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Oxycodone Withdrawal

Oxycodone is a pain-killing medication in the opioid class of drugs that’s been surrounded by controversy over the last several years. Though opioid medications are effective when it comes to treating moderate to severe pain, they can also cause dependence and addiction when abused. Pain pills like oxycodone are linked to severe opioid use problems and the later use of illicit drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 80 percent of heroin users reported using prescription opioids before heroin. The overprescription of oxycodone and other pain pills has contributed to one of the most severe addiction epidemics in the United States. Unused pills are put in unsecured medicine cabinets or given to friends and family, which can lead to opioid use disorders.

Oxycodone works in the body by binding to opioid receptors. These receptors are designed to bind with endorphins, which are naturally-occurring opioids. Endorphins help to regulate the pain response by blocking pain signals at binding sites all over the body. However, your endorphins may not be enough to stop moderate to severe pain symptoms that can happen as a result of injuries, surgery, or chronic illnesses. Oxycodone is more potent and can block pain signals more efficiently. They bind to opioid receptors and activate them, causing pain-relief, relaxation, and euphoria. 

However, with long-term regular use or high doses, your body may adapt to oxycodone. If you start to rely on it, your body may make changes to your brain chemistry to balance around the presence of oxycodone. If you stop taking the drug, your brain chemistry will become unbalanced, causing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are so unpleasant and difficult to get through, that they present a significant barrier to sobriety to many people with opioid use disorders. 

Learn more about oxycodone withdrawal and what you might be able to expect if you’ve become dependent on an opioid. 

What Are the Symptoms of Oxycodone Withdrawal?

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are often compared to a bad case of the flu. However, this may be an understatement. People who’ve gone through it often describe it as the worst flu symptoms they’ve ever experienced. Getting through opioid withdrawal is notoriously difficult, especially without help. In addition to uncomfortable symptoms, you will also experience powerful drug cravings. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms can cause powerful compulsions to use the drug again.

Symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle aches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Drowsiness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Fever

Opioid withdrawal isn’t known to be life-threatening like central nervous system depressants might be. However, it can be dangerous if you don’t get enough fluids. Like the actual flu, symptoms, such as diarrhea, sweating, and vomiting,  can cause you to dehydrate quickly. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids through the process. Though rare, the instances where opioid withdrawal proved fatal were in situations where a person was incarcerated and didn’t have access to enough water. Opioid withdrawal can also cause heart palpitations and changes in blood pressure that could be dangerous for people that have other heart conditions. 

What are the Stages of the Oxycodone Withdrawal Timeline?

The stages of withdrawal are highly variable depending on your experience with the drug. Generally, someone that’s used to a large dose and took it for a long time will feel more intense symptoms earlier. However, you are likely to experience symptoms on a timeline that’s similar to the following:

  • 24 hours. Your first withdrawal symptoms might appear within 24 hours of your last dose of the drug. If you were used to a very high dose, you might experience withdrawal sooner. Early symptoms may include excessive yawning and teary eyes, and it may feel like you’re coming down with the flu. 
  • Two days. Symptoms will intensify over the first few days of your withdrawal period until they reach their peak. Peak symptoms are when they are at their most intense and can include symptoms like fever, nausea, and vomiting. You may also experience powerful compulsions to use the drug again. 
  • Two weeks. When your symptoms peak, they will start to subside, and your condition will improve. Fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and other physical symptoms are usually the first to go away. However, psychological symptoms like depression anxiety might linger. 
  • One month or more. Irritability, anxiety, and drug cravings might last indefinitely unless they are addressed in treatment. If symptoms persist, you may need to learn how to deal with them through addiction treatment.

Do I Need Detox?

Medical detox is a high level of care in addiction treatment, and it involves 24-hour medically managed treatment services. It’s designed to help people who are likely to go through severe withdrawal symptoms that pose a medical threat. It may also be used to treat people with medical conditions or complications alongside withdrawal. Not everyone who goes through treatment will need detox, but it does represent one of the safest ways to achieve sobriety. When you first enter a treatment program, you’ll go through medical and clinical evaluations to determine your medical needs and the right level of care for you.

What’s the Next Step in Treatment?

If you complete detox, or if you don’t need it, you may still go through other levels of care in addiction treatment. According to NIDA, detox is important for many, but it’s often not enough to effectively treat addiction. If you have an ongoing medical or psychological needs that require high-level care, you may go through an inpatient treatment program that involves 24-hour medical monitoring. If you can live at home safely, you may continue in an outpatient treatment program. Addiction treatment should be tailored to you, addressing medical, social, and financial issues you might have. 

Get Help Today

If you or someone you know may have an opioid use disorder, you may need addiction treatment to effectively address it. Addiction is a progressive disease that can get out of control if it’s left unchecked. Substance use problems can cause long-term health issues, mental health problems, strained relationships, financial instability, and even legal trouble. Addiction treatment can address substance abuse and underlying issues like mental health issues. It’s designed to lead to long-term sobriety through treatment options that are tailored to your individual needs. Learn more about oxycodone addiction and how it can be effectively treated to take your first steps toward lasting sobriety today.

Sources

Darke, S., Larney, S., & Farrell, M. (2016, August 11). Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/add.13512

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification

Scheve, T. (2019, July 25). What are endorphins? Retrieved from https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/endorphins.htm

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, November 7). Oxycodone: MedlinePlus Drug Information. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682132.html

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