Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Detox
Last Updated: November 6, 2023
Article at a Glance
- Oxycodone is a highly addictive opioid pain reliever that can cause withdrawal symptoms.
- Withdrawal from oxycodone causes symptoms that feel overwhelming, leading to a high potential for relapse.
- Physical and psychological symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal can start within 12 hours, and the psychological symptoms can persist for months or years.
- Medical detox provides comfort during the initial withdrawal symptoms, allowing for an improved focus on transitioning to long-term recovery.
What Is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a prescription opioid medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is often reserved for treatment-resistant pain that proves unresponsive to alternatives for pain management, but prescription levels have grown substantially over time. The total number of opioid prescriptions filled peaked in 2012, with over 255 million fills recorded. As the opioid overdose epidemic has come into focus, the number of prescriptions has dropped—about 142 million fills in 2020—but is still substantial.
Oxycodone is a schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. With continued use, oxycodone carries a considerable risk of physical dependence. This dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms upon stopping or lowering the dose suddenly. These symptoms are uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. If you want to stop using oxycodone, working with a doctor to develop a plan ensures your safety and provides a much-improved likelihood of success during the long-term recovery process.
What Is Oxycodone Withdrawal?
With continued use of oxycodone over time, the body adapts and becomes reliant upon oxycodone. For example, dopamine activates pleasure centers in the brain and impacts mood regulation. Noradrenaline produces the “fight or flight” response, characterized by increased heart rate, more rapid breathing and other symptoms that align with anxiety.
The body produces less dopamine and more noradrenaline in response to the consistent presence of oxycodone. When oxycodone is no longer available, the body’s relative lack of dopamine and abundance of noradrenaline contributes to the symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms include pain, anxiety, depression, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Medical supervision is recommended to ensure these symptoms do not lead to more dangerous imbalances. Psychological and social support are important during and after initial treatment to help build or reinforce skills related to depression and anxiety management. These skills are crucial during recovery, as they heavily overlap with addiction management.
Can Oxycodone Withdrawal Lead to Death?
Beyond the painful, uncomfortable effects of withdrawal, there is the potential for more dangerous outcomes. The danger lies primarily in unresolved electrolyte imbalances caused by dehydration. Electrolytes can become off balance due to persistent nausea and diarrhea and may ultimately result in kidney failure, seizures or death. When medical professionals provide supervision, these potential issues are accounted for, and the likelihood of more serious effects or death becomes minimal.
How Long Is Oxycodone Withdrawal?
The primary physical symptoms of withdrawal from oxycodone tend to last four to seven days. The length of time an individual has used opioids influences the severity of the initial symptoms and the potential for other protracted or longer-lasting symptoms. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, involves psychological and emotional symptoms that can linger for weeks, months or years. Support and understanding over time are essential for managing anxiety, depression, irritability and fatigue. Individuals may also experience anhedonia or the loss of pleasure in previously enjoyable activities.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Timeline
Generally, oxycodone follows a fairly standard timeline for withdrawal among short-acting opioids, with some variation between individuals. The timeline follows these phases:
- Physical and psychological symptoms begin in as little as 12 hours
- Physical symptoms typically peak within 36–72 hours
- Physical symptoms taper off within four to seven days
- Post-acute withdrawal, involving psychological and emotional symptoms, may persist for weeks, months or years
Medical supervision helps ensure safety during the worst of the physical symptoms while also providing an opportunity to begin focusing on the longer-term components of recovery. Meeting with a therapist for individual or family sessions, joining a support group and confiding in family and friends for support are all excellent ways to remain stable on the path to recovery.
Factors Affecting Withdrawal Duration
Timelines can vary between individuals for a number of reasons, including:
- Length and frequency of use and degree of dependence
- Dose and form of oxycodone used, such as extended-release Oxycontin vs. regular-release oxycodone
- Other medications or substances used
- Genetic factors like metabolism rates
- Physical health
- Mental health
- Environment at home, e.g., the quality of an individual’s social support system
Many of these factors cannot be changed, but talking with your doctor about them will help ensure you both have a solid understanding of your individual needs. Psychological, emotional and social support are paramount for weeks and months after acute withdrawal.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
The withdrawal symptoms from oxycodone can be broken down into two basic categories:
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Heart racing or pounding
- Muscle spasms and tension
- Stomach pain
- Other aches and pain
- Tremors or shakes
- Runny nose
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased difficulty managing underlying mental health conditions
While the physical symptoms are largely confined to the period of acute withdrawal, psychological symptoms can appear at the same time and linger long after acute withdrawal.
How To Cope with Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Managing withdrawal symptoms can feel overwhelming at times, but taking steps to manage your mental and physical health during the process can help. In addition to professional support from medical staff, there are some steps you can take to begin focusing on personal healing.
- Take walks or perform light exercises
- Stay hydrated
- Eat fewer processed foods and more whole foods to support nutrition
- Join a support community and actively participate
- Learn more about stress and anxiety management techniques such as mindfulness and meditation
Maintaining proper balance is essential. If you don’t feel well, you do not need to force yourself to exercise—particularly during the initial physical symptoms of withdrawal. Maintaining hydration is crucial, especially if you are experiencing symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
Detox Treatment for Oxycodone Withdrawal
During detox, oxycodone is processed and removed by the body naturally. Medically supervised detox is focused on helping you manage withdrawal symptoms by promoting safety and comfort. Oxycodone is still being processed by the body when withdrawal symptoms begin. Because the onset of symptoms is quick, it is best to have a medical evaluation prior to stopping use. This will ensure you are supported throughout.
