Dependence on OxyContin

Physical dependence on OxyContin develops over the course of a few weeks. But does dependence on OxyContin indicate addiction? We compare the two here.

minute read

OxyContin is a brand-named slow release version of the painkiller oxycodone. OxyContin uses and side effects make it a Schedule II medication, which means that you have a high chance of developing dependency to OxyContin (even when taken as prescribed). In fact, anyone can develop oxycodone dependency or even experience OxyContin tolerance.

But what exactly is OxyContin dependence? What are clinical signs of dependence and how do they differ from addiction? And if you are dependent on oxycodone, how to quit taking OxyContin without negative withdrawal symptoms?  Here, we answer these questions and more. If you still have questions, please ask them in the comments section at the end.

OxyContin dependence time: How long to be dependent on OxyContin?

While OxyContin is regularly prescribed to treat pain, oxycodone effects the central nervous system receptors. While oxycodone blocks responses of pain to the brain, it also becomes assimilated into the body system over time. The longer you take OxyContin, the more normalized it becomes in your body and brain. Even if you are using OxyContin as prescribed and monitored by a doctor your body can still develop a dependency. This is the phenomenon of dependence: daily doses of OxyContin are then NEEDED for normal body function.

How quickly does it take to be dependent on OxyContin?

Dependence on OxyContin can develop as quickly as a couple of weeks or a month of taking OxyContin daily. Abusing OxyContin by snorting, smoking, injecting or taking higher doses to get high will speed your development of dependence to the drug. If you have become dependent on OxyContin, it is important to decrease dependence over time. This may take while because the recommended procedure is to taper doses of OxyContin slowly over several weeks to minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms and to allow your body to readapt.

Dependence on OxyContin symptoms

Key symptoms of OxyContin dependence may include one or all of the following:

1. Increased tolerance to oxycodone (needing more oxycodone to feel therapeutic effects)

2. Needing to take OxyContin in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

3. The presence of withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking OxyContin.

Keep in mind that increased tolerance to OxyContin may just mean that you need to take more OxyContin for pain relief. Tolerance is not necessarily related to dependence. However, tolerance to OxyContin can be the first red flag to indicate increased dependence on OxyContin.

OxyContin dependence vs addiction

Dependence on OxyContin and addiction to OxyContin can exist in tandem with one another. For the most part, OxyContin addicts are usually physically dependent on oxycodone. However, dependence alone doesn’t mean you’re addicted.

Basically, dependence is a process that occurs in the body. Over time, OxyContin integrates in to the overall normal functioning of the body. The body adapts and incorporates oxycodone as just another chemical in the body. When you remove the drug from the system, your body reacts and you experience withdrawal symptoms. This process can be both painful and dangerous. On the other hand, addiction is characterised by the presence of psychological behaviors and patterns of thought (such as needing the drug to cope with the daily stress of life). You may constantly be thinking about the drug or do negative things to acquire it. Maybe you’re doctor shopping. Those are just a few examples which point to an addiction to OxyContin. In sum, dependence happens to the body; addiction occurs in the mind.

Physical dependence on OxyContin

Dependence is the physical and bodily need to take OxyContin in order to function normally. Over time, your body begins to adapt to the presence of OxyContin. It becomes part of the normal body/brain functions and processing. So, when you stop taking OxyContin, the body needs time to re-regulate body chemistry and triggers withdrawal symptoms. So if you experience withdrawal symptoms from OxyContin, this is a clear sign that you’ve become physically dependent on OxyContin.

Psychological dependence on OxyContin

When you experience psychological dependence on OxyContin, this could mean you’ve become addicted to the drug. Psychological signs of dependence to look out for are:

  1. Craving OxyContin
  2. Doctor shopping in order to get OxyContin
  3. Obsessive thinking about Oxycontin (how to get, use, and have it)
  4. Taking OxyContin to escape reality
  5. You have a compulsive need to take OxyContin

If you notice the presence of psychological dependence on OxyContin, stopping oxycodone suddenly or tapering may not be enough. You may also need the help and support of a behavior specialist who understands dependency and addiction. Counselors, doctors, psychologists or psychiatrists can offer you the support and tools you need to no longer feel like you need OxyContin to get through the day.

