ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Even if you have a prescription for OxyContin (and are using it as prescribed), you can expect dependence to develop within a few weeks of regular dosing. What can you do when you want to quit? This article reviews the withdrawal process, the basic timeline for symptoms, and how withdrawal is medically treated. Your questions are welcomed at the end.
ESTIMATED READ TIME: 10 minutes.
Table of Contents:
- Is OxyContin Withdrawal Hard?
- Brain and Body Changes
- Is OxyContin Withdrawal Dangerous?
- A List of Withdrawal Symptoms
- The Basic Timeline
- Medicines that Help
- Natural Remedies that Help
- Can I Withdraw at Home?
- Where to Look for Help
- Your Questions
Is OxyContin Withdrawal Hard?
The short answer is: Yes, OxyContin withdrawal is hard.
OxyContin is an opioid pain reliever and the brand name for medication that contains oxycodone. Oxycodone is known to trigger chemical dependence as quickly as 2-3 weeks after regular, daily dosing. And when you want to quit, symptoms are uncomfortable and difficult. In fact, the severity of withdrawal symptoms often trigger people to use oxycodone just to prevent the discomfort.
You see, when you repeatedly take a psychoactive drug, the body adapts to that drug and adapts to its chemistry as “normal”. This is called “drug dependence”. Withdrawal occurs when the chemicals creating the “normal” state are suddenly taken out of the picture. The body takes time to readjust back to its natural, original way of functioning.
OxyContin withdrawal can be difficult. However, medications can help ease symptoms as they occur.
Brain and Body Changes
OxyContin changes your body’s chemistry.
The primary reason OxyContin is prescribed to people is to relieve great pain. The drug works by helping us change our perception of pain while filling the brain with “good chemicals”, such as serotonin and dopamine. This is done via interactions between opioid receptors and neurotransmitters. So, when a particular area of the body is severely injured (i.e. a broken ankle), transmission and changes in perception affect that specific area. But this isn’t the only brain change.
When you take OxyContin over and over again, the body adjusts to the depressant effects by “speeding up” certain functions. This is a brain adaptation that helps us to survive.
Additionally, the drug affects the way we experience pleasure. OxyContin has a way of giving the user a euphoric high. This is the primary cause of addiction, as this high can be quite relaxing and leave the user carefree. To do this, OxyContin attaches to opioid receptors located in a variety of areas in the central nervous system. There, it interacts with receptors involved with pleasure, such as the “reward system” in VTA regions of the brain.
So, how does all this make withdrawal so difficult?
When you stop taking OxyContin, even if it’s just for a short period of time, your body reacts to the lack of chemicals. If you are a long-time user of OxyContin, the body and brain adapt to oxycodone as normal. Take away the depressant drug, and the brain and body are left with the unnatural stimulant effects until they balance out again in detox.
Withdrawal is an extremely uncomfortable state, often made worse by feelings of depression or pain. As you can imagine, withdrawal symptoms counteract the euphoric high, leaving the user to feeling anxious, restless, irritable, and more. In fact, many OxyContin users will continue taking the drug purely for the sake of avoiding withdrawal.
Brain changes begin when you take OxyContin for the first time. Drug dependence develops in the first weeks of daily use.
Is OxyContin Withdrawal Dangerous?
No, OxyContin withdrawal is rarely dangerous or life-threatening. Though there are occasions when people die due to opioid withdrawal (when mixing drugs or going through rapid opiate detox), it’s very rare. However, because OxyContin is a prescription drug, you should always consult with your doctor when you want to quit.
Still, just because OxyContin withdrawal is generally safe doesn’t make the process 100% risk-free. One of the biggest issues with withdrawal symptoms is dehydration. OxyContin withdrawal is very similar to the flu in the sense that people experience highly uncomfortable symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting. Dehydration can have serious effects on a person’s health if not treated properly.
Additionally, there is the risk of relapse. Going back to oxycodone to delay withdrawal is common, use immediately resolves symptoms and can seem “irresistible”. Furthermore, if you’re not in the right kind of environment, studies show around 40% to 60% of people addicted to opioids relapse.
And even if you push through physical withdrawal symptoms, you’re going to have to handle mental withdrawal, which can last months after your last dose of OxyContin. You’re going to be craving another dose even after your body has returned to its normal chemical balance. However, beware of risk of overdose. People who go through detox are at higher risk of overdosing because physical tolerance is lowered after the process is c
For these reasons, many people undergo withdrawal under medical supervision.
