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Help With Oxycodone Withdrawal

Oxycodone (OxyContin, Roxicodone, Percocet) is a type of opioid pain medication. The withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, but they are not life-threatening. A number of treatment options and medications can help ease the pain of withdrawal.

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Oxycodone withdrawal involves both physical and psychological symptoms that range from mild to severe. Not everyone will experience each symptom, but people in oxycodone withdrawal can generally expect to experience some combination of:3, 4, 5, 6

  • Agitation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • Irritability.
  • Chills or goose bumps.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Intense cravings.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Fever.
  • Sweating.
  • Runny nose.
  • Tearing eyes.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Yawning.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary, with fluctuations in the type and strength of the symptoms. The effects are influenced by:
  • How much oxycodone the person used.
  • How often he or she used.
  • The length of time the person used.
  • The person’s health and personality.

A person who has used large amounts of oxycodone several times a day for years will have a more severe withdrawal process than someone who used smaller amounts, or for a shorter period of time.

No matter how severe the withdrawal effects are, they are rarely life-threatening.3, 4, 5

Risks of Detox

Oxycodone withdrawal has fewer complications and risks than some other substances. However, a medically supervised detox facility can make the process much more comfortable, while providing monitoring for any complications to arise.

The risks of withdrawal include dehydration or electrolyte imbalance from vomiting and diarrhea, along with the potential for choking or lung infection when vomit is breathed into the lungs, which is also known as aspiration.4

The biggest risk with oxycodone withdrawal is overdose. A person who is in withdrawal lowers his or her tolerance to the drug and may relapse by taking the same dose they took while they were actively using. This increases the chance of overdose and even death. 4

Oxycodone Withdrawal Timeline

  • 8 to 12 hours after last use. Symptoms of withdrawal usually begin to occur. Typical early symptoms include anxiety, irritability, muscle aches in the back and legs, tearing eyes, runny nose, yawning, sweating, insomnia, and becoming more sensitive to pain.
  • 1 to 2 days. The person is in advanced withdrawal and is generally experiencing symptoms of earlier withdrawal along with stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, goose bumps or chills, sweating, fever, and insomnia.
  • Day 3. The symptoms usually peak around the third day and gradually improve each day until the body is fully detoxed.
  • Days 4-10. Symptoms subside within 4-10 days. 4, 7, 8

Post-Acute Withdrawal

In some cases, withdrawal symptoms from oxycodone can last for weeks or months beyond the typical withdrawal timeline. These are known as protracted or post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS).

A person with PAWS may experience:

  • Feelings of anxiety.
  • Uneasiness.
  • Irritability.
  • Depression.
  • Lethargy.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Have trouble focusing on tasks. 8

PAWS can be managed with medication or treatment techniques, and support is very important during this time.

Causes of Withdrawal


Oxycodone belongs to a class of drugs called opioids, which have a strong potential for abuse and dependence.1

Opioid medications affect the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. They create a sense of euphoria and well-being while reducing pain, which can create a desire to continue using.2 Continued use of oxycodone causes the brain to become desensitized to the drug, requiring more oxycodone to achieve the desired effect. This phenomenon is known as tolerance.

Chronic use of oxycodone can lead to physical dependence, in which the brain and body adapt to regular use. The body produces its own natural opioids, and when oxycodone is taken over a long period of time, the body produces less of these naturally occurring opioid-like chemicals. 2 When the user stops taking the drug or reduces the dose, the scarcity of these endogenous opioids (e.g., endorphins) may contribute to the unpleasant experience of withdrawal.

Treatment

Many types of facilities are available to aid in the oxycodone recovery process, including detox centers, inpatient rehabilitation programs, outpatient rehabilitation programs, and partial hospitalization programs.

Attending treatment in a detox program allows a doctor to prescribe medications to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, while ensuring the safety of the individual, reducing outside stressors, and providing support around the clock. Inpatient detox facilities also reduce access to drugs or alcohol, which is a key factor in preventing relapse. It is especially important to stay away from other drugs, to ensure that the person isn’t simply switching addictions.

Detox for opioids has a relatively short duration, yet in this interim the person in detox may be preoccupied with the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. This makes it very difficult to treat the core issues surrounding the addiction. For this reason, it is especially important to attend further treatment after completing detox to solidify the progress made in recovery and reduce the likelihood of relapse.

  • Detox facilities can be found in either a hospital or non-hospital setting and generally last about a week. This is a medically supervised setting that often involves the use of medication-assisted treatment to ease the discomfort of oxycodone withdrawal. A detox center provides a safe place to withdraw while reducing stress and triggers to relapse, but it may not provide the in-depth assistance found in other forms of treatment that is vital to lasting recovery.
  • Inpatient rehab treatment also occurs in either a hospital or non-hospital setting and usually lasts around 28 days, though treatment can be extended up to 90 days or longer if needed. Several different treatment methods are combined and used in this type of setting, including detox, group counseling, individual therapy, education, self-help meetings, and both learning and practicing skills to help people thrive in recovery.
  • Outpatient rehab treatment may provide detox for people with less severe withdrawal symptoms. It is less restrictive and allows the person to live at home. The person can reintegrate into his or her daily life and has the freedom to socialize with friends and family and attend school or work while learning how to cope with daily stress and triggers. If a person continues to struggle in outpatient treatment, a higher level of care may be recommended.
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) provide treatment about 3-5 days a week for 4-6 hours a day in a hospital setting, but participants return home at the end of the day. PHP can help a person “step down” from a recently completed inpatient treatment or provide a higher level of care if less intensive outpatient measures prove inadequate for recovery. Like outpatient programs, they may supervise detox for people who are experiencing relatively less severe withdrawal.

American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.

Medications for Oxycodone Withdrawal

Medications include methadone, buprenorphine, and clonidine.
A physician in a detox program can prescribe various medications to make withdrawal less painful and to manage withdrawal symptoms on either an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Medications involved in the detox process can include methadone, buprenorphine, buprenorphine and naloxone (Suboxone), clonidine, Zofran (ondansetron), baclofen, and trazodone.

  • Methadone, buprenorphine, and Suboxone can be provided in a tapering dose to wean the person off of oxycodone, reducing the symptoms of withdrawal and helping to prevent relapse. They may also be prescribed longer-term on maintenance doses. 4, 11
  • Clonidine lowers the level of anxiety and agitation, as well as reducing aches in muscles, cramps, sweating, and runny nose.4
  • Zofran can reduce the nausea and vomiting that typically accompanies withdrawal.
  • Baclofen can reduce the painful muscle aches and cramping.
  • Trazodone is often prescribed to promote restful sleep.

Clonidine, Zofran, baclofen, and trazodone are generally prescribed to be taken as needed, and they can be discontinued once the withdrawal symptoms are gone.

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