Tolerance to OxyContin

Tolerance to OxyContin means you must take increasingly higher doses to achieve the same inital effects. OxyContin tolerance develops at different times for different people. Learn more about tolerance to Oxycontin and other strong opioid drugs here.

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Are your prescribed OxyContin (oxycodone) doses not enough anymore? Do OxyContin effects on the body no longer seem effective? Are you taking more OxyContin in order to feel its effects?  If yes, then you have probably developed a tolerance to OxyContin. Some worry that being tolerant to Oxycontin means they are also physically dependent on Oxycontin.  But this is not true: if you are tolerant to OxyContin you will not necessarily experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking OxyContin. However, drug dependence does not always accompany tolerance. Nor does it mean you are addicted to OxyContin, either.

Here, we take a closer look at OxyContin tolerance, how does OxyContin work in the body, and whether it’s possible to lower your tolerance to OxyContin, or not. If at the end you still have questions about tolerance to OxyContin, please ask and will get back to you as soon as possible.

Developing tolerance to OxyContin

Opioid tolerance to medications like OxyContin occurs because brain cells with opioid receptors gradually become less responsive to opioid stimulation over time. In other words, when your body accommodates for OxyContin, it weakens oxycodone’s ability to work with the same effectiveness. For example, a few weeks or months into OxyContin treatment, more oxycodone is needed to stimulate the VTA brain cells of the mesolimbic reward system to release the same amount of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. This is why OxyContin addicts eventually need more Oxycontin to produce pleasure, compared to initial dosing episodes.

Developing tolerance is such a personal development that at times it may be hard to predict. It does seem though that some people have natural blocks to certain types of drugs like OxyContin and will need alternative medications. However, just because the nerve receptors have been dampened doesn’t mean you are addicted or dependent on OxyContin. If you think you may have developed a dependency on oxycodone, watch out for withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking OxyContin.

OxyContin tolerance symptoms

Common tolerance symptoms of OxyContin include:

1) Exceeding recommended or prescribed maximum daily doses of OxyContin.

2) Feeling little pain relief when you take OxyContin.

3) Maintaining normal functions without the presence of withdrawal symptoms.

But even though you may be experiencing these symptoms of tolerating OxyContin doesn’t mean you’re developing an OxyContin addiction. Several other factors play into drug addiction, such as experiencing OxyContin withdrawal symptoms and the prescence of psychological dependence on OxyContin like mental drug cravings to help cope with day-to-day life.

OxyContin tolerance: How long?

You can develop a tolerance to OxyContin (oxycodone) quickly. But each person develops tolerance to Oxycontin at a different rate. In general, extended use of opioid medications like OxyContin produces drug tolerance. Your tolerance for Oxycontin will increase the longer you are taking OxyContin. OxyContin is also a common substance that is abused; but once you take OxyContin, you can never ever experience the first high again. This is where tolerance can be dangerous because as people chase their first high by increasing the amount of OxyContin they take, which can quickly lead to physical dependence and addiction.

High tolerance to OxyContin

OxyContin is a slow-release long-term opioid pain reliever. Some people have a naturally high tolerance for OxyContin, although it is hard to predict who will have a higher tolerance or not. You are considered opioid tolerant if you exceed 30mg daily in OxyContin, though the largest dose of OxyContin that will be prescribed is 160mg daily. Exceeding this daily amount is considered high and can be potentially dangerous. If you continue to increase your dose of OxyContin and still do not feel its effects, OxyContin might not work at all for you. If you have a high tolerance for OxyContin, it may be best to find another drug that would works best for the symptoms you’re trying to relieve. In general, though, if you are abusing OxyContin you are going to develop tolerance faster.

How to lower tolerance to OxyContin

If you want to lower your tolerance to OxyContin the best thing to do consult your prescribing doctor before you stop taking it for awhile. But keep in mind that some individuals never regain the base level of lowered tolerance. Give your body time to readjust. After some time, your tolerance will lower and you may be able to take OxyContin again. Also, OxyContin is meant more for short term therapy than for long term use. If you are not taking OxyContin the next time you have surgery or get injured, you can expect to take OxyContin with benefits of pain relief.

