If you use oxycodone for more than two weeks, you’re likely to become physically dependent on the drug.
Dependence means your body has adapted to the presence of oxycodone in your system and needs it to function normally. When you’re dependent on oxycodone, you’ll experience uncomfortable withdrawal system if you cut back on your dose, or abruptly stop taking the drug.
Oxycodone withdrawal can range from mild to severe depending on how much you’ve been taking and how long you’ve been taking it.
Withdrawal symptoms may vary from person to person, but most people experience an array of flu-like symptoms, including nausea, body aches, fever and stomach upset.
Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms are the same as withdrawal symptoms from other prescription opioids, such as morphine, codeine and hydrocodone.
Symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal include:
Other symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal include hot and cold flashes, goosebumps and twitching. Intense cravings for oxycodone are common. In severe cases of withdrawal, a person may develop dehydration, elevated blood sugar and low blood pressure. They may lie in a curled-up, fetal position.
People who take higher doses of oxycodone and more potent formulations of the drug, such as the extended-release version, OxyContin, usually develop more severe withdrawal symptoms. The longer a person has been using the drug, the worse their withdrawal symptoms are likely to be.
Matt Ganem, a Boston man who developed an OxyContin addiction when he was just 16, told the health and science publication STAT that withdrawing from the drug was pure agony. In a video interview, Ganem recalled the drenching sweats, violent diarrhea, severe anxiety and other symptoms he experienced.
Unable to cope, he eventually turned to heroin. “I was dope sick off of Oxys, curled up like a baby and I couldn’t afford another pill, and someone brought a bag of heroin to me,” Ganem said. “At that point, it didn’t matter to me. I was so sick, I just didn’t want to be sick.”
The onset of oxycodone withdrawal can vary, but typically begins around the time a person would have taken their next dose of the drug.
With a short-acting type of oxycodone, such as Percocet, withdrawal symptoms usually start approximately six to eight hours after the previous dose. Symptoms peak in 48 to 72 hours and usually last five to seven days.
Withdrawal from extended-release forms of oxycodone, such as OxyContin, may not develop for at least 12 hours and can last for upwards of one to two weeks.
While the acute physical symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal usually dissipate in days to weeks, psychological effects such as depression, irritability and trouble thinking can linger for weeks or months.
These prolonged symptoms are known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Up to 90 percent of those recovering from an opioid addiction have some degree of PAWS.
If you’ve been taking oxycodone continuously for more than two weeks, it’s unadvisable to stop the drug cold turkey.
If you’re under the care of a physician, your doctor may try to wean you off the drug gradually to reduce withdrawal symptoms. This usually takes several days and involves taking a slightly smaller dose of oxycodone every few days.
A case report in the 2012 journal of Pain Therapy describes a 44-year-old woman who was successfully weaned off OxyContin by tapering her dose over a 10-day period and taking Ondansetron, a prescription anti-nausea medication.
If you are not under the care of a physician, you may want to consider seeking professional drug treatment. Detox centers can manage oxycodone withdrawal symptoms with medications and provide monitoring to insure your safety and comfort.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs — methadone and buprenorphine — for the treatment of opioid withdrawal symptoms. Other prescription drugs, including the sedative Clonidine, are also commonly used to manage oxycodone withdrawal. Over-the-counter medications are used frequently to relieve symptoms such as diarrhea and body aches.
While cravings for oxycodone persist for months or years after withdrawal and detox, opioid treatment can lessen the risk of relapse and help you battle the disease of addiction.
Most opioid rehab programs treat oxycodone addiction through a combination of behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling and peer support. Medications such as naltrexone and buprenorphine are often used in combination with counseling and therapy to help people maintain their sobriety.
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