Oxycodone is a member of the family of prescription opioids made from the opium poppy plant. It’s isolated from a naturally occurring psychoactive chemical alkaloid and used to treat pain symptoms from surgeries, injuries, and even dental procedures. As a medication, it’s fast-acting and can start to relieve pain within 10 minutes. However, opioids can be highly addictive and prescription opioid abuse can lead to the nearly inexorable opioid use disorder.
Oxycodone has a euphoric effect that can have a powerful influence on your brain. It binds to opioid receptors that contribute to pain and pain relief. When these chemicals bind to receptors, the euphoric effect can change the way your brain perceives opioids. Your reward center will begin to associate the pleasant effects with other things your body needs to survive like food and water, causing powerful cravings. Then unpleasant withdrawal symptoms reinforce your brain’s perceived need for the drug.
As of 2015, overdose has become the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. It has been reported that overdoses killed 53,404 people in 2015 and that opioids caused more than 20,000 of those deaths.
Addiction leads to withdrawal symptoms that can range from unpleasant to extreme discomfort. Knowing what to expect might help you identify drug dependence and find the best way to make it through withdrawal to sobriety.
As with most addictions, a telltale sign of oxycodone withdrawal is an intense drug craving. As your body starts to notice a lack of the chemical in your system, you will begin to crave the drug. Cravings can cause impulsive or intentional drug-seeking behavior, and if pills or other opioids are readily available, it may be nearly impossible to resist using.
As a nervous system depressant, opioids cause you to feel relaxed and euphoric. When they have been removed from your system, you might experience anxiety and agitation. Other psychological symptoms include confusion, a lack of motivation, restlessness, and depression. Early withdrawal symptoms share some parallels with the common cold: fatigue, a runny nose, temperature sensitivity, muscle aches, and tearing. Closer to peak withdrawal symptoms, you may experience more flu-like symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Other common symptoms include:
The intensity of the symptoms you experience will depend on your level of dependence on the drug. However, opioid withdrawals are challenging to get through on your own without using.
While oxycodone withdrawal follows a specific timeline, many factors can affect when and how long you feel symptoms. Generally, the longer you have taken oxycodone and the higher your doses, the more you will need to use again to avoid withdrawal. The higher your tolerance, the higher your dependence. However, the size of your last dose can also play a role in when you start to feel symptoms. A high dose may stave off symptoms for slightly longer.
Oxycodone has a half-life of two to four hours, which means it takes that long for the drug to be reduced to half of its original concentration in your blood.
After six to eight hours, the drug’s effects will start to wear off. If you have developed a dependence on it, you will begin to feel withdrawal symptoms. There is also a controlled release version of oxycodone that can last for 12 hours in your system. This version will prolong the time before feeling any symptoms.
Around the 72-hour mark, you will feel peak symptoms, and your withdrawal will be at its most unpleasant. However, the symptoms will begin to subside shortly after that. Symptoms should disappear after about a week.
Overall, here is a breakdown of the oxycodone withdrawal timeline:
Days 1-2: The first couple of days likely will be some of the most difficult as the effects of your last dose of oxycodone wear off and the flu-like symptoms set in. Having a medical professional on hand during this time is crucial to being as safe and comfortable as possible as well as preventing relapse.
Days 3-10: Milder flu symptoms may still be prevalent during this time. You should start feeling a bit better after the fifth day, but it all depends on your unique physiology and the intensity of the dependence.
More than two weeks: Acute withdrawal symptoms should be behind you, but post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is still an obstacle to lasting sobriety. Following up your detox with continuing residential treatment can help you deal with lasting withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and intense cravings.
While oxycodone withdrawal is unpleasant, it doesn’t have a significant potential to be fatal like withdrawal from certain other drugs, such as benzodiazepines and alcohol. However, going through withdrawal by yourself means that you are likely to relapse or continue drug use. Opioids like oxycodone are hard to quit once addiction takes hold and a prescription opioid pill addiction is difficult to maintain. People who start abusing opioids in pill form often move on to the cheaper, more available heroin. In fact, around 75 percent of people who use heroin started with prescription pills like oxycodone.Medical detox can provide you with two things: a team of medical experts who use cutting edge detoxification methods and the structure and accountability to keep you away from drugs through the process. Doctors and clinicians can help ease your symptoms to make you comfortable as you work to end your dependence on addictive substances.
Though withdrawal symptoms will disappear after a week, the effects of addiction won’t be gone completely. You will still experience cravings and triggers that may drive you back into addiction. Opioids are notoriously difficult to quit in the long-term. Long-lasting sobriety takes a continued commitment to recovery.
The most successful addiction treatment involves long-term care. Three months have proven to provide the most success for safeguarding sobriety. In that time, you can start with a more intensive residential program and move onto programs with some structure and more autonomy like outpatient treatment.
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Sober living houses can also help maintain structure for relapse prevention. In sober living, you will have the freedom to go about a healthy life, but you will have to take periodic drug tests. Twelve-step programs can also help connect you to a broader addiction recovery community. By connecting with people who share your goals, you can build up a network of people that will help keep you accountable.
If you, or a loved one, is struggling with oxycodone abuse or addiction, finding the best treatment could mean saving a life. Opioid addiction and overdose are growing problems in the United States. Quality treatment is the best path to long-term recovery and relapse prevention.
(January, 2018). Prescription Opioids and Heroin. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January, 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use
(January, 2016). Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures. American Society of Addiction Medicine. Retrieved January, 2019 from https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf