ARTICLE OVERVIEW: OxyContin (oxycodone) is one of the most effective prescriptions for pain relief. Yet, it also gets people hooked after a few weeks of daily dosing. When people who are dependent on OxyContin try to quit, the body goes through withdrawal in a way they may not be prepared for. This article outlines how you can effectively treat OxyContin withdrawal and make symptoms less painful. Then, your questions are welcomed at the end.
Table of Contents:
- Addictive Potential
- Risk of Overdose
- Can You Detox at Home?
- Medical Detox
- Signs of a Drug Problem
- Inpatient and Outpatient Programs
- Preventing Relapse
- Dependence Vs. Addiction
- How People Become Addicted
- Your Questions
OxyContin (oxycodone) is pharmaceutical drug prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Usually, it is used when other (non-opioid) pain medications aren’t doing the job. However, it is a strong psychoactive drug that comes with addiction liability.
How does it work?
Oxy works by attaching itself to opioid receptors within the brain and spinal cord and blocking spread of pain messages to the brain. But, it also interacts with the reward system of the brain, triggering the release of dopamine and feelings of pleasure.
For these reasons, oxycodone products are in Schedule II of the federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970. In fact, OxyContin is considered a highly addictive drug. In fact, the drug has been deemed heavily responsible for the current opioid crisis. At the moment, we’re seeing people prescribed prescription opioids, running out of their medication, and turning to the streets to feed their addiction.
Risk of Overdose
A big reason it’s important to get yourself off OxyContin is because overdosing is a possible risk factor. Overdose isn’t limited to heroin. All narcotic drugs that work like opiates are known to cause tolerance. The more you use OxyContin, the duller the sensations…you need to take more to achieve initial effect.
When euphoric sensation competes with risk of death, you’re chasing the dragon. In 2016, Rx drugs were responsible for over 42,000 deaths in the U.S.. 40% of these were due to prescription opioids. That’s around 115 deaths a day.
But when you withdraw from OxyContin, risk of overdose also increases. Your tolerance is lower.and you cannot use at high levels. If you go through withdrawal and then relapse…death is a real possibility. This is why effective treatments using medication can help. More in the next sections on lowering risk of overdose after detox.
OxyContin withdrawal is similar to detoxing from narcotics such as heroin, which has been described like a very bad flu. How people withdraw varies from individual to individual and depends greatly on how much of the body has adapted to the drug’s chemicals. Still, everyone experiences some effect of withdrawal, the main symptoms of which include:
Early Symptoms (First 24 hours):
- Increased tearing
- Muscle aches and bone pain
- Runny nose
Later Symptoms (Days 2-4):
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
- Goosebumps and cold flashes
- Sleep problems
- Uncontrollable leg movements
If these symptoms seem mild, know that many people experience them at high levels of discomfort. Medical detox can address symptoms as they occur.
Withdrawal signs usually start within 6–10 hours after the last dose. If you took the medication in a pill form, you can expect to begin feel its sensations fade away around 12 to 24 hours. But, if you’ve been abusing OxyContin, there’s chance that you’ll start feeling withdrawal symptoms 4 to 6 hours after your last dose.
Generally speaking, people feel the strongest of the symptoms for the first three days after their last dose, followed by a week to two week period where the symptoms become mild. As you’ll read later on, there are a variety of ways to relieve withdrawal symptoms, making the process bearable.
Again, it all depends on the individual. There are some who will feel the severe withdrawal symptoms for over a week. This not only has to do with their dependence on the drug, but also their:
- Genetic factors
- Stress levels
In order to truly understand your specific needs for an OxyContin withdrawal, you’re going to want to contact a professional and set yourself up in a treatment center.
All cases of OxyContin withdrawal should be supervised by a medical professional to prevent complications and address symptoms as they occur.
Can You Detox at Home?
Yes, but it is not recommended.
Withdrawing from OxyContin is difficult enough. There are very few who successfully quit at home. Furthermore, some withdrawal symptoms can provoke dehydration or severe mood disorders. For these reasons, it can actually be dangerous to withdrawal from home.
Still, some people do attempt to get off Oxy on their own. Usually, these folks get medical clearance from a prescribing doctor first. Then, the go through withdrawal under the supervision of a doctor who can cater to their needs. However, if you decide to take this route, you’ll want to guarantee you have a strong support system and a caring home environment. Without these two factors, your chances of success decrease.
Medically Supervised Detox
Experts recommend that you go through an inpatient detox during OxyContin withdrawal. While under medical supervision, you can expect to be tested and examined as a means of discovering exactly what you’ll need for a proper detox. These tests include, but aren’t limited to:
- Blood chemistry
- Blood and urine
- CBC (complete blood count)
- Chest X-ray
- Diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV, and tuberculosis
- EKG (electrocardiogram)
- Liver Functioning
Doctors can give you a proper estimate of how severe your detox process and also supply you with the right medication. It’s important to note that medications should only be used for easing withdrawal symptoms and preventing relapse. There are rare occurrences where these medications actually cause people to go back to OxyContin.
The medicines listed here are used for most opioid withdrawal symptoms, but have been proven highly useful in OxyContin detox:
- Buprenorphine (Subutex): Not only does it ease withdrawal symptoms but has also been found to sometimes shorten the length of detox. It may be used for a longer period of time than the detox itself, for proper maintenance on the body. It also may be combined with other medications.
