Oxycodone is an opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain and, in its controlled-release formulation, for treatment of pain in people who require continuous, long-term pain management 1,2. Oxycodone products are commonly prescribed with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reporting nearly 59 million dispensed prescriptions in 2013 1. The substance is available in formulations including liquids, tablets, and capsules with both immediate and extended-release varieties via prescription. Oxycodone may be available alone (OxyContin) or in combination with other analgesics like 1,2,3:
Even a person using the medication as prescribed may develop physical dependence.
Oxycodone is helpful to many, but as a Scheduled II controlled substance, has a known risk of abuse and dependence; consistent misuse of the substance can lead to oxycodone addiction 1. According to the DEA, more than 16 million people 12 and older have abused oxycodone in their lifetime 1. The risk of oxycodone dependence and addiction increases with abuse, but even a person using the medication as prescribed may develop physical dependence 1,2,3.
Once someone who is dependent on or addicted to oxycodone abruptly quits or reduces use, withdrawal symptoms are likely to emerge. Though oxycodone withdrawal symptoms will be different for everyone, many of them can be very uncomfortable and distressing to the individual’s physical and mental health states.
People who are addicted to opioids, such as oxycodone, often also have comorbid conditions, such as depression, insomnia, antisocial personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Depression can be opioid-induced or a pre-existing condition.5 People who abuse opioids tend to abuse other psychoactive substances, such as marijuana, stimulants, alcohol, and benzodiazapines.5 These co-occurring conditions can complicate withdrawal symptoms and make it more difficult to quit substance abuse.
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The precise spectrum of withdrawal symptoms experienced in association with oxycodone addiction will differ from person to person but may include 5,6,7:
Seeking detox services can help to limit or eliminate many of these unwanted oxycodone withdrawal symptoms and improve your outcome.
It is possible for two people to have a very different experience throughout withdrawal.
It’s difficult predict the exact withdrawal symptoms that will present, how intense they will be, or how long they will last. Detoxification, the process of removing unwanted substances from the body, may vary from person to person 6. Some factors may influence the detox timeline and manifestation of symptoms including 6:
Though the specific duration of oxycodone detox will vary, there are general timelines that state 6,7:
Beyond the initial oxycodone detox period, acute withdrawal will, for some individuals, give way to protracted or extended withdrawal symptoms as part of a post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) 8. These symptoms can stretch up to 6 months after last use, with effects like 7,8:
With the variability associated with oxycodone detox, it is possible for two people to have a very different experience throughout withdrawal.
At times, oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can lead to more significant complications that can impact an individual’s physical and mental health. For example, a person enduring the discomfort of drug detox may quickly begin using oxycodone again to relieve or postpone the onset of withdrawal. Especially in the event that tolerance has lessened in the abstinent period, relapse can result in a deadly oxycodone overdose 7.
Other complications of oxycodone withdrawal include 6,7:
Supervised detox services can help to manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure safety while the substance is eliminated from the body. Detox options are flexible based on the person’s needs and include 6,9:
Some medically assisted or medically supervised detox will focus on eliminating all opioid use while others will offer an opioid medication, such as methadone or Suboxone, as a form of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) 6,9. Either way, the goal will be to promote abstinence and reduce addictive behaviors. Remember, detox is only one step in addiction treatment; formal substance abuse treatment options are needed to maintain long-term recovery 6,9.