OxyContin dependence withdrawal

OxyContin dependence withdrawal is like getting a nasty cold and flu. While your central nervous system responses were slowed while on the medication, everything now seems it’s in overdrive. Your body must go through this period of withdrawal to regain true normalcy and function without the presence of OxyContin in the body system. Symptoms of withdrawal to look out for include:

  • accelerated breathing
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • fast heart beat
  • joint pain and aches
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea/vomiting
  • restlessness
  • runny nose
  • sleep disturbances
  • watering eyes
  • yawning

If you are experiencing the effects of withdrawal there are medication and home remedies that can help. Also, you can use a standard opioid tapering method to deal with the withdrawal symptoms you are experiencing.

OxyContin dependence questions

Do you still have questions about OxyContin dependence and addiction? We invite you to leave us your questions about dependence on OxyContin below. We welcome all questions and try to answer each one personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NIH: The Brain: Understanding Neurology
DailyMed: Oxycodone
FDA: History of OxyContin

FDA: New OxyContin
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I have read and agree to the conditions outlined in the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

  1. Hi I’m a long term patient on OxyContin. Been taking it for ten years for crps pain relief. It’s the only thing that lets me have a tolerant pain level. I refuse to let them increase my medication for increased pain because I’m already a zombie.
    Lately though as my twelve hours gets closer I am finding I am so uncomfortable. Like having restless leg syndrome all over my body and tonight it’s really bad. I’ve taken my nighttime dose but I’m really struggling to not freak out. This feeling is horrid and I’m scared I’ve become dependent on my medication. Have you any advice?

  2. Similar to Jayne, when I go too long between doses I get restless legs and arms along with the joint ache/pain and irritability. I definitely feel the physical dependency when I’m late for my meds (I take NON time release oxycodone 15mg every 8 hours)

    My current scrip is 15mg every 6 hours but with my next scrip, my doctor will be reducing my dose to every 8 hours so I spent the last few weeks working up to that and getting the physical withdrawal down. Now I get breakthrough pain just like I did when I took first started this medication at 10mg every six hours. I cannot take nsaid/anti inflammatory medication due to anticoagulants and so I’ve got nothing else to even help with the pain.

    What I don’t understand is this – I suffer from a severely herniated disk and the pain is constant and brutal. If 15mg every 6 hours is what keeps my pain levels down and manageable, why would a doctor’s goal be to already wean me off? He mentions that is the goal. I’ve only been taking it for six months and I don’t abuse it in any way, shape, or form. After years of being in untreated, constant pain, I am finally in a place where I feel better and can function normally. I am a candidate for surgery but I’m terrified of surgery to the point of it being a phobia. I’m currently losing weight so I can have the surgery (im going to be brave as I can be) but why wean me off before the surgery is done? The problem and pain will still be there and I’ll be back to where I was – in constant, debilitating pain. 🙁 what is the point?

    When I try to discuss it I get the same answer about it being CDC guidelines but I highly doubt that the CDC’s guidelines would say “it’s ok to get a patient out of pain by finding the right dose but once you do and they’re feeling better and functioning, take them off and put them back in pain.

    So frustrating.

  3. I have been on oxycontin for over a year now ,I have had a knee replacement surgery so now my Dr wants me to stop the oxycontin but she just stopped my prescription I may have about 12 to 15 left I was on oxyneo 30 mg 2 x day but been off them for about 2 weeks now ,I am still taking the oxycontin fast acting two 5mg tabs 4 to times a day mu concern is the withdrawals , the worst symptom I am having is what I Call the restless leg syndrome , only it seems to have become worse ,now it s in my arms and sometimes even in my torso , the oxycontin just relaxes my body . when I was reading about the withdrawal symptoms they never mention “restless leg symptoms” ? so i;m not sure if this feeling is actual withdrawal or not ? so any help or suggestions will be appreciated thanks Jayne

    1. Hi Jayne. Restless legs can sometimes occur during OxyContin withdrawal in the form of tickles, itching and/or scratching. Restless legs syndrome might occur while you are resting or relaxing. Consult your doctor about how to manage this discomfort.

