Oxycontin addiction can be difficult to overcome. A major hurdle to quitting Oxycontin (brand name of oxycodone) use is the withdrawal process that comes with it. When the body and brain are used to receiving this drug for a long time, withdrawal symptoms will occur if use is suddenly stopped. Oxycontin withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant and can be very dangerous, sometimes even fatal. This is why Oxycontin detox should always be done under the supervision of a medical professional.
What Causes Oxycontin Withdrawal?
Oxycontin affects the neurons in the brain. These brain cells have specific receptors, called opioid receptors, that Oxycontin and other opioids bind to. When Oxycontin binds to these receptors, it triggers the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. The dopamine release causes feelings of euphoria and a reduced feeling of pain.
When continuous Oxycontin use occurs over time, the brain and body become used to having Oxycontin and extra dopamine in the system. When Oxycontin is taken away, the body has to readjust how brain and nerve signaling occurs. Additionally, the resulting drop in dopamine causes a number of unpleasant and even hazardous effects on the nervous system. This can make quitting Oxycontin very challenging and even dangerous if not done properly.
What Are the Symptoms of Withdrawal from Oxycontin?
Oxycontin withdrawal causes several physical and mental effects. Some of these can be very dangerous, even fatal, if not treated properly. Because of this, someone undergoing Oxycontin withdrawal should be seen by a medical professional to ensure they get the right care for managing withdrawal symptoms.
Oxycontin withdrawal causes several effects throughout the body. Physical symptoms of Oxycontin withdrawal include:
- Increased pain
- Trouble sleeping or insomnia
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
- Runny nose
- Rapid heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Blood pressure changes
People who have developed a physical dependence on Oxycontin may especially be troubled with increased pain when they stop using the medication.
Long-term use of Oxycontin has a lasting impact on the brain. When Oxycontin use suddenly stops, the central nervous system goes through a change in how it sends neurotransmitter signals. This can result in several psychological withdrawal effects, including:
Oxycontin Withdrawal Timeline
Oxycontin is a controlled-release formulation of oxycodone, meaning it works as a long-acting opioid that affects the body over many hours. Withdrawal from long-acting opioids like Oxycontin lasts longer than withdrawal from short-acting opioids like heroin.
The timeline for Oxycontin detox varies from person to person. Typically, the first symptoms of Oxycontin withdrawal begin within 12 to 48 hours after its last use. After that, withdrawal symptoms usually last somewhere between 10 and 20 days.
After this initial withdrawal phase, there can be lingering withdrawal effects for as long as six months. During this time, people will be in poorer health overall and will likely experience strong cravings for Oxycontin or other opioids.
Factors Affecting Withdrawal Duration
The duration of Oxycontin withdrawal symptoms varies depending on several factors. Factors that can affect how long Oxycontin withdrawal lasts include:
- How much Oxycontin a person was used to taking
- How slowly the drug is tapered off
- Overall health
- Physical exercise and exertion (which can make withdrawal last longer)
- Other medications or drugs a person is or was taking
Oxycontin Detox for Treatment of Withdrawal
Oxycontin withdrawal must always be done under the supervision of a medical professional in order to get timely relief from dangerous withdrawal symptoms. However, there are several methods for Oxycontin detox available, depending on a person’s individual case and needs.
Medical detox from Oxycontin is typically done in an inpatient setting. When a patient first arrives at the clinic, detox is usually the first part of an inpatient rehabilitation program. Patients receive round-the-clock care from doctors and nurses and are continually checked on during the process.
Being located in a medical facility, patients undergoing medical detox can receive immediate medical intervention for serious and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. This makes medical detox by far the safest option for Oxycontin withdrawal. People who are in poor health or who were on very high doses of Oxycontin especially should consider going through medical detox.
Outpatient detox from Oxycontin still involves medical supervision, but patients are not checked into a hospital or other treatment center. Instead, they attend a clinic periodically but don’t stay overnight. These patients are at home for most of the withdrawal process. Outpatient Oxycontin detox typically takes longer than inpatient detox.
During clinic visits for outpatient detox, patients receive advice and are evaluated. They are also given any medications they need to taper off of Oxycontin or manage withdrawal symptoms. They can return to the clinic as needed if symptoms become severe.
Detoxing at Home
When detoxing from Oxycontin from home, patients stay at their own residence or another safe, non-clinical setting for the duration of their withdrawal. The lack of continuous medical care makes self-detox from Oxycontin more dangerous than other detox options. People should only attempt home detox if they are otherwise in good health overall and expect only mild or moderate symptoms. They should also have another person available to help them at all times, such as a spouse, family member or close friend.