A List of Withdrawal Symptoms
Have you ever run out of OxyContin and had to go a day or two without it? Do you remember feeling highly uncomfortable during that period? This was your body experiencing the early stages of withdrawal.
But in order to quit Oxy for good, you’re going to need a proper plan to handle withdrawal symptoms. As your brain and body adjust to their natural functioning, a state known as “homeostasis”, you’re going to need a good amount of time and plenty of effort. This adjustment time is what we know as withdrawal.
Early symptoms of Oxy withdrawal include:
- Increased tearing
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
As OxyContin withdrawal progresses, the above symptoms become more severe and the following will start to appear:
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
Symptoms usually begin between 6 to 12 hours after your last dose of OxyContin.
OxyContin withdrawal usually peaks 72 hours after your last dose and resolves within 7-10 days.
How long will it take to withdrawal from OxyContin?
Detox generally lasts around 7 days and begins between 6 to 12 hours after your last dose of hydrocodone. For the following 1 to 3 days, your withdrawal symptoms will peak. Then, over the course of 5 to 7 days, they’ll gradually die down.
Still, the total amount of time truly depends on individual factors. This includes your age, gender, weight, metabolism, and level of physical dependence on the drug. Additionally, your dosing history, amount, frequency, and duration of use….all of these play a role in the time you’ll spend in detox. You can get some clues as to how your addiction works by asking yourself the following questions:
- How long have you been using?
- How much of a dose do you normally take?
- What’s your age?
- What’s your family’s history with health and/or addiction?
- What’s your overall health state?
No two people will experience withdrawal in the same manner. This doesn’t only affect the amount of time you withdrawal but also the symptoms you experience. For example, if you’ve been using for a long period of time and taking high doses, you’ll most likely go through more severe withdrawal compared to someone who’s only used for a few weeks and takes smaller doses.
The Basic Timeline
People who experience withdrawal either experience one, two, or both different types of withdrawal:
1. Acute Withdrawals – Begins with feelings of anxiety and cravings, climaxes around 36 to 72 hours, and decreases heavily within the following 5 days.
2. Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) – Will follow acute withdrawals and last up to months.
With this knowledge, we can better understand the day-by-day timeline of withdrawals.
24 to 72 Hours After Last Dose of OxyContin – At this stage, your symptoms will peak to their most uncomfortable. This is when your body is most stressed. Symptoms you can expect to feel during this time are as follows:
- Abdominal cramping
- Body pain
- Runny nose
- Sleeping disorders
- Watering eyes
3 to 7 Days After Last Dose of OxyContin – Though the body is still rebalancing, physical withdrawal symptoms will begin to ease. The peak is over and the body has begun to reach a more stable state of homeostasis once again. However, this also the time when mental withdrawal symptoms really start to peak. You can expect the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
Week 2 of OxyContin Withdrawal – Though you may still experience physical symptoms, for the most part, your body is less stressed. As for your mental state, with the right kind of psychotherapy, you can start to feel more optimistic. However, cravings play a huge role during this period of withdrawal. Some people relapse during this time, primarily due to cravings. You can expect the following symptoms:
- Abdominal cramps
- Sleep Disorders
Week 3 of OxyContin Withdrawal – Again, there may still be some physical symptoms present, but for the most part, they’ve began to die down. Furthermore, your mental health will improve. Still, minor setbacks will take place. The symptoms to be expected in this period include:
- Decreased cravings
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Sleep stabilization
Week 4 of OxyContin Withdrawal – You’re going to start feeling a lot better during this time. There may still be some irritability, but for the most part, acute detox is complete and you can continue with talk therapy or addiction treatment.
Medicines that Help
When it comes to opiate drugs, there are a variety of medications available to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. You may be offered one or more of the following medications from a prescribing doctor:
Buprenorphine. A partial opioid agonist, this medication will bind itself to opioid receptors, just not to the extent of a full opioid agonist. In turn, this reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Lofexidine. To date, this is the first medication approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to address the spectrum of symptoms related to opioid withdrawal. It’s known to greatly reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. However, it should be noted, lofexidine doesn’t treat drug addiction by itself.
Methadone. This medicine has been used since the 1960’s and, since then, has had great success in longer term management of strong addictions. For some people, methadone can also be prescribed to delay withdrawal. Methadone attaches itself to opioid receptors, similar to the way OxyContin does. The only difference is, Methadone isn’t as strong. Therefore, it causes users to crave less and prevents withdrawal. It should be noted, when used in detox, people only stay on Methadone for a short period of time, usually during the early withdrawal stages.
