Physical addiction to OxyContin

There are a number of physical signs and symptoms that can suggest someone is addicted to OxyContin. More on how to recognize and treat OxyContin addiction here.

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Dependence and addiction are not the same

Are you experiencing symptoms of physical addiction to OxyContin? Wondering how this condition can be managed? Learn more about how you can recognize the signs of physical addiction to OxyContin. Then, we outline your alternatives for getting help. At the end we welcome you to post your questions and we’ll try to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate enquiries.

Physical dependence on OxyContin

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) physical dependence is a normal adaptation that follows a chronic exposure to OxyContin and is not the same as addiction. A physically dependent person has adapted to the presence of OxyContin in their system and requires regular doses to avoid withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms are felt when doses of OxyContin are suddenly discontinued or significantly lowered. These symptoms include worsening of pain, sleeping and eating disorders as well as other metabolic abnormalities.

Further, an individual who is physically dependent on OxyContin, may also experience an increased level of tolerance to the medication. When you become tolerant, you need more medicine to achieve initial effect.

OxyContin addiction, on the other hand, is mainly psychological in nature. People who experience addiction repeatedly take OxyContin, regardless of the negative consequences to health, home, or workl. Chronic addicts also experience changes in the structure and function of the brain, and start to seek the medication compulsively.

While dependence on OxyContin is an expected and natural occurrence when using a medication such as OxyContin for a period of time, addiction usually has a more deeply rooted psychological background. People addicted to OxyContin experience excessive stimulation of the reward pathway. The drug works by tricking the brain to believe that using is equally essential for survival as food and water. The effect of such a powerful reward motivates people to repeat that behavior.

Physical signs of addiction to OxyContin

People usually start taking Oxycontin to control their moderate to severe pain. But, there are ways you can recognize if a person has become physically dependent on OxyContin. While dependence is different than addiction, it can signal the beginning stages of habitual use. Here are some physical signs that might point to an OxyContin problem:

  • constipation
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • headaches
  • itching
  • low blood pressure
  • nausea and vomiting
  • slow breathing
  • sweating

If you or someone you know start to experience withdrawal symptoms on lowering doses or quitting OxyContin, that is a definite sign of physical dependence. Symptoms of OxyContin withdrawal include:

  • abdominal cramping
  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • GI tract problems (constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting)
  • hot and cold sweats
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • low energy
  • rebound pain
  • restlessness
  • runny nose
  • unpredicted mood swings

Treating physical symptoms of addiction to OxyContin

Physical dependence is just one aspect of OxyContin addiction. When a person is physically dependent on OxyContin, their condition is usually managed by a gradual and slow tapering. But, a person that is addicted to OxyContin will require a structured treatment program. How is addiction treated?

1. An Assessment. To assign a diagnosis of “addiction”, medical professionals should interview and test you to determine:

  • how long you have been using OxyContin
  • in what doses and how often were you taking the medication
  • when was the last time you took the drug
  • how you access OxyContin
  • your substance use and addiction history
  • if you are dealing with any co-occurring mental health issues

Using this information, and the results from physical and psychological assessments, an addiction professional team can decide which treatment approach and accompanying therapies would be most appropriate for your needs.

2. Medically supervised detox. OxyContin detoxification should be done carefully and slowly under the supervision of a medical team. Detox is best when completed in an inpatient treatment center because you are provided with round-the-clock care and support. When detoxing from a strong opiate such as OxyContin, you might be prescribed methadone or buprenorphine to make the transition more manageable.

3. Psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. After your body is stabilized and you have successfully gone through the detox phase, staff work with you to get to the root of the problem.  Opiate rehabilitation lasts from 30 to 90 days. During this period your main focus will be individual and group therapy.  These sessions are designed to uncover the triggers for your addiction and the underlying reasons for abusing OxyContin. With the help of counseling and education, you can:

  • prepare yourself to resist temptations when you leave treatment
  • learn new coping methods
  • adapt relapse prevention techniques into your routine
  • rebuild your life as a sober person without relying to the drug for normal functioning

4. Support groups. Another helpful source of support during OxyContin addiction recovery are support groups such as 12-Step programs or SMART Recovery peer support programs. These groups can help you exchange experiences with others in addiction recovery and talk more openly with people who are facing similar challenges on their way to sobriety.

Physically addicted to OxyContin questions

If you still have questions about the physical symptoms of opiate addiction, we encourage you to post them in the comments section below. We will do our best to answer all legitimate questions personally and promptly.

Reference sources: NIH: Prescription Drug Abuse
The Department of Health: Physical and psychological dependence
NIH: Prescription Drug Abuse
Harward Medical School: Treating opiate addiction
U.S. Department of Justice: OxyContin Fast Facts
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (DHHS/PHS), Rockville, MD. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment: 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.


