Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Oxycodone (brand names OxyContin®, Percocet®) is a strong prescription opioid painkiller. It has medical use as a prescription opioid agonist for treating severe pain. However, people also abuse this painkiller in ways other than medically directed, which can lead to opioid addiction.
People addicted to oxycodone might experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it. Opioid withdrawal syndrome can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous when not properly monitored and treated.
What Is Oxycodone Withdrawal?
Oxycodone withdrawal occurs when the body and brain have become dependent on the substance, and you stop taking it. It is one of the side effects of opioid addiction.
Oxycodone is a powerful prescription drug, like fentanyl and codeine, used to address pain relief. Because of this, there is a high risk of developing opiate addiction and dependency, even when taking oxycodone as medically directed.
Like most opioids, when someone takes oxycodone for an extended period of time, whether recreationally or medically prescribed, they may build a tolerance. Opioids are also habit-forming, which can cause mental and/or physical dependence.
Depending on the severity of a person’s opioid use disorder (drug addiction), they may experience mental and physical withdrawal symptoms.
What Causes Oxycodone Withdrawal?
For a person with opioid dependence, not giving the brain oxycodone can cause it to rebel, causing withdrawal symptoms.
Opioids such as oxycodone bind to the opioid receptors in the brain. The opioid receptors control feelings such as pain and pleasure.
When a drug like oxycodone enters the system, it attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the pain and producing a sense of euphoria. This function is why you often feel “high” when taking a powerful opioid like oxycodone.
When the brain recognizes the positive effects that oxycodone causes, it wants more and more of it to continue reaching its desired effect.
The brain can react this way with continued use or abuse of oxycodone (drug use). That’s why the drug is only prescribed for short-term use.
Common Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
How someone withdraws from any substance of abuse, including oxycodone, could depend on several factors.
Some of these include the severity of their substance abuse or opioid addiction, the time they have taken oxycodone, and the dosage.
Some of the common symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Stomach cramps
- High blood pressure
- Pinpoint pupils
- Fast heart rate
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Runny nose
- Teary eyes
- Mood swings
- Cognitive problems
- Inability to feel pleasure
The Oxycodone Withdrawal Timeline
Acute oxycodone withdrawal symptoms may begin 8 hours after your last dose and can last for several days. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can linger for months or even years.
Most physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal typically last a week and peak around the 72-hour mark.
While physical symptoms tend to go away after seven to eight days, psychological symptoms can remain for weeks, months, or even years. These long-lasting psychological symptoms are known as PAWS.
Fortunately, there are ways to address long-term opioid withdrawal symptoms for people in addiction recovery.
How to Safely Withdraw From Oxycodone
If you have taken oxycodone or another opioid for less than two weeks, experiencing withdrawal symptoms is rare. If you have been taking the substance for over two weeks, withdrawing from oxycodone can be dangerous.
It is important to consult with your primary care physician or treatment professional before discontinuing any opioid, including oxycodone.
The two safest ways to withdraw from oxycodone are tapering and medical detox programs.
Tapering Off Oxycodone
Stopping oxycodone “cold turkey” can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening, especially without proper medical supervision. Instead of “going cold turkey,” your physician will likely recommend tapering.
Tapering is the process of reducing the amount of oxycodone you take over a designated period of time until you are no longer taking it.
If tapering is right for you, your primary care physician or treatment professional will create a tapering schedule to help with the withdrawal process.
You will also likely have regular visits or check-ins with your healthcare provider to ensure everything goes smoothly.
To help with the psychological symptoms while tapering, your physician might recommend appointments with a mental health professional.
Sometimes, a person’s opioid substance use disorder might be so strong that they must be under 24-hour monitoring during withdrawal.
If that is the case, medical detox off oxycodone is usually recommended.
Medical detoxification can occur at a local medical facility, a detox facility, or a treatment center that offers detox services.
During the medical detox process, you will likely receive prescription medications to help alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with oxycodone detox.
FDA-approved medications for treating oxycodone withdrawal symptoms include:
- Methadone (Methadose®)
- Clonidine (Kapvay®)
- Buprenorphine (Suboxone®)
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol®)
Follow-Up Oxycodone Addiction Treatment Options
For people addicted to oxycodone, no longer taking the substance is the first step in recovery.
However, follow-up care in an oxycodone rehab facility may be necessary to ensure you don’t fall back into drug use patterns.
Once you have successfully stopped taking oxycodone, you can then enter into an inpatient, outpatient, or partial hospitalization rehab program.
An inpatient rehab program offers the most effective, intensive substance abuse treatment for any drug addiction.
Here, you can find a variety of treatment approaches and health care designed to help you stop oxycodone abuse and address the behaviors that led to it.
Inpatient treatment plans for oxycodone addiction could include behavioral therapy, counseling, support groups like Narcotics Anonymous, relapse prevention, and more.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help you stop the use of opioids long-term. Prescription opioids are so addictive that people often fall back into patterns of use after quitting use. Or, they seek a cheaper, more easily obtained alternative, like heroin.
MAT helps safeguard against this risk by providing medications to address some of the worst withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings.
Similar medications are used in opioid detox programs as MAT programs for opioid use disorder, including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.
MAT is available in both inpatient and outpatient rehab programs.
Outpatient rehab services are available in various formats and offer less intensive care.
Outpatient programs may be right for people with less severe opioid addictions or for people who have completed inpatient treatment and are ready for the next step in recovery. These outpatient treatment programs offer many of the same services as inpatient treatment, like counseling and therapy, without the overnight stay requirement.
Get Help for Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
If you are battling oxycodone dependence or addiction and want to stop taking the substance, it’s important to consult a physician before you do.
Whether you’re looking for help with opiate addiction for yourself or a loved one, know that help is available and recovery is possible.
Call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit their online program locator to find opioid and oxycodone addiction treatment options in your area.