- Clonidine: A medication primarily used to reduce certain symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and cramps. It will not get rid of any cravings you may experience.
- Methadone: The medication most doctors recommend for an opioid withdrawal as it eases symptoms and helps with the detoxing process. It’ll also probably be used as a long-term maintenance medication for the sake of avoiding relapse. Generally speaking, people take Methadone throughout a six months (sometimes up to years), then ease off it slowly.
- Naltrexone: Mainly used in order to prevent relapse.
If this isn’t your first time attempting to quit OxyContin, you might want to consider asking your doctor about the medications for long-term maintenance. Not only do people experience more success withdrawing with these medication but medication-assisted treatment also keeping them off OxyContin for good.
You see, the withdrawal process is just the beginning of quitting. What you may need to be 100% successful in avoiding OxyContin is:
- Inpatient treatment
- Outpatient counseling
- Self-help groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery
As you research different ways to properly withdrawal from OxyContin, you’re going to come across a variety of treatment facilities. Within those facilities, they’re going to offer you either an inpatient program (living within the facility) or an outpatient program (withdrawing from home).
Signs of a Drug Problem
Have you wondered if you’re actually addicted to OxyContin? You can tell when someone has a problem if drugs heavily affect someone’s life, health, and responsibilities. Signs of having a drug problem include:
1. Being unable to quit OxyContin
3. Continuation of use, even when problems arise
Inpatient and Outpatient Programs
So, do you think you might be addicted to Oxy? If so, do you need additional treatment?
Again, the right treatment plan depends on the individual. Some people are going to need more time and support than others. Upon entering a treatment facility and getting testing, you’ll figure out which option is right for you. However, most people with an OxyContin addiction go through their physical detox and follow this up with psychotherapy..
This can be risky for some, as the potential to relapse even after physical withdrawals is still there. The only way to assure that one avoids this risk is by offering them a strong support system backed by proper therapies.
Typical therapies for OxyContin addiction include:
- Medication Management: Taking a prescribed medication from the list above.
- Behavioral Therapy: A counseling that looks into what could trigger relapse, understand the patterns, and ultimately, prevent it.
- Family Therapy and Education: A way in which loved ones can better understand the individual’s situation and feelings and offer them advice on how to support.
- 12-Step Program: A means of meeting other individuals who’ve undergone similar addictions and offer support through each of their personal experiences.
One of the keys to preventing any drug relapse is to have a strong support system. With the help of family, friends, and loved ones, there’s a strong chance of averting any indications of relapse. Support can also be beneficial in preventing addiction behavioral patterns.
There are a number of steps to take in order to break an addiction patterns.
- Attend talk therapy sessions.
- Avoid triggers for the drug.
- Enter a sober living home.
- Stay away from places in which you used the drug.
- Regularly attend therapy groups.
Dependence Vs. Addiction
There is a difference between drug dependence and drug addiction. Not all people who go through Oxy withdrawal are addicted to it. In fact, many people who take a prescription medicine every day over a long period of time can become dependent; when they go off the drug, they need to do it gradually, to avoid withdrawal discomfort. But people who are dependent on a drug or medicine aren’t necessarily addicted.
Here’s the main difference:
Dependence is a way that the body adapts to a drug in order to function. When you are drug-dependent, the brain creates chemicals to accommodate a drug. Because oxycodone is a depressant, the brain “speeds up” certain functions. Take away the drug, and you’ll trigger withdrawal when a person stops using a drug.
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences. Addiction triggers changes in the brain, which can be long lasting. These changes in the brain can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who use drugs. Drug addiction is also a relapsing disease. Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop.
How People Become Addicted
The path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs. But over time, a person’s ability to choose becomes compromised. Seeking and taking the drug becomes compulsive. This is mostly due to the effects of long-term drug exposure on brain function.
OxyContin is primarily used as a pain reliever. It is prescribed for anything from a broken leg to dental pain. NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated in March of 2018 that opioid addiction problems were partly the result of pharmaceutical companies playing down the addiction liability. Consequently, doctors began prescribing more and more pain killers.
It’s only in the past year that the CDC has published guidelines for how to prescribe pain medicines like Oxy.
So, many people got addicted to OxyContin simply by having a prescription for it. It’s super effective for pain. And it’s super effective for getting people high. People get hooked is its euphoric effects.
Plus, the more a person takes OxyContin, the more of a tolerance they build to these euphoric effects. Therefore, they’re often left taking more in order to experience the same high they had received upon first taking OxyContin.
In the 2016 NSDUH performed by SAMHSA, researchers reported that more than half of those they interviewed had been misusing their pain relief medication. Due to this misuse, the body and mind adapt to the drug as though it is normal. When an individual stops taking it, they’re bound to experience withdrawal.
We hope to have answered most of your questions related to withdrawal. But, we know that you still may have a question.
We invite all our reader to submit questions in the comments section below. In fact, we’ll try to respond to all real-life questions personally and promptly. Know that you are not alone. We are here to help.
Reference Sources: FDA: OxyContin: Medication Guide
MedlinePlus: Opiate and Opiate Withdrawal
NIDA: Opioid Overdose Crisis
American Addiction Centers: Understanding OxyContin Withdrawal
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.