  4. script for 10mg oxycodone reads one every six hours maximum four per day I have never exceeded 2 and usually only take one later in the day when back pain from fission surgery becomes an issue 2 is only once in a while when the pain persists use to be able to skip days but one once a day has become the norm have no desire to do more than that unless pain requires it

  5. I have been taking OxyContin 30 mg three times a day for 2 1/2 years. I have degenerative disc disease with other complications in my back and this medication does help. However, I am extremely afraid of the long-term effects and how I might stop taking them. I want to talk to my doctor about it but would like to be able to understand before I speak with him and know what some options might be. Any help?

  6. I started off just over 2 years ago using perks (15-30 daily) about 9months ago I switched to oxy APO 80s (4-8daily) 6 weeks ago I quit cold turkey on the 5th day went to the hospital and got trazapan, and clonadine. I was great 4weeks Clean. A week or so ago I started using again maybe one every other day APO 80. For the past 9 days I’ve been using daily again and now I’m back to 2-3 daily. I want to stop this time I’ve got a plan to stay clean and family and friends to support me. My question is how likely is it that my body has become physically dependent on them at this stage. I know mental yes and I am clearly an addict but i believe that by having a plan in place to stay cleanness along with my support system that this time my chances are much higher im just worried about the dependence aspect. I’m 27 years old and in good health and started going to the gym and feedback regarding dependency would be greatly appreciated thanks in advance

    1. Hello George. Physical dependency can’t form as strongly to Oxy after 10 days of use. You may experience some withdrawal when you lower doses or stop completely, but it would be far less intense and harsh as quitting a medication after long term use. If any withdrawal symptoms occur, they will subside fairly quickly.

  7. Hi Archie!
    You need to tell your doctor right away if you feel it’s too strong and also mention you have been cutting them in half. Now this bit is very important so I’m going to put it in caps as it could affect your child too: DONT CUT THE PILLS IN HALF, THEY ARE SLOW RELEASE SO CUTTING/CRUSHING THEM CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS!
    The coating around the pill is part of the slow release, so breaking it can cause you to receive the FULL dose straight away instead of over the intended 6 – 12 hours.

  8. I’m 26 and just had my first child, 5 days ago. I was blessed by his presence via cesarean operation. During my recovery and after discharge I was given the drug to help me cope with the pain while I care for my son, but the drug was so strong I had to cut the pill in half and double my time between uses just to make sure I wouldn’t crave for it and it wouldn’t effect my son via breast milk. . . . I can understand how people fall victim while just following “doctor’s orders”.

  9. Hello Christian. Have you spoken with her doctor? While physical dependence is normal, and it can form in patients who take the medication as prescribed, I don’t think she will become an addict. Does she have any other solution for pain management?

  10. My daughter-in-law has been using Oxycontin for around 4 weeks, following a spinal fusion operation. The danger of physical dependence and mental addiction is become a real threat. Both my son and I think she should stop using now. But it’s easy for us. We are not experiencing the pain 🙁

  11. I was addicted to Oxycontin for years. It affected me in so many negative ways. Addiction to painkillers is no joke. It can ruin your life. I tried to go to a center and after my 30 days just ended up using it again. I tried going cold turkey and the withdrawal side effects were so severe I couldn’t go to work and ended up losing my job. I finally got off my pills using a natural product and have been free of my addiction now for 6 months. I can’t tell you the positive changes that have occurred in my life as a result! Advice for the addicted: get help and get your life back. You will not regret your decision.

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?