How to stop taking oxycodone

You stop taking oxycodone by gradually reducing dose amount and frequencies. Find general guidelines and what happens when you stop taking oxycodone here.

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Oxycodone is a powerful pain killer that causes physical dependence within days to weeks of consecutive use, even if you’re not getting high from oxycodone. Is oxycodone an addictive drug? Yes. Oxycodone is very addictive. And in order to stop taking oxycodone safely, you need to follow a few guidelines.

Here, we review what happens in your brain and body when you stop taking oxycodone, how oxycodone works, possible side effects and how to stop taking oxycodone safely. We invite your questions about stopping oxycodone at the end.

Can I just stop taking oxycodone?

Yes. And no.

If you have been taking oxycodone as needed for pain, and have not developed a physical dependence on oxycodone, discontinuing oxycodone pills should not be a problem. In these cases, the brain and the body have not grown used to the prescence of oxycodone in the system and will not experience a major shock when the pure opioid agonist is no longer available.

However, in cases of regular oxycodone dosing over the course of days or weeks, stopping oxycodone cold turkey is NOT RECCOMENDED. In fact, repeating oxycodone dosing results in the body’s adaptation to the opioid. This is called physical dependence. When you are physically dependent on oxycodone, you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it.

What happens when you stop taking oxycodone?

Basically, when you stop taking oxycodone after regular use you go through withdrawal. Repeated exposure to oxycodone alters the brain so that it functions more or less normally when oxycodone is present and abnormally when oxycodone is not. Why is this?

Simply, oxycodone changes brain systems, including an area at the base of the brain — the locus ceruleus (LC) as well as the mesolimbic reward system. When opioid molecules link to mu receptors on brain cells in the LC, they suppress the release of noradrenaline, resulting in drowsiness, slowed respiration, and low blood pressure. With repeated exposure to opioids like oxycodone, however, the LC neurons adjust by increasing their level of activity. Now, when opioids are no longer present to suppress the LC brain cells’ enhanced activity, the LC neurons release excessive amounts of noradrenaline, triggering the jitters, anxiety, muscle cramps, and diarrhea that are associated with opiate withdrawal.

Side effects stop taking oxycodone

Withdrawing from oxycodone is generally not life threatening. But some of the side effects can be very uncomfortable. The main side effects of oxycodone withdrawal are the same as other opiates and opioids and are graded as being mild, moderate or severe. Side effects occur based on dose strength and length of time that you take oxycodone. But most cases of oxycodone withdrawal will manifest AT LEAST the following side effects:

  1. agitation
  2. hypertension
  3. rapid heart beat
  4. shaking

Diagnostic criteria for opioid withdrawal includes having three or more of the following symptoms present:

  • diarrhea
  • dilated pupils
  • dysphoric (negative mood)
  • fever
  • goosebumps
  • insomnia
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • negative mood
  • runny nose
  • sweating
  • vomiting
  • watery eyes
  • yawning

Stop taking oxycodone suddenly

Do not quit taking oxycodone suddenly or you could experience serious withdrawal symptoms If you decide to stop taking oxycodone suddenly, seek out medically supervised withdrawal (detoxification) with either opioid or nonopioid medications to help you manage symptoms.

Stop taking oxycodone cold turkey

If you decide to stop taking oxycodone cold turkey, be prepared to manage symptoms of withdrawal with the help of an outpatient or inpatient medical clinic, or from home. Follow the suggestions outlined below and let us know if you have additional questions by commenting at the end.

How do I stop taking oxycodone?

You should always stop taking oxycodone under the medical supervision of your prescribing doctor. In general, you stop taking oxycodone gradually by lowering the amount and frequency of oxycodone dosing until you quit totally. However, medications such as clonidine can help you manage more persistent or intense symptoms of withdrawal. Plus, supplemental medications, such as antidepressants to manage irritability, sleep disturbance or antiepileptics for neuropathic pain may also be helpful. And if needed, you can seek help at a detox clinic in order to help manage more severe symptoms that may occur when you stop taking oxycodone.

How to stop taking oxycodone safely

When you no longer requires oxycodone hydrochloride tablets to treat pain, opioid therapy should be gradually discontinued over time to prevent opioid abstinence syndrome (oxycodone withdrawal). In general, doses of oxycodone can be decreased by 25% to 50% per day with careful monitoring for signs and symptoms of withdrawal. however, some experts recommend more conservative tapering and a decrease by 10% of the original dose per week is usually well tolerated with minimal physiological adverse effects.  If you develop signs or symptoms of withdrawal, the dose should be raised to the previous level and lowered more slowly, either by increasing the interval between decreases, decreasing the amount of change in dose, or both.

Stop taking oxycodone questions

At the moment it is still not known at what dose of oxycodone hydrochloride you can stop without risk of developing withdrawal symptoms. If you have questions about withdrawal from oxycodone or otherwise how to stop taking oxycodone, please leave them here. We will be happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NIDA: The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment
SAMHSA: Clinical Guidelines for the Use of Buprenorphine in the Treatment of Opioid Addiction, 4 Treatment Protocols
Daily Med: Oxycodone hydrochloride
Oregon State Department of Health: Opiate Withdrawal
AHRQ: Dependence vs. pain
Utah Department of Health: Utah Clinical Guidelines on Prescribing Opioids for Treatment of Pain, Strategies for Tapering and Weaning
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.
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