OxyContin is a potent painkiller that physicians commonly prescribe for those who are struggling with severe, chronic pain. Derived from the opioid oxycodone, this type of pain medication was designed to provide relief for patients longer than some of the shorter-acting opioids. It provides some pain relief for about 12 hours.
Because of its potent nature, some people misuse or abuse OxyContin, which can lead to addiction. There may even be some people who become dependent on or addicted to OxyContin who take it as prescribed, especially if they’ve been on the drug for a long time.
Regardless of how one becomes addicted to OxyContin, it will be helpful to learn about potential withdrawal symptoms and treatment. Understanding the OxyContin detox and withdrawal process can help you go into treating the addiction with less anxiety and more hope.
There is a wide variety of withdrawal symptoms that you may experience when coming off OxyContin. Keep in mind that detoxing from the drug should be done under medical supervision to be on the safe side. Symptoms will be similar to what one would experience coming off other pain medications, but they will vary depending on the following factors:
Common OxyContin withdrawal symptoms include:
Typically, Oxycontin withdrawal symptoms aren’t life-threatening but can be very uncomfortable. You should hydrate well due to losing fluids via vomiting or diarrhea. And, be aware that once you start coming off OxyContin, your tolerance level drops. If you suddenly start taking the drug again, you run the risk of overdosing, which can cause death.
Therefore, it’s best to detox under the supervision of addiction specialists and medical professionals who can see you through the whole detox process, keeping you safe and increasing your potential for a long-term, successful recovery from OxyContin addiction.
Generally, there are three stages of OxyContin withdrawal: early, acute, and late. Due to its extended-release format, OxyContin withdrawal symptoms usually begin to appear within 12 to 24 hours after the last dose. Typically, the entire detox process lasts two to three weeks, but again, this will vary from person to person.
A common OxyContin withdrawal timeline is as follows:
Early Stage – Days 1-3: Within the first day or two, you may begin to feel like you have a slight case of the flu, with symptoms like body aches, runny nose, nausea, and some restlessness. You may have some cravings and struggle with feelings of sadness or anxiety.
Acute Stage – Days 4-6: Generally, between days 4 and 6, your withdrawal symptoms may be at their worst as the body goes into full-blown withdrawal. Your cravings may become stronger, mainly because you feel as if you take more OxyContin, your symptoms may decrease. However, it’s dangerous to do this, as you could overdose. Symptoms in this stage include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, chills, yawning, a runny nose, agitation, malaise, and faster heart rate.
Late Stage – Day 7 and beyond: By the end of the first week, many of the symptoms will have subsided or decreased. If you are a heavy user, symptoms could linger on for a few more days. Typically, the longer-lasting withdrawal symptoms are more psychological in nature, such as anxiety, depression, and cravings. To contend with such symptoms, it’s helpful to have some support from addiction specialists, as in a residential or outpatient treatment center.
More than 12 million individuals in the United States reported using prescription painkillers for nonmedical use in 2010. These painkillers, such as OxyContin, will lead to addiction, as explained above. Opioid withdrawal is not deadly, which leads many to believe they can overcome the symptoms on their own. Going through withdrawal is challenging, and the severity is going to depend on the level of dependence.
Medical professionals will always encourage someone going through opiate withdrawal to enter treatment, but those who decide against a facility must be prepared. You should try and slowly taper off OxyContin before stopping use completely. It may reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms, but given the compulsive nature of addiction, many find self-regulated tapers to be impossible; they can lead directly to relapse.
Dehydration as a result of diarrhea and vomiting is common, which could also lead to severe health complications. Many individuals in withdrawal end up in the hospital as a result of dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids.
Using the proper doses of over-the-counter (OTC) medications can help. Drugs such as Imodium, Antivert, Bonine, Dramamine, Benadryl, Tylenol, Motrin, or Advil are all options. Unfortunately, even if you can overcome your opioid withdrawals, it will not prepare you for long-term sobriety or how to combat triggers down the road. It’s imperative that you consider the full continuum of care when stopping opioids. For those who can’t quit on their own, detoxing in a facility will help you transition to sobriety.
It’s dangerous to stop taking OxyContin cold turkey or abruptly. The shock to the brain can cause very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and serious problems. Rather than stop cold turkey, experts recommend that you should taper off OxyContin under the care of a physician or addiction specialist. Tapering, or reducing the dosage over time, allows your body time to adjust to the lesser amount, which helps you when it comes to withdrawal symptoms.
Medical detox is suggested, as having a medical team oversee your withdrawal process can give you the support and accountability you may need. Some physicians will treat the withdrawal symptoms with other medications, helping you to feel less discomfort. These medications may include buprenorphine, methadone, and perhaps some mood-stabilizing medications.
When combating opioid addiction, attending an inpatient detox program is quite beneficial. To be able to leave your home environment and solely focus on your recovery can help you achieve long-term success. You’ll be surrounded by medical and substance abuse professionals around-the-clock in a safe and secure facility. You’ll also meet and get to know others who are on the recovery path, which can help you feel less alone.
Treatment will most likely involve individual therapy, support groups, classes that educate you about addiction and recovery, and possibly group therapy. This is a great option for those who are heavily addicted or don’t have the most supportive home environment.
If you can’t stay at the treatment center, outpatient treatment is a helpful option. You’ll receive much of the same care as you would at an inpatient center, with the exception that you’ll live at home and commute for therapy sessions.
Typically, people commit to attending anywhere from three to seven sessions per week, either during the day or in the evening. This is a great option for those who have work or family responsibilities.
IOP treatment is a bit more intensive than an outpatient program, requiring you to attend at least 12 hours per week at the treatment center. It’s one step down from an inpatient facility, but it’s a great option for those who complete residential rehab but aren’t quite ready to stop intensive treatment altogether.
Professional treatment for OxyContin treatment is oftentimes necessary. You can be treated for the actual addiction plus explore any emotional issues you may be having. Sometimes there are emotional or mental health issues at the root of an addiction that need attention, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or trauma that hasn’t been dealt with. You’ll be able to address these things while in treatment.
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FDA. OxyContin. from https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/UCM208530.pdf
Weiner, S. (2019, May 11). Undoing the harm: Tapering down from high-dose opioids. from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/undoing-the-harm-tapering-down-from-high-dose-opioids-2019051016622
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