Oxycodone is considered a semi-synthetic opioid drug that is typically prescribed for relief of moderate or severe pain. It was originally created in 1916 as a drug with newer semi-synthetic properties to help improve upon existing opioid treatment options. The drug has been clinically used to treat both acute and chronic pain since 1917, but wasn’t introduced in the U.S. until the 1930s. Many people find that the drug works better than any other on the market for helping them cope with the pain that they experience.
The bottom line is that when this drug is used properly in a controlled setting, it can significantly improve the quality of life for those with chronic pain. Most people with extreme pain would not be able to function in society without assistance from medications like Oxycodone. This is certainly not something most people want to stay on for life though due to the fact that the initial effects wear off as it is easy to build a quick tolerance.
In addition to being used for chronic pain, some people take Oxycodone recreationally to “get high.” Many people begin taking it for a condition like pain, but become addicted to the effects of the drug – and continue taking it. Although many people take Oxycodone for chronic pain, others use this drug recreationally to “get high.”
Taking enough of the drug typically results in feelings of euphoria, relaxation, anxiolytic, and analgesic effects as a result of stimulating endorphins. Since it’s easy to quickly build a tolerance and become dependent on this drug, many people have a difficult time coping with the withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation.
Factors that influence Oxycodone withdrawal
It is important to recognize that there are factors that can have an influence on both the severity and duration of withdrawal from Oxycodone. These include things like: time span over which you took the drug, your dosage (which influences tolerance), whether you are addicted, how quickly you tapered off of the drug, as well as other individual factors such as withdrawal sensitivity.
1. Time Span
How long did you take Oxycodone? In general, the longer you have taken this drug, the more likely it is your body has built up some sort of tolerance. Those who take it for extended periods of time are typically going to have a much longer and protracted withdrawal than someone who took it for a few weeks. Some people are on this drug for years (or decades). Keep in mind that the shorter the duration you took the drug, the easier time you should have coming off of it.
2. Dosage + Tolerance
- Immediate Release (IR): The typical starting dose for the immediate-release (IR) form of Oxycodone is 5 mg to 30 mg every 4 hours. Those who have never taken any form of opioid drug are advised to start with lower doses of 5 mg to 15 mg every 4 to 6 horus. Certain individuals may need up to 30 mg every 4 hours.
- Controlled-Release (CR): For the controlled release (CR) form of Oxycodone, the average starting dose is 10 mg taken once every 12 hours. Some refer to this as “extended release” as well. It is marketed under the brand OxyContin – with the primarily active ingredient being Oxycodone. The controlled-release form of the drug is utilized when a person needs pain relief over an extended period.
- Tolerance: Individuals that have developed a tolerance to opioids or Oxycodone may be prescribed doses of 60 mg, 80 mg, or 160 mg tablets. These are individuals that have been using these drugs for an extended period of time and aren’t getting the same effects. Starting a person who has never used opioids at a dose greater than 40 mg could lead to depression of breathing (a major concern).
In general, when people have built up a significant tolerance to Oxycodone, the withdrawal process becomes more difficult. The person’s nervous system has become used to receiving the effects of the drug at higher doses. When the person withdraws from the drug, it takes the nervous system awhile to reset itself back to sober functioning. The greater the dose that you took over a consistent period of time, the more difficult you can expect the withdrawal.
Many individuals have a tough time coming off of Oxycodone because they are addicted. They have taken this drug for such a long period of time, that they cannot cope without it. In addition to providing pain-relief, this drug also can provide a significant boost in mood. Although the mood-enhancing properties may wear off once tolerance is established, many people aren’t able to come off of the drug because they cannot face the inevitable drop in mood that accompanies withdrawal.
In addition to becoming addicted to the lucrative “high” that accompanies Oxycodone, those who have taken it for chronic pain may have a very difficult time reestablishing normative endorphin function. When a person uses an opioid for an extended period of time, the body’s natural endorphin supply gradually diminishes. It will take months before the endorphin levels begin to increase following Oxycodone discontinuation. The lack of endorphins can make it especially difficult for someone who is addicted to withdraw.
4. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering
When it comes to withdrawing from Oxycodone, there really isn’t a “best” way to discontinue. Some individuals insist that tapering down your dosage gradually over time is a good approach. However, a lot of people struggle with this method simply because it’s difficult to avoid the temptation of taking extra pills if you have them around. For those that can handle gradual withdrawals, it may minimize withdrawal symptoms by giving your body more time to adjust.
If you need a good tapering protocol, work with your doctor or other professional. You can cut your current dose by whatever percentage you’d like assuming you have enough of a supply. For those with limited supply of the drug, you may want to reduce your dosage by about 25% each day until you are down to nothing. Although this reduction scheme is relatively quick, it can still give your body more time to adjust than “cold turkey” withdrawal.
Some people swear by the “cold turkey” withdrawal method because they can quit, and never look back. Although there could be some potentially dangerous side effects associated with a cold turkey discontinuation, most people are able to do it successfully. The cold turkey method from a low or moderate dose may be your best bet. Although the acute symptoms are typically the most extreme when a person quits “cold turkey,” many people have success.
A third option is that of opioid replacement therapy with a substance such as Suboxone or Methadone. The thinking behind this is that a person stops taking their current more powerful drug, Oxycodone and transitions to a less intense substance. Once they’ve made the transition, they can then gradually withdraw from the opioid replacement drug – which has potential to make for a smoother withdrawal.
5. Individual Factors
Why do some individuals have an easier time coping with withdrawal compared to others? In many cases it boils down to individual circumstances. Those who have been taking high doses of the drug for long periods of time may have a significantly higher tolerance or dependency on the substance. Additionally it is important to consider that each person’s nervous system will adapt to the withdrawal process differently. Some people are naturally more sensitive to drug withdrawals than others.
Other factors that could influence withdrawal include: environment, social support, and daily habits. Someone who is in an environment around other addicts or that have an Oxycodone supply may have a difficult time resisting temptation to quit. It should also be noted that some people have a better social support system that will encourage them to stay strong during withdrawal. Things like eating a healthy diet and getting light exercise may also play a role in speeding or slowing withdrawal.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities
Below are a list of possible symptoms that you may experience when you stop taking Oxycodone. Keep in mind that not everyone is going to have every symptom listed below when they withdraw. It is also important to realize that the severity of these symptoms will differ in both intensity and duration based on individual circumstances.
- Abdominal cramps: A very common withdrawal symptom is that of cramping. You may notice that you get cramps in many places, but the abdominal region is the most common. This may be painful and annoying to deal with, but you will eventually recover completely.
- Agitation: In the early stages of withdrawal, you may notice that you are extremely agitated. This means that you find yourself feeling bothered by the nervousness that you’re dealing with. As time passes, you should notice this symptom and other mood-related symptoms improving.
- Anger: It’s possible to get very angry and throw fits of rage during the withdrawal process. This may be due to impaired cognition that a person experiences when they stop taking a drug that they’ve become dependent upon. If you notice yourself feeling especially angry, do what you can to take some deep breaths, and realize that it’s merely withdrawal.
- Anxiety: An extremely common symptom during withdrawal is that of anxiety. Opiates like Oxy tend to provide anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects in users. In part this is due to stimulation of the endorphins, but serotonin and dopamine are also thought to be affected to a lesser degree. When you quit taking them, you may experience extreme discomfort in the form of anxiety – this will not be permanent.
- Body aches: It’s common to feel some sort of body aches and pains when you discontinue this drug. The aches may be minor or pretty severe during the early days of withdrawal. These aches may take awhile to get over for some, but may go away quickly for others.
- Chills: Feeling chilled all of a sudden after you discontinued this drug? It’s very common to experience this in addition to many other flu-like symptoms.
- Concentration problems: When you have become dependent on a drug, your brain expects to receive it for functioning. When you stop taking the drug that the brain is expecting to receive, you may notice impaired concentration for awhile. Your brain will have to relearn how to function and concentrate in a sober state.
