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Oxycodone Withdrawal

The powerful lure of pain pills–and the destruction they cause–has the nation on high alert. These potent drugs ease body aches and pains, but the euphoria they create makes them highly addictive. Once users fall prey to opioid addiction, they’re in a fight for their lives, and not everyone wins the battle.

More than 70,200 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, according to the data cited by theNational Institute on Drug Abuse. This record-setting figure includes overdoses involving prescription opioids and illicit drugs.

Experts say opioid overdose deaths have killed more people than those lost to traffic accidents, gun violence, and HIV. And, it is now reported that more than 130 Americans die from opioid overdoses every day

Oxycodone, the ingredient in OxyContin and Percocet, is among the painkillers that have many hooked. It is used to treat people with moderate-to-severe pain, particularly those who have had surgery or are managing pain from chronic health conditions, including cancer. 

Oxycodone has made its rounds on the black market, where it is widely abused. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the abuse of OxyContin has risen steadily since it came on the scene in the 1990s.

What Are the Symptoms of Oxycodone Withdrawal?

How do you know you’re in oxycodone withdrawal? Well, for most people, it starts with how they feel overall shortly after they have stopped taking the drug. A person who uses it for a long time will build up a tolerance for it, which means the body and brain no longer respond to the drug the way it did when it was first used.

Drug withdrawal means that once substance use is stopped, the body will go through a series of changes as it adjusts to not having the substance in its system. Signs and symptoms from oxycodone withdrawal affect people differently, and what’s considered mild to severe will vary depending on the person.

People with severe oxycodone withdrawal may experience a range of signs and symptoms that affect all aspects of well-being, from physical health to emotional and psychological stability. Some of these are listed below.

Some physical symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal are:

  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Flu-like symptoms (coughing, runny nose, teary eyes)
  • High blood pressure 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Involuntary leg movements (restless legs)
  • Joint, muscle and bone aches/pain, 
  • Hoarseness and swelling of the throat
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea (diarrhea, vomiting)
  • Sweating
  • Excessive yawning

People in oxycodone withdrawal may experience:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Delusions
  • Distractions (or problems concentrating)
  • Insomnia (or other sleep disorders)
  • Irritability

Psychological withdrawals from oxycodone include:

  • Abnormal thoughts, dreams
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Depersonalization (a state in which one’s thoughts and feelings seem unreal or do not belong to oneself)
  • Depression
  • Dysphoria
  • Emotional lability
  • Hallucinations
  • Mental brain fog
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you’ve been using oxycodone for some time and have decided to stop using it entirely or not as much as you used to, you may experience any of these symptoms. If so, seek medical help right away. Quitting oxycodone “cold turkey” is not recommended. 

Abruptly stopping the use of this drug can cause you more harm. If you return to using oxycodone after being off it for a while, you can relapse and possibly overdose because the body is no longer used to your usual dose.

From this point on, you will have to decide what happens next as these symptoms unfold. As you weigh your options, here’s what you need to know.

What Are the Stages of the OxyContin Withdrawal Timeline?

Withdrawal will not look or feel the same for everyone. For that reason, you should consult with a doctor who can advise you on your condition. Timelines vary, but physical withdrawal from oxycodone can last a few days to a few weeks. Long-term withdrawal effects that affect a person’s mental state or emotions can last for months or even years after use.

Days 1-2: The first two days of oxycodone withdrawal are among the most challenging. Withdrawal symptoms usually start between eight and 12 hours after the last dose taken wears off. At this stage, users in withdrawal may have joint aches, abdominal cramps, muscle cramps, flu-like symptoms (runny nose, fever, and other cold symptoms), and increased irritation and anxiety. 

This short window is when users are more likely to relapse. They use the drug to end painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, but this on-again, off-again cycle becomes deadlier with each use.

Days 3-5: In this phase, users can experience vomiting and diarrhea and appetite loss.  They also may have the shakes and cramps are still present.

Days 6-7: Physical withdrawal symptoms begin to ease up around this period, but mental and emotional symptoms become stronger. Anxiety and depression are common, as users face their addiction and the actions they took that accompanied their addiction. These realizations can be overwhelming, along with some physical pains that may still be present. These may include strong cravings and desires to resume use of the drug, which is common in users going through oxycodone withdrawal.

Should I Detox?

Undergoing a monitored medical detox at a reputable treatment center with compassionate staff that understands addiction treatment is the best option. A medical center or facility provides a safe environment in which users can detox comfortably. There, medical professionals can track a person’s progress around the clock and ensure they get the care they need. This also reduces a person’s chances of having a relapse.

While oxycodone withdrawal is not life-threatening, the symptoms of withdrawal are enough to make someone pick up the drug and use again just to get the symptoms to stop. This sets up the possibility for one to overdose.

Symptoms of an oxycodone overdose include:

  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Narrowed or widened pupils
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

As noted earlier, stopping oxycodone use abruptly can create more problems than it solves. Getting off oxycodone can be painful and unpleasant, so some people seek relief using do-it-yourself methods. These are typically done at home or outside of the care of an accredited addiction treatment facility. This is not a safe way to end substance addiction.

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

Once you have entered medical detox and regained medical stability, your next step is to find and enter a professional recovery program. The clinical team that guided you through medical detox will help you pick the best treatment option for your situation. Your input in this process is essential, and addiction care professionals should work with you to create a customized program.

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Addiction treatment takes place on a continuum of care. Once treatment is underway, it can occur in a range of settings, from residential to outpatient, or other placements in between. You will receive comprehensive therapy and counseling that can help you understand addiction better. You will also learn skills, tools, and strategies that have helped countless people overcome substance abuse.
In treatment, you’ll have access to various therapies, which may include the following, based on your plan:

Individual therapy

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills
  • Genetic testing
  • Family-focused therapy
  • Trauma-informed sessions

Group therapy

  • Emotional regulation techniques
  • Addiction education
  • Motivational enhancement
  • Relapse prevention
  • 12-step programs

Holistic treatments

  • Acupuncture/acupressure
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Nutritional assessments
  • Reiki
  • Yoga

After clinical stabilization services, the next treatment step is partial care, where you can continue to receive ongoing care and counseling while attending to the obligations of your life.

Upon completion of your treatment, you can receive ongoing care and connect with others in recovery. They can support you through your trials and encourage you to stay on the path. You’ll also have the opportunity to do the same for others who are on a similar journey.

Sources

Whitehouse.gov. (n.d.). Ending America's Opioid Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/opioids/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 29). Overdose Death Rates. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

Katz, J., & Sanger-katz, M. (2018, November 29). 'The Numbers Are So Staggering.' Overdose Deaths Set a Record Last Year. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/29/upshot/fentanyl-drug-overdose-deaths.html

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

ASAM. (n.d.). What is the ASAM Criteria? Retrieved from https://www.asam.org/resources/the-asam-criteria/about

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