OxyContin is a powerful prescription painkiller with highly addictive qualities. Although it has its place in the field of medicine, many people become dependent on the drug and take it in higher doses or for longer than prescribed. Withdrawing from OxyContin and other opioids can be incredibly difficult, but safe recovery is possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with OxyContin addiction, you should understand how the drug works, what the withdrawal process looks like, and what options are available for professional treatment.
What Is OxyContin?
OxyContin is a brand name of the drug oxycodone. It’s a semi-synthetic opioid, binding to the opioid receptors in your brain and body. This triggers the release of endorphins, leading to pain relief, sedation, and euphoria. Doctors usually prescribe OxyContin and other forms of oxycodone to treat pain from injuries, surgery, cancer, or other severe health conditions.
Opioids can have a powerful effect on your body and mind. If you’ve been struggling with chronic pain, the relief from taking OxyContin can be very appealing. Many people who take the prescription painkiller also start to feel attached to the mental effects of the drug. After regular use for a long period of time, your body may adjust to the medication and reduce its own production of endorphins. Then, when the drug leaves your system, you may face uncomfortable or painful withdrawal symptoms because your brain is used to functioning with the opioid.
In many cases, people who become addicted to OxyContin were prescribed the medication by a doctor. They may start taking a higher dose than prescribed or take the drug more frequently throughout the day. If their prescription runs out, they may feel so dependent on the drug that they seek it out through other means.
OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms
Opioid withdrawal can cause several physical and mental health symptoms, and it’s known to be one of the most difficult classes of drugs to withdraw from. However, successful detox is possible, especially with the help of medical professionals.
Some people report that OxyContin withdrawal feels like an extreme case of the flu. Withdrawal from oxycodone isn’t usually medically dangerous like certain other substances, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines. Some of the physical symptoms of OxyContin withdrawal can put your health at risk, so it’s vital that you take care of yourself or seek medical support as you detox.
The following are some of the most common physical symptoms of OxyContin withdrawal:
- Heart palpitations
- Body aches
- Muscle cramps
- Difficulty sleeping
The mental effects of withdrawing from OxyContin can be very uncomfortable, too. Opioids can have a powerful effect on your mental and emotional state, so you may experience serious emotional dysregulation as you detox from the drug. Here are some of the most common mental health effects of OxyContin withdrawal:
- Mood swings
- Restlessness; difficulty concentrating
- Inability to feel pleasure or joy
- Thoughts of suicide
OxyContin Withdrawal Timeline
Your withdrawal timeline may vary depending on how long you’ve been taking OxyContin and how much you take. The following is a general timeline of what most people experience as they detox from oxycodone:
Days 1-2: Withdrawal symptoms usually start to appear within 24 hours of your last dose of OxyContin. Most people start to experience symptoms in about 12 hours. You might feel achy, tired, or restless, and you may feel as if you’re coming down with the flu. Cravings for the drug can set in very quickly at this stage.
Days 3-4: Symptoms usually peak a few days after the last oxycodone dose. At this stage, symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and fever can become severe. You might also experience physical symptoms like shaking and cramps. Sleep disturbances are common as symptoms peak, too. The risk for relapse during this stage is especially strong because the withdrawal symptoms are so physically painful. You might be tempted to have a dose of the drug just to make the illness go away.
Days 5-7: After the physical symptoms peak, they’ll begin to slowly taper off. Nausea, vomiting, and other physical symptoms usually end after a week, but you might experience a few lingering symptoms. At this point, the mental health symptoms usually start to set in. You might feel anxious, depressed, irritable, or hopeless. Because your brain has adjusted to the opioid, regulating your mood without it can be difficult.
Week 2: Most withdrawal symptoms resolve after two weeks. However, the psychological symptoms can last for longer. You may continue to feel anxious or depressed, and strong cravings for the drug can continue for weeks or months. Insomnia sometimes persists for longer than two weeks as well. Working with mental health professionals to manage the long-term psychological effects of withdrawal will help reduce the risk of relapse.
Factors That Affect OxyContin Withdrawal
If you’re physically dependent on OxyContin, physical withdrawal symptoms are almost guaranteed. The symptoms can vary in severity, though, depending on the extent of your opioid use. Individuals who have taken OxyContin in high doses for a long period of time will experience more extreme withdrawal symptoms than individuals who used the drug for a shorter time in lower doses.
People with co-occurring mental health disorders may experience stronger psychological symptoms when withdrawing. A large percentage of people with substance use disorders have other mental heath conditions. Painkillers and other drugs can provide an escape or a sense of relief from your psychological struggles, but withdrawal can amplify your symptoms.
Your overall physical health status can make a difference, too. Because OxyContin withdrawal causes such severe flu-like symptoms, your experience with detox may be more manageable if you’re in good health. If you struggle with your physical health, the withdrawal symptoms may take a more significant toll on your body.
OxyContin Withdrawal Treatment
Withdrawing from OxyContin and other opioids on your own can be very challenging and possibly dangerous. Although the drug leaving your system doesn’t create a health risk in and of itself, the physical symptoms can lead to severe dehydration, heart problems, and other issues. Experts suggest withdrawing at the hospital or at a medically supervised detox center.
Your healthcare team may decide to give you medications to manage the withdrawal symptom. For example, methadone can help to ease symptoms and reduce cravings. Methadone is usually taken for a long period of time with medical supervision as you recover, but doctors sometimes prescribe it to help with the immediate detox symptoms at the beginning of recovery.
Next Steps After Detox and Withdrawal
Detoxing from OxyContin is the first step in addiction recovery. Once you’ve made it through the most severe physical symptoms, it’s time to address the underlying causes of your opioid use. Mental health treatment equips you with the skills you need to face life without the use of painkillers and to withstand cravings.
Inpatient rehab is almost always the best option for people who are overcoming opioid addiction. Many people go from a medically supervised detox program into an inpatient program so that they can face their first few weeks or months of sobriety with 24-hour support. During inpatient treatment, you’ll participate in a variety of group and individual therapies that will help you understand your addiction and develop coping skills to prevent relapse.
Intensive outpatient is also a great option for individuals in recovery. You can transition from an inpatient program to outpatient treatment to gradually return to your normal life with support. If you cannot attend an inpatient program, you could start with an intensive outpatient so that you receive the therapies and supervision necessary to fully recover.
OxyContin addiction is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, and seeking professional support is absolutely essential. Withdrawal causes severe physical and psychological symptoms, but these symptoms can be managed with medical care. If you or a loved one is struggling with OxyContin, remember that help is available and that you don’t have to go through withdrawal alone.
Long Island Intervention provides medical detox, inpatient, and outpatient rehab services to people struggling with opioid addiction. Our experienced, empathetic staff is here to help as you work toward long-term recovery. Please reach out to us today to learn more about addiction treatment resources.