- Confusion: A combination of concentration problems, feeling sick, and mood swings can contribute to feeling confused. The confusion is more of a concentration and cognition issue, but can be influenced by physical symptoms as well.
- Cravings: If you have taken the drug for a significant period of time, you may experience cravings once you quit. These cravings can be tough to resist, but as you resist them, they will gradually lessen over time.
- Crying spells: Many people become very depressed and cry as a result of the depression that they experience during withdrawal. However, it is also known that people withdrawing can experience watery eyes for awhile. Both the crying from depression and runny eyes will ease with time.
- Depersonalization: Initially you may feel as though you are no longer yourself when you come off of this drug. The combination of anxiety, depression, and physical symptoms may make it seem as though you feel numb or like someone has invaded your brain. This feeling of depersonalization is a result of activity changes in the nervous system and the brain.
- Depression: Most people experience some form of depression or low mood during withdrawal. In some cases the depression only lasts for a couple weeks and then fully improves. In other cases, people remain depressed for months following their last dose. In any event, assuming you didn’t have major depression prior to taking Oxycodone, your mood should gradually improve.
- Diarrhea: While taking opiates, constipation is commonly reported. When you withdraw from them, the exact opposite happens – diarrhea. If you experience significant diarrhea, you may want to consider taking some over-the-counter Imodium to help rectify the problem.
- Dizziness: When withdrawing from most drugs, among the most common symptoms is that of feeling dizzy. If you notice yourself experiencing dizziness and/or vertigo upon discontinuation, just know that it’s normal. It should improve as you come out of the acute phase of withdrawal.
- Fatigue: It is very normal to have extremely low energy and nearly chronic fatigue when you initially come off of Oxycodone. This fatigue may make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, complete work or school-related tasks, and simple tasks may seem impossible. Do your best to cope with how you feel and realize that fatigue is normal to experience as your body adjusts to functioning without Oxy.
- Flu-like symptoms: These are especially common during the acute phase of withdrawal and may be intensified if a person quits “cold turkey.” The combination of symptoms including: vomiting, nausea, dizziness, headache, chills, etc. – make it feel as though a person has the flu. These can be difficult to deal with, but once this stage passes, you should feel much better.
- Goosebumps: Some people get “goose bumps” across their skin during withdrawal. These are involuntary sensations that occur while the nervous system is readjusting.
- Headaches: When you come off of this drug, you will likely experience some degree of headaches. These may be severe (e.g. migraines) or of lower intensity. To reduce these make sure you are staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, and doing your best to stay relaxed.
- High blood pressure: Taking opioids tends to result in lower blood pressure. When you come off of them, your blood pressure may temporarily increase. This spike could be significant, so if you are prone to blood pressure problems, work with your doctor.
- Hormone imbalance: Temporary imbalances in hormone levels have been reported during withdrawal. The body will eventually reset its normal hormone production following discontinuation. If your hormones are imbalanced, it could be due to your opiate usage.
- Insomnia: It is important to realize that you may have to deal with some insomnia during your discontinuation. The insomnia can be influenced by anxiety, but in general your sleep patterns may be thrown off as a result of the symptoms that you experience. If you cannot fall asleep at night, it is recommended to focus on relaxation exercises – these will lower your arousal and allow you to sleep.
- Irritability: You may feel especially irritable during the initial days of withdrawal. This irritability may be intense and difficult to deal with. Every little thing may start to get on your nerves. Instead of embracing this emotion, take a step back and realize that it’s all just withdrawal – this too will pass.
- Itching: Another symptom people report is sensations of itchiness throughout their body when they discontinue. If you feel as though your skin is crawling with itches, tingles, or as though you have a rash, recognize that it’s just part of discontinuation. The intense itching shouldn’t last more than a few weeks.
- Mood swings: During withdrawal it is common to experience changes in mood. One moment you may find yourself anxious, the next angry, and the next optimistic about your recovery. The changes in mood may be significant and revolve around mostly negative emotions in the early phases. Eventually your demeanor should stabilize.