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  1. Hi. I have been RX’d various opiods/opiates on a daily basis since I was 20. I am now 35 and RX’d a total of 90 mgs of oxycontin as well as 40 mg total of percocet. I had a complete hysterectomy which greatly helped me. I also feel that I do not need to be on these kinds of meds at this time (and praying to never need them again). I have also healed from fracturing my spine last year. Long story short- I started to experience hyperalagesia from the meds and told my Doc that I want to come off ASAP. I did decrease my dosage more than he told me to- down to 60 mgs total now in 2 weeks. I am still experiencing withdrawl symptoms but there are times I feel fine and other times I feel awful. Is that normal? I am concerned about the prolonged withdrawl and am hoping someone can tell me how long this will last? What can I do that will help? I can up my dosage back to what my doc recommends, but I don’t want to go backwards. Any advice to ease this and a tapering schedule or info is GREATLY APPRECIATED. Thank You!

  2. I have used oxy for years for chronic pain symptoms. I am dependant and have experienced the withdrawal symptoms listed when I ran out of the medication. I don’t abuse the drugame, i take it as prescribed and sometimes less than prescribed. My question is; being that I don’t have any abuse history should i consider the rehabilitation route or methadone to detox? I am concerned with the long term effects of the medication however I am concerned with the chronic pain I suffer that ultimately led me to the medication in the first place. I suppose that alternative pain management is a good question for my PCP. Thank you in advance for any help.

    1. Hi Kent. First, I suggest that you speak with your doctor to help you create an individualized tapering schedule, just to see how the things will be going. If it’s not successful, then start thinking about enrolling into rehab program. Also, download our free e-book ‘How to Quit Opioid Painkillers’ to learn more about the process of detoxing and withdrawal, here:

  3. Hey there Lydia! Thank you so much for this website. I truly value your advice. Short version…i was prescribed oxy 4X/D (immed rel). And decided NOT to take it. I knew my pain was not CHRONIC as in all the time. I would be fine but then suddenly…BAAM…pain that put me in ER 3-7X/week…this went on for months until admitted, testeed, assesed…no known cause, but crippling pain (would eventually “play out” aftr 18-36hrs)…then back to normal. After finally surrendering to prednesone, the “attacks” lessened to 2-4/month. This is when i sought pain mgmet and was placed on the oxy regimine. But i did not take them as a preventative as they suggested…i wanted them for the attacks. Why would i take them when i was perfectly fine? But, when attacks came, the oxy did nothing…and two did nothing…and three did nothing for the pain. I still ended up in ER for shots of Diladid. I told PM that oxy not working for my attacks. They chose to say keep at it, wrote my three scripts and sent me on my way. I stockpiled them for a while…each visit with PM telling them they were not working, i was still in ER for pain…same response by them…3 scripts, see ya back soon. Well, i finally turned in almost 900 oxys…but, since then, whatever “condition” i have (still unknown 4 years later), it is/has taken its toll. I no longer have the energy i always had…ive always been super high strung…naturally…and, i found i get a boost of energy when taking oxy-when NOT in pain (energy yes, but still, not anything like my crazy high strung self that USED to exist). Now, my doc is more than willing to just keep on prescribing..and for about the last five months, i have been happy with it because…frankly, I AM MISERABLE by not having the energy i once had…and i get that from the oxy. Yet…i dont want to be on the oxy…yet, im scared to talk to my presciber about what i have been using the oxy for…i mean, i did tell him i wasnt taking them unless i had that break thru pain and even then, when i took 3X what was prescribed it wasnt working and what else could he do? I realize i am dependant. I can honestly say i am NOT incapacitated on a daily basis…only during these sporadic episodes…but my general energy level when well truly responds to the oxy..still less than when i was well, but tolerable. And, ill be honest, if i had to live with my current energy level (w/o oxy), id seriously rather not live…i mean, i used to run marathons and even with oxy now, just spending a day gardening is work….so, my thing is this…i want to not rely on this tuff. Really. But yet, im scared to tell this story to PM because i dont want them to take it away. But, i also know that even though i have more than i use, it seems at some time, that might not be the case…and ive lived a really healthy life. Ive been a vegan for 20 years, i grow most of what i eat…im in a dillemma…use…dont use…aits a dilemma when you have two choices…when you have three choices, its a choice…can you offer me any other choice Lydia? Oh, and i know you like the talk to you doctor disclaimer…ive got great insurance…ive been to Mayo, Johns Hopkins, Duke,, cleveland Clinic…not one of them knows the cause of my pain attacks enough to give it a name…thank you Lydia. I hope you consider this comment worthy of a reply

    1. Hi Jacob. Have you considered alternative therapy for pain management? Relaxation techniques, acupuncture, or massage therapy may be useful for managing pain. Here’s suggested reading on the topic:
      Also, I suggest that you download our free e-book ‘How To Quit Opioid Painkillers’ to learn more about the ending process, here:

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