of Reformulated OxyContin Tablets: Assessing Comparative Preferences and Tampering Potential. Journal of Psychopharmacology. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0269881113493364. June 2013. Accessed April 2023.
- Opioid Misuse and Addiction. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/opioidmisuseandaddiction.html. April 2018. Accessed April 2023.
- Chasing the Dragon Discussion Guide. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/resource-center/Publications/Chasingthedragon3.pdf. Accessed April 2023.
- Buprenorphine in the United States: Motives for Abuse, Misuse, and Diversion. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740547218304720. September 2019.
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