Naltrexone. This medicine is used to trigger a blocking action against OxyContin. The medicine isn’t addictive nor is it considered a sedative.
Though medications can be of great help during the withdrawal process, medications for OxyContin addiction treatment are most efficient when used in combination with talk therapy. In order to figure out which medications are right for you as you plan withdrawal, consult a doctor.
Natural Remedies that Help
There are a variety of natural remedies one can also use in order to ease withdrawal symptoms. According to Medical News Today, since symptoms are very similar to the flu, it’s important to take actions similar to as you would if you had the flu. When we look into individual symptoms for OxyContin withdrawal, we can get a better understanding of what will help.
Chills. During detox, when the body is most vulnerable to withdrawal, you’ll probably find yourself constantly shivering and/or experiencing cold sweats. In order to warm yourself up, it’s suggested you put on extra layers and use hot pads. Warm, long showers or hot baths can also help.
Cravings. Though medications will be of huge help when you experience cravings, it can greatly benefit you to develop distractions. Some people turn to the arts (such as writing, painting or playing music) while others discover new hobbies (such as gardening or cooking). Distractions can help modify your pain levels while giving you a chance to replace your drug habits.
Lack of Dopamine. One of the goals of psychotherapy is to refuel your dopamine/serotonin levels which were once fueled by OxyContin. One of the best natural remedies for this is exercise as it promotes a natural dopamine within us; endorphins. Other forms of exercise which help are yoga and meditation.
Nausea. As we discussed in the dangers of withdrawal, dehydration is a big concern. What generally causes it is the nausea. This is due to the fact that when we experience high amounts of nausea, we eat/drink less. Ways to improve nausea are:
- Eating bland foods, such as bananas, rice, or toast.
- Eating several small portions of food throughout the day rather than a few large meals.
- Avoiding foods that are high in fat in grease.
- Taking small sips of water often. This has to do with the dehydration danger. It’s vital you intake lots of water in order to keep your body in check during detox and withdrawals.
Trouble Sleeping. Though it’ll be difficult to hop right back into a healthy sleep schedule, you want your body to eventually have a clock of its own. This means you’ll want to develop a schedule for when you fall asleep and when you wake up. So, lying in bed at the same time every night helps.
Furthermore, you might want to consider where you’re sleeping. Many people enter an inpatient
program, where sleep environments are controlled by an outside party. This has its pros and cons. However, you can make requests. For example, if you sleep better in a cooler or warmer environment, this is something you can ask for.
Can I Withdraw at Home?
Let’s say you do all the research you can on withdrawal symptoms. You may ask yourself, is it possible for me to go through withdrawal on my own terms?
While withdrawal at home is possible, it is not recommended. You’re NOT a medical professional and are unable to properly comprehend the many different ways in which withdrawal can affect you. The importance of a treatment facility is that you have 24-7 medical support. Medical detox clinics will help you:
1. Lessen the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
2. Process and understand your thoughts and emotions.
3. Complete withdrawal successfully.
When you try to quit on your own terms, symptoms will most likely become too much for you to handle. With that, there’s a great chance you’ll do as you’ve always done to avoid withdrawal; take Oxy again. It can’t be forgotten how addictive of a drug OxyContin is.
With all this being said, you can be assured the safest way forward is to consider medical detox. Give yourself the gift of a successful recovery and go to treatment.
Where to Look for Help
In order to find help, you’ve got to know where to look. Detox clinics can be hard to find in some rural areas. However, it can be worth the trip. Here are our top resources for locating a detox clinic near you.
1. Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association’s (SAMHSA) National Hotline. This 24-7 hotline can refer you to a detox clinic near you. 1-800-622-HELP (4357)
2. Talk with your family doctor. S/He can refer you to local specialists such as addiction doctors (Find an ABAM specialist), psychotherapists or counselors (Find an APA psychologist member near you), or psychiatrists (Find an ABA psychiatrist near you).
4. Social Workers (Your state’s Department of Health and Social Services)
5. Call our hotline number listed above. Caring operators are ready to take your call and talk you through the process of detox and addiction treatment.
You’ll also want to talk to family and friends. Throughout your journey to recovery, they’re going to be your support system, the people you can always turn back to when things get too difficult. Furthermore, they can guide you along the rest of the recovery process. If you’re a family member or friend of someone who has an Oxy problem, there are a variety of addiction treatment options for you to seek help for your loved one.
If you have any further questions pertaining to OxyContin withdrawal, we invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any advice to give for people currently withdrawing, we’d also love to hear from you. We try to provide a personal response to each comment and get back to you promptly.