Opioid addiction is characterized by a strong, compulsive urge to use the drug, even when it’s no longer deemed medically necessary. Unfortunately, when someone takes the drug as prescribed, the risk of addiction is high because of the way opioids change the chemistry of the brain. When someone takes an opiate, the reward system in the brain is triggered, and an extreme rush of dopamine is fired off. Dopamine signals feelings of pleasure or excitement to the neurons in the body, producing what many people would describe as a “high.”

As the opioid changes the way the brain functions, drug tolerance will set in, requiring more of the drug to feel the same effects. Once addiction sets in, the user will start to prioritize getting the drug over other activities in their life, even activities they once valued, causing personal and professional relationships to suffer. Furthermore, opioid use over an extended period of time will lead to dependence, causing the person to suffer from physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit using the drug.

OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone hydrochloride, an opioid (narcotic) analgesic (pain reliever).