Recovery is a process. A transition into long-term treatment after detox helps reduce the chances of relapse. This is done with an individualized approach that highlights psychological and social support. Identifying personal stressors or triggers and building the skills and confidence to manage these after opioid use is crucial for long-term recovery.
Residential or inpatient medical detox is often recommended because it provides around-the-clock support and access to medications as they are needed. Individualized dose-tapering schedules are often prescribed as well. Reducing the dosage of oxycodone in increments helps reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms.
Outpatient or ambulatory detox allows patients to stay in their own homes while regularly checking in for medical treatment. Several factors are helpful in determining whether ambulatory detox will be a good option:
- The degree of opioid dependence
- The ability to attend appointments regularly, e.g., reliable transportation
- Social support network in the home environment
Good candidates for outpatient detox are likely to have mild or moderate opioid dependence and anticipate consistent access to appointments and medications. When access to therapy is inconsistent, the risks of a more complicated withdrawal or relapse increase.
Detoxing at Home
Facing the detox process at home without the assistance of a medical professional can be done in some instances, but it is generally not advised. Tapering, or reducing the amount of oxycodone you take slowly over time, can help minimize the impact of withdrawal. Side effects like diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration and lead to more serious conditions brought on by electrolyte imbalances. Ensure you are hydrated, and consider replacing electrolytes with sports drinks if you are vomiting or have loose stools.
A strong support system at home is crucial if you decide to stop using opioids at home. Include family or friends to provide emotional support and help if symptoms feel overwhelming. It is also very important to keep in mind that in as little as a week, opioid tolerance is reversed. This substantially increases the risks of potentially fatal overdoses if relapses occur at previously used doses.
Quitting Cold Turkey
Stopping oxycodone all at once without a taper will cause withdrawal in individuals with opioid dependence. Stopping use in this way is not recommended, especially without the support of medical staff. When a taper is used, withdrawal symptoms can be minimized, resulting in a transition that is less likely to result in relapse.
Finding a Detox Center
Recovery is a complex process with many potential challenges. It is important that treatment centers provide a multi-faceted approach so you can address any of the medical and psychological pitfalls with professional support. A multidisciplinary approach also offers more flexibility and personalization for individual needs like underlying mental health conditions or the use of multiple substances.
Several other factors can help you find a quality program and decide which program is right for you:
- Cost: The cost of treatment may be a significant barrier for many individuals. It can be very helpful to ask treatment centers about:
- Insurance coverage through your provider
- Grant programs available to help offset your out-of-pocket expenses and how to determine whether you qualify for them
- Sliding scale payments and transparency about what to expect
- Accreditation: The Joint Commission and CARF International are organizations that define and ensure quality standards related to patient care are in place.
- Staff-to-patient ratio: A lower ratio means staff will likely be more available for each individual and able to provide quality support.
- Treatment options: Rigid timelines, settings and one-size-fits-all treatment approaches fail to take individual needs into consideration in many cases.
- Location: An initial notion may be that closer is better, but it is important to weigh convenience against quality of care. Some individuals may also find it beneficial to specifically choose a location that removes them from environmental pitfalls and potential triggers for relapse.
How Long Does It Take To Detox?
Medical detox programs for oxycodone are usually finished within one week. After detox, transitioning into an outpatient or residential rehab program provides additional support during the crucial early recovery phase.
Medications Used in Oxycodone Detox
Medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder is a commonly recommended course of treatment because it has proven to be effective over time. The medications most commonly used are:
Each of these medications works differently. Suboxone provides a long-acting opioid capable of producing pain relief without euphoria. Methadone is a particularly long-acting opioid and also acts as a replacement for oxycodone. These medications help minimize initial withdrawal, and the longer duration of action for these opioids produces less pronounced symptoms if they were to be stopped at a future time.
For individuals who would prefer to avoid replacing oxycodone with another opioid, clonidine provides an alternative approach. Clonidine is not an opioid but offers support for opioid withdrawal symptoms by counteracting the elevated sympathetic nervous system activity brought on by withdrawal. Suppressing the sympathetic nervous system helps reduce anxiety and some physical withdrawal symptoms, but opioid cravings may still exist.
Oxycodone Detox in Kansas City, Missouri
Making the decision to stop using oxycodone can be scary, but it can also allow you to regain control. Support during the process of recovery is important, and quality support is available. The Recovery Village Kansas City Drug and Alcohol Rehab facility offers individualized treatment with expert staff during every phase of your journey. Medical detox is available in a comfortable, safe environment with 24/7 access to support. Same-day admissions are also available.
Transitions to different levels of care are managed with your individual needs in mind, including a multidisciplinary approach to ensure every aspect of your physical and mental health is accounted for. If you or someone you care for is having difficulty stopping oxycodone use, you are not alone. Reach out today and get in touch to learn more about our individualized services.
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