OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Detox Treatment
OxyContin, one of the brand names for oxycodone hydrochloride, is a potent prescription opioid painkiller that can lead to misuse and dependence, resulting in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.1
What is OxyContin?
OyxContin is a powerful, semi-synthetic opioid medication that is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain due to traumatic injuries, arthritis, and cancer.1,2 People may misuse OxyContin because it can cause a euphoric feeling that resembles the high caused by heroin.1 OyxContin is a Schedule II substance, which also includes drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. This means that OxyContin has a high potential for misuse and dependence.1
Oxycodone is a full opioid agonist, meaning that it works by binding to the mu opioid receptors located in your brain and throughout your body.3 These receptors are mainly responsible for pain control, respiratory depression (slowed breathing), euphoria, and sedation.4
Long-term misuse of oxycodone can lead to physical dependence.1 Dependence can be associated with many adverse effects, including withdrawal.1,3 It is important to be aware that OxyContin is an extended-release formulation, which means it releases the opioid in your body over a long period of time, which can have a greater risk of overdose and death.3
According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 3.2 million people aged 12 and older misused oxycodone products in the past year, which includes OxyContin.6 Although the NSDUH does not provide specific OxyContin addiction statistics, it reports that 2.3 million people had a prescription pain reliever use disorder, the term used by the NSDUH for addiction to substances like OxyContin.6
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OxyContin Dependence, Addiction, and Withdrawal
Dependence can occur due to chronic administration of a substance, even if used as directed by a physician.7 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. In other words, a person feels like they need this drug to feel and function normally. With significant physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively drink or use drugs to avoid unwanted withdrawal symptoms.7
People can be dependent on a substance and not be addicted, but dependence is often a feature of addiction. Addiction (or, in diagnostic/clinical terminology, a substance use disorder) refers to the compulsive, uncontrollable use of a substance despite all of the harm that it causes. Addiction may entail not only physiological changes (such as dependence) but several harmful behavioral changes adversely impacting every aspect of an individual’s life. Addiction development is accompanied by functional changes within the brain that can impact an individual’s drive, motivation, thought processes and behaviors so much that drug use becomes prioritized over all else. The development of addiction is influenced not only by repeated substance use itself, but also by genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors.7
OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from opioid medications like OxyContin is not generally considered to be medically dangerous, but symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and distressing.8 However, sudden discontinuation of OxyContin can cause serious withdrawal symptoms, uncontrolled pain, and even suicidal thoughts.3
People often describe opioid withdrawal as feeling like a combination of gastroenteritis (inflammation of the intestinal lining), the severe flu, anxiety, and dysphoria (very low mood)—all at the same time.9
Common opioid withdrawal symptoms can include:1,5
- Muscle and bone pain.
- Increased sensitivity to pain.
- Increased heart rate or blood pressure.
OxyContin Withdrawal Timeline
The withdrawal timeline from opioids depends on the type of opioid—short- acting opioids versus long-acting drugs.10 OxyContin, the extended-release form of oxycodone, creates long-acting opioid effects.3 Withdrawal symptoms typically begin 2-4 days after the last dose, peak in severity after 72-96 hours, and then gradually subside after around 2 weeks.5
While symptoms typically resolve after 14 days, some can experience prolonged withdrawal symptoms such as low mood, cravings, insomnia, and pain that can last weeks or months.9
Factors that Affect OxyContin Withdrawal
The experience of withdrawal varies for everyone. The onset, magnitude, character, and duration of your symptoms depends on a variety of factors. Some of these factors include the amount, duration, and type of opioid used; whether you have a history of previous withdrawal; your overall health; and whether you have any medical, surgical, or psychiatric co-occurring disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder.5,8
OxyContin Withdrawal Treatment
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) advises hospitalization or another form of 24-hour medical care for people who are withdrawing from opioids, due to safety concerns and the potential of intense suffering.8 Individuals withdrawing from opioids run the risk of complications, such as severe dehydration, uncontrolled pain, the worsening of anxiety or underlying cardiac illnesses, or suicide.3,8 The supervision, support, and medication offered by medical detox helps you stay as safe and comfortable as possible.
It’s important to keep in mind that medical detox is not a replacement for more comprehensive rehabilitation.11 Detox is a process that helps your body return to a medically stable state while managing withdrawal symptoms in a safe and supportive environment. It is often only the first step in addiction recovery and it helps prepare you for addiction treatment.8,11 Beyond detox, individuals typically continue their recovery in a formal rehab or treatment program to address the underlying issues that led to the addiction.
During detox, withdrawal symptoms may be managed with medications, including:5,8,12
- Methadone. This opioid-based medication reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Buprenorphine. This opioid-based medication reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Clonidine. Clonidine, not an FDA-approved medication for withdrawal, may be used off-label during detox to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
- Lofexidine. This non-opioid medication can minimize physical withdrawal symptoms.
What Happens After Successful Detox/Withdrawal Management?
Once you have completed detox, you may receive different therapies and treatments as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan. As previously mentioned, it can be important to enter rehab after detox so you can work through the underlying issues that led to the addiction in the first place. Rehab can take place in different settings, including:11
- Inpatient rehab. During residential or inpatient rehab, you live onsite for the duration of treatment. You receive around-the-clock care and support and participate in different therapies. It can be a beneficial option for people who prefer or require a high level of support, such as those with severe addictions or those without supportive home environments.
- Outpatient rehab. Outpatient rehab involves traveling to the rehab facility for treatment but then returning home, to school, or to a sober living environment after you complete your therapies and counseling sessions each day. Outpatient treatment can be a good option for many people but can be especially well-suited for those with supportive home environments and reliable transportation.
Ongoing medication maintenance can help people remain sober and prevent relapse.
Individuals may remain on medications like methadone or buprenorphine during maintenance, and they may also receive naltrexone, an opioid antagonist that blocks the euphoric effects of opioids.9 This means that an individual taking naltrexone won’t get high or experience effects if they use opioids again, which can help them stay sober.9
Opioid use disorder treatment is a multifaceted approach that also involves many different treatments and supports, including:9,13-15
- Counseling. This helps you address issues that led to the addiction.
- Behavioral therapies. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management (CM), or motivational interviewing teaches you skills to help you make positive behavioral changes.
- Family therapy. This helps improve and repair family relationships that may have been affected by addiction.
- Vocational training. This can help you find employment after rehab.
- Case management. Case management can assist with social services—helping you secure food, shelter, income support, or legal aid—so you can focus on recovery.
- Aftercare. Recovery is a lifelong process. After treatment, it can be helpful to participate in ongoing treatment and support to help you stay sober and committed to recovery. Options may include participating in individual counseling, taking a mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) course, attending mutual-help support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), using recovery apps, or utilizing recovery management checkups with your treatment provider.
Treatment should be personalized to your unique needs, meaning it addresses the substance use as well as any medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems you may be facing.16
American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers individualized, comprehensive treatment options that can help you or your loved one overcome opioid addiction and take back control of your life. If you or someone you care about struggle with OxyContin misuse or addiction, please reach out to us for help today. It’s never too late to begin the path to recovery.