Building up tolerance to OxyContin questions

Do you still have questions about OxyContin tolerance? Please share your questions and experiences with OxyContin in the comments below.

Reference Sources: National Institute of Drug Abuse: Neurotransmission
Daily Med: OxyContin
Daily Med archive for OxyContin
National Institute of Drug Abuse: The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment
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. Hello-

    Thank you for the wonderful information on your site. I am currently in pain managment and am prescribed 10 mg of oxycodone 4 times per day. I started oxycodone roughly 3 months ago and have not had an increase in dosage. At the current dosage, my pain is under control. I have also been diagnosed as Bipolar II and take Prozac (40 mg/day) and Lamactil (300 mg/day). Over the last 2 months I have had an incredible deteriorization of my mental state. I am disabled and live alone. I sit in my home all day with blinds drawn, two unstable to leave my house. It is important to know that the Prozac and Lamactil were started two months ago as well. As you can imagine, I am in a state of despair.

    I am curious to know if a build-up of tolerance will create mental distress (even though pain is under control)? Perhaps the dopamine receptors are mostly untilized at this point and I am suffering from lack of dopamine? Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

  2. I was diagnosed with Reynard and TDF 8 yrs ago I almost lost my right arm. I was placed on oxyxotin after many painful nerve conducting test to verify my problem. Anyway I was placed on 30 mg oxyxotin THREE times after a.couple.of years my oxyxotin was decreases to TWO times a day. I had no problem with.this. I continue to take this for at least.3.years. now I am noticing my pain is.coming back in my right arm with a vengence. I have a.peoblem asking my.pain doctor whom.i see every 3 month for evaluation ro increase my medication. But my pain is interfering with my daily life. I have been having to take my medicine some.days 3 times and this is the fiest.time EVER I have almost.ran out. So now I am trying so.i so.not completely take.all my meds
    The withdrawal is horrible. I wish someone would have told me this would have been so incredibly addituctive. I would have ask for something else. This long story is to ask a.simple.quesrion. if I come off this medication on my own will my problems come.back and is there any better medications that will not cause such withdrawal muscle pain. I am doing my best to tolwrate.this I am in day 2 and it is one of the.most uncomfortable thing I have experienced
    Any suggestion would be appreciates.

    1. Hello Carol. Unfortunately, our bodies are great at getting accustomed to the presence of medications after a regular use for some time. This is actually an ability that has helped us adapt and survive in many environments so far. So, this isn’t a process that anyone can control or stop. The reason you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms is because of this adaptation; your body and brain have become dependent on oxycontin and need it to function normally. These effects are reversible, but require complete cessation of the medication – which I don’t believe is smart since you need something that will manage your chronic pain. Another occurrence when taking a medication chronically for a prolonged period of time is tolerance. This means that the dosages that used to work and deliver pain-relieving effects are not enough. To lower tolerance in patients, doctors usually lower the prescribed doses and after a while put you back on the old dose, and the medications work again. But, this is a short term solution as you will get used to the amount after a while. Increasing your current dose will only lead to another increase once you stop feeling the same effects as you used to when you once started Oxycontin.

  3. I used 40mg of Oxycontin twice a day for back and scoliosis pain & 5-10mg for breakthrough pain up to 2ce a day. I began to get withdrawal symptoms when my next dose was due, runny nose & eyes with massive yawns. Soon this was accompanied by palpitations & panic/anxiety. My doc increased my 40mg to 10mg but I still had withdrawal symptoms although less. I was given i0mg but it was too much for me & I had awful palpitations 24/7 so I dropped to 60mg & sought a pain specialist. She was no help & just said I needed to find help with withdrawing. Nothing about what I do about the pain. I had seen her 4yrs previously asking to go onto something else as they weren’t working as well…she told me to recuce the drug by 10mg every 2wks then start morphine. I went through hell on earth & begged my doctor to put me back on oxycodone which he did but I struggled with pain increasing & withdrawal earlier & earlier every dose.