Home detox from Oxycontin should last longer than clinical detox because patients should taper off of Oxycontin more slowly. They also need to be prepared to manage the withdrawal symptoms on their own.
- Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing made of absorbent materials
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Eat plenty of healthy foods
- Drink fizzy drinks like sparkling water to help settle the stomach
- Use cool compresses or take a cool bath to help with fever (but don’t place ice directly on skin)
- Drink tea with relaxing herbs, such as lavender, chamomile or St. John’s Wort
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Take over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin
- If nauseous, eat bland foods such as rice, bananas, apples, crackers or toast, and avoid foods that are greasy or high in fat
- Take Imodium to help with diarrhea
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule
- Try taking melatonin to help sleep easier
- Use distraction techniques, such as reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching TV, or simply holding a heavy object to distract from negative thoughts, unpleasant feelings or Oxycontin cravings
Dangers of Quitting Cold-Turkey
The symptoms of Oxycontin withdrawal become much more severe if the drug is quit cold turkey. In extreme cases, sudden Oxycontin withdrawal can cause dangerous cardiovascular problems. This is why tapering off Oxycontin gradually is important — the symptoms will be much less severe at any one time.
Can You Die From Oxycontin Withdrawal?
Death can occur from Oxycontin withdrawal. Two symptoms in particular — diarrhea and vomiting — can cause the body to lose a lot of water in a short period of time. When this happens, blood pressure drops dramatically and its sodium content becomes very concentrated. Ultimately, this can lead to cardiac arrest or heart failure. This is much more likely in cases where Oxycontin is quit cold turkey, and it is also why it is very important to have medical help when undergoing Oxycontin detox.
Finding a Detox Center
Today, there are many Oxycontin detox centers to choose from, and each may use different detox methods than the others. You can choose a program that works best for you or your loved one depending on your specific needs. Health care providers there will make further assessments to determine what kind of treatment is needed.
A good place to start is with your family doctor or primary care physician. These people will have contact information for local centers they think might work well. It may be necessary to search through a few different rehabilitation centers before you find one that works best for you or your loved one. It is a good idea to visit a center and ask questions before committing to a program there.
How Long Does It Take to Detox?
Detox from Oxycontin takes different amounts of time for each person. Most people take somewhere between 10 and 20 days to fully detox from Oxycontin and get past the acute withdrawal phase. When signing up for a detox program, it will take two or three weeks to get through detox before continuing into the rest of the recovery.
Finishing detox doesn’t mean recovery, however, since cravings can still persist for many months afterward.
Medications Used in Oxycontin Detox
Many different medications may be used for withdrawal from Oxycontin. Most of these are for managing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea or cardiovascular effects.
A few medications used during Oxycontin detox are for helping to wean the body off of Oxycontin. These interact with the opioid receptors that Oxycontin would normally bind to. This can produce similar effects to Oxycontin use, reducing the effects of Oxycontin withdrawal. Doctors may prescribe these medications as a part of an Oxycontin detox program.
Medications prescribed to help detox from Oxycontin include:
Key Points: Understanding Oxycontin Withdrawal & Detox
Oxycontin withdrawal can have serious side effects. Therefore, there are some important points to remember about withdrawal and detox from Oxycontin:
- Withdrawal timeline and severity vary depending on factors such as overall health and how much Oxycontin the body is used to
- Acute withdrawal from Oxycontin lasts two to three weeks, but withdrawal effects can be felt for several months
- Detox from Oxycontin should be supervised by a medical professional
- Different types of programs and methods for Oxycontin detox are available
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to Oxycontin or other substances, specialized help from The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health is always available. Contact us today to learn what personalized, confidential services we offer for people who are ready to begin the journey toward recovery.
Kosten, Thomas R.; George, Tony P. “The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment.” Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, July 2002. Accessed July 21, 2019.
Mayo Clinic. “Tapering Off Opioids: When and How.” Mayo Clinic Foundation for Medical Education, January 10, 2018. Accessed July 21, 2019.
NIDA. “Commonly Used Long-Acting Opioids Chart.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed July 22, 2019.
WHO. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.” World Health Organization, 2009. Accessed July 21, 2019.
Kleber, Herbert D. “Pharmacologic treatments for opioid dependence: detoxification and maintenance options.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, December 2007. Accessed July 22, 2019.
Nall, Rachel. “Can you treat opiate withdrawal symptoms at home?” Medical News Today, July 19, 2018. Accessed July 22, 2019.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation. “Home-based withdrawal.” (n.d.). Accessed July 22, 2019.
Darke, Shane; Larney, Sarah; Farrell, Michael. “Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal.” Addiction, August 11, 2016. Accessed July 21, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.