Medically Reviewed

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Detox Treatment

Oxycodone is a prescription opioid painkiller often used to treat severe pain; however, it also has a high potential for misuse and addiction. People that take oxycodone consistently or misuse oxycodone are at high risk for withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly quit taking it or drastically reduce their use.1

This page will discuss what causes oxycodone withdrawal, the symptoms of withdrawal from oxycodone, the expected duration and severity of withdrawal, and options for oxycodone detox and rehabilitation.

Causes of Oxycodone Withdrawal

Man in detox experiencing withdrawal from oxycodone

Oftentimes, when people use oxycodone over extended periods of time, they will build a physical dependence to the opioid. Dependence is a physiological adaptation of the body to a substance, wherein the body becomes so used to the drug being present in the system that when the individual cuts back on their use or quits, withdrawal symptoms emerge. With significant levels of physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively use oxycodone to avoid unwanted withdrawal symptoms.1

Withdrawal is associated with various physiological reactions in the body. Symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal can be mild, moderate, or severe but rarely life-threatening.1,2

Just because someone is physically dependent on oxycodone does not mean they are addicted, as people using oxycodone for legitimate medical reasons may experience withdrawal when they go off the medication.3

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Though the intensity and type of drug withdrawal symptoms a person may experience during oxycodone withdrawal will vary from one person to another, the most common symptoms include:2,4

  • Cravings.
  • Anxiety.
  • Stomach cramps and/or diarrhea.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.

Relapse occurs when an individual returns to oxycodone use after they  have gone through withdrawal. Cravings are one of the main driving factors in relapse.9 Therefore, controlling cravings during withdrawal is crucial to avoid relapse.9

Relapse can be  especially dangerous because the period of abstinence during the withdrawal phase will likely result in a loss of tolerance (only a little bit will have a huge effect on the body), putting someone at an increased risk of overdose.5

Oxycodone Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline for oxycodone withdrawal can be impacted by numerous factors, such as:2

  • The length of time someone has been using the drug.
  • The dosage of oxycodone they have been taking.
  • How frequently someone has been taking oxycodone.
  • If they have been using other substances alongside oxycodone (e.g., alcohol, benzodiazepines, methamphetamine).

Oxycodone is what is known as a long-acting opioid, which impacts the length of time an opioid stays in the body.6 Oxycodone will typically result in withdrawal symptoms beginning up to 36 hours after the last use, and peaking around day 3 to 4.7

In some cases, people may experience chronic withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms differ in people and may not occur all the time. Some of these symptoms include:8

  • Depression.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Issues with learning and memory.
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Feeling apathetic.
  • Intense cravings for opioids.
  • Increased difficulty handling stress.

Withdrawing from oxycodone in a medically managed treatment program, mitigates cravings and other withdrawal symptoms when they are most severe, allowing patients to address the underlying problems contributing to their opioid use disorder.2

American Addiction Centers’ (AAC) facilities located all over the country provide medical detox and may offer a variety of other types of addiction treatment, including inpatient treatment, outpatient care, sober living homes, aftercare planning, and more. These services are designed to help patients not only safely withdraw from dependence to drugs like oxycodone, but also build the necessary skills to achieve lasting recovery.

Oxycodone Detox & Treatment Medications

Medical detox is a process by which a person goes through withdrawal under the supervision of medical professionals.2 Detox—while often crucial—is only the first stage of treatment to stop the use of oxycodone. People typically need continued care to address the psychological and social conditions that contribute to their opioid use disorder (OUD).2,10

In general, drug detoxification involves 3 phases:2

  • Evaluation, where a person undergoes a full assessment to determine their treatment needs, including the presence of other physical or mental disorders that may need monitoring or treatment.
  • Stabilization, which involves monitoring the patient’s symptoms, administering medication when necessary, and orienting a person to the idea of further treatment.
  • Fostering a person’s entry into treatment. This involves working with a patient to ensure that they understand the need for treatment beyond detox and facilitating entry in a rehab program.

Detox programs vary in length based on individual needs, but the average stay is about 7 days.2

After detox, it is important to continue treatment to help address the underlying issues that led to oxycodone misuse, as well as give you the tools to deal with triggers and avoid relapse after treatment ends.2,10

Ongoing treatment for oxycodone addiction can involve inpatient treatment, where patients live at the facility for the duration of care, or it can occur on an outpatient basis where patients visit the facility for treatment several times a week. The frequency and length of time these visits last vary based on the patient’s needs.11

Treatment for oxycodone misuse typically will include various forms of behavioral therapy, including, but not limited to:12,13,14

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help people identify patterns of thinking that can lead to drug use and replace these patterns with positive coping strategies.
  • Contingency management, which uses rewards to incentivize meeting recovery goals.
  • Family behavior therapy, which engages the patient’s family in their recovery by helping them understand and apply the behavioral strategies learned in therapy sessions, and by setting and executing goals.

Treatment for opioid use disorder also often utilizes medication during detox, rehab, and on a long-term basis. Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) work by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms without eliciting the euphoric high that drugs like oxycodone or heroin yield.15

Oxycodone Withdrawal Medications

doctor going over medications prescribed for oxycodone withdrawal

Medications specifically approved for treating opioid use disorder (OUD) reduce withdrawal and cravings, helping patients focus on behavioral therapy and daily functioning. These medications include the opioid agonist methadone, and the partial opioid agonist buprenorphine.2,7,15

In addition to mitigating withdrawal and cravings, these drugs also blunt the effects of misused opioids, discouraging relapse.7 It is common for patients to remain on these medications for months or even years in recovery.15

Other medications often administered during withdrawal include sleep aids to lessen insomnia or acetaminophen to deal with body aches or headaches.2

Treatment Outlook, Long Term Impacts, and Preventing Relapse

There is plenty of evidence that treatment for substance use disorders is effective. However, many people can have a high likelihood of relapse after treatment. It is important to understand that relapse does not necessarily mean failure.17 Relapse may just mean that someone needs to reenter treatment or modify the treatment that they have been receiving.10,17

There are many factors that influence treatment outcomes, for example:

  • Staying in treatment for an adequate length of time is one of the most critical components of recovery: A short period of detox, on its own, is not particularly effective in helping someone stay in recovery for long periods of time.2,15,17
  • Some studies indicate the use of medication for opioid use disorder can improve treatment retention and subsequently improve treatment outcomes.18
  • Comprehensive treatment for people struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders has proven to be generally more effective in helping patients recover from these conditions than treating them separately.10
  • Individualized treatment and continual assessment and modification of treatment approaches is critical for patients’ success in long-term recovery. Patients often go through multiple levels of care (e.g., inpatient treatment, outpatient rehab, sober living) as their needs evolve.10

One study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine indicated that around 50% of participants in a trial using month-long acting buprenorphine were able to maintain recovery from opioid use for at least 12 months.19

Although recovery from oxycodone and other types of opioid addiction is challenging, there is hope, as many people successfully get sober and sustain recovery.13 Addiction of any kind is not cured, but rather it can be managed, enabling people to live normal and fulfilling lives without the use of substances.17

If you or someone you love has an oxycodone addiction, please call for more information about rehabilitation options at American Addiction Centers’ (AAC) facilities, using insurance to pay for rehab, and more.

Last Updated on Sep 14, 2022
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