  4. Hi Mark. As you continue using the medication, your body becomes tolerant to the usual doses. So, after a while you don’t get pain relief and continuously need increased doses. This may not be the answer you’d like to read, but you might want to listen to what the doctors say. The medication won’t work unless you lower the tolerance to it.

  5. I have been taking oxycodone for about 6 yrs now on top of having a pain pump. the oxy ramped up and then we tried going down to help it work again a few yrs ago. I have been at 30mg 4 times a day for a few yrs now and I don’t seem to get any relief at all. im afraid to tell Dr because they will tell me to taper off again. that’s NOT relieving the pain at all….. any ideas???

  6. I’m a 40 year old male with a really messed up back from years and years of installing carpeting. I didn’t have issues with my back until I stopped installing for a few years. I am a mess now, my DO put my on Oxycontin, which has helped, but now 1.5 yrs later it does little to mask the pain. I’m currently on 60mg x3 daily and have been for over 1.5 yrs, with almost no increases(except for BT pain medicine). I’m at the point now where I just can’t justify the $150.00 a month for medicine that doesn’t work anymore. But I am worried that once I wean off I will be in excruciating pain. Any suggestions from any long time Oxycontin users?? I have tried Fentnyl patches and they didn’t work. All they did is make me feel ill.

  7. Hello Natalie. Medical professional suggest you tell your healthcare provider right away if you are breathing more slowly than usual, are experiencing shallow breathing (little chest movement while breathing), or if you feel faint, dizzy, confused, or have any other unusual symptoms.

  8. Hi,
    I was wondering if you could help me with some questions on Oxycontin. I had bi-lateral knee surgery 2 weeks ago and the NSAIDS they initially gave me post-op weren’t helping with the pain, so the Dr. sent me Oxycontin 10mg. It’s the first time I ever take it and have not abused it in the past, no any other opiods. But the first dose I took last night freaked me out because it made me feel really dopey and I experienced slow breathing. Not hard core, but I was afraid of falling asleep because I thought I might not breathe when asleep. Anyways, it was a rough night but today in the morning, I was brave enough to take my 2nd dose (it’s every 12 hrs). I’ve not experienced any breathing issues as of yet. Should I be worried about what happened with my first dose? with the slightly slow breathing and anxiety? Should I not take my next nighttime dose?

    Also, the Oxy the sent me will run out in about 2 weeks. Do I need to taper off slowly? Or will I be ok if I just run out after 2 weeks and that’s it? I don’t know if I’ll be dependent on it by then enough to require me to ask my Dr. to prescribe a few more so that I can taper off slowly?

    Thanks for your help!

  9. Hello Paul. It usually takes a few weeks to develop dependence to oxycodone. Everyone who takes oxycodone daily is expected to develop dependence, but tolerance is an issue of individual sensitivity. Some people are less responsive to opiate/opioids while others are more responsive. Experts don’t know yet what determines or regulates tolerance.

    I wish you well in your new business venture. Any other questions?

  10. I have had low back pain for about 4 years, with a useless bone spur operation two years ago. I get steroid injections monthly, and weekly massage. My primary pain relief is Oxycontin, taking an average of about 60 mg a day the last month, and taking Hydrocodone for about a year before that. The Hydrocodone was not relieving enough pain.

    Oxycodone really blocks my short-term memory, and makes me sleepy, so I hired a driver.

    I never get high from it. I am planning my business, so I need to know what my future likely holds. What is the percent of patients who develop tolerance to Oxycodone? How long does it usually take to develop tolerance?

    I take tiny doses of Nuvigil to stay alert, cutting the pills down to less than 50 mg per day. Nuvigil also seems to help with the memory problem.


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