- Muscle pain: You may notice that you feel muscle pain when you stop taking your Oxy. The pain can be a reemergence of the initial pain that caused you to go on the Oxycodone in the first place, or it can just be a withdrawal pain. Since your body’s endorphins may be depleted, it can be difficult to cope with this pain in the early weeks. As your natural endorphin supply rebuilds itself, your pain should subside.
- Nausea: You may find yourself feeling nauseous, especially during the first few days of withdrawal. If intense enough, it could lead a person to experience vomiting. The nausea may keep up for a week or two, but should gradually decline.
- Night sweats: It’s common to sweat excessively during the night. You may wake up in the middle of the night and notice that you are covered in cold sweat. This is thought to be part of your body’s natural way of detoxifying itself. Additionally you may notice that you sweat profusely throughout the day.
- Panic attacks: If anxiety reaches an extreme, it is possible to experience panic attacks. Your nervous system is highly sensitive during withdrawal, which may lead you to have a panic attack. These attacks are essentially surges of debilitating anxiety that result in panic. Do your best to engage in relaxation techniques to calm your nerves if you are prone to panic.
- Pupil dilation: While you use Oxycodone, your pupils naturally constrict as a result of their effect. During withdrawal, it is natural to observe dilation of the pupils.
- Rapid heartbeat: You may notice a rapid heartbeat upon withdrawal. This is essentially a counter-effect to what you experience while taking the drug – your heart rate slows. You may also notice palpitations or sensations that your heart is racing or pounding – which can be exacerbated by anxiety.
- Restlessness: It’s possible to experience restlessness after you’ve discontinued Oxy. The restlessness has a lot to do with your brain and nervous system being hypersensitive. In many cases this is linked to the increased anxiety that people experience.
- Sleep problems: During the initial few weeks of withdrawal, your sleep patterns may be crazy. You may sleep extensively throughout the day or have difficulty sleeping at night. You could experience crazy dreams or wake up constantly in the middle of the night. Your sleep will eventually normalize after you’ve made it further through withdrawal.
- Spasms: You may notice that your muscles spasm during withdrawal. Although most people experience these spasms while they are taking their opioids, it is possible to deal with them to an extent during withdrawal.
- Suicidal thinking: Some people get extremely depressed when they come off of Oxycodone to the point of experiencing suicidal thoughts. If you find yourself feeling suicidal, it is important to recognize that its a result of chemical changes during withdrawal – this is a phase that will pass. If the thoughts are unbearable, make sure you get yourself into a therapist and/or talk to someone about them.
- Vomiting: Sometimes nausea can reach a point that causes us to vomit. Many individuals feel very sick (almost flu-like) when they stop taking Oxycodone. The vomiting should gradually subside as you make it through the acute phase of withdrawal.
- Yawning: Some people end up dealing with constant yawning when they come off of Oxy. Some have stated that these yawns can last over a month since their last dosage. Don’t be surprised if you are yawning for awhile after you’ve discontinued.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Duration: How long does it last?
The withdrawal timeline from Oxycodone is subject to variation based on the individual. One person may experience less dramatic opiate withdrawal symptoms and a quicker recovery, while another person may have protracted withdrawals that last for months. There’s really no telling how quickly you will recover until you have gone through the withdrawal for yourself.
Although the drug itself has a half-life of 2 to 4 hours and will be cleared from your system within approximately 8 hours, being drug-free doesn’t mean that withdrawal symptoms are over. All this means is that the drug has been cleared from your body. On average it can take up to 2 weeks for the most severe physical symptoms to pass. Most people notice that severe physical symptoms last about a week and a half following the last dose.
Psychological symptoms can linger for a longer period of time. When your body and brain have been under the influence of an opiate like Oxycodone for an extended period of time, it may take awhile for them to readjust to sober functioning. It is thought that things like: adequate rest, proper sleep, healthy diet, and light exercise may facilitate a quicker healing process.
It is important to do what you can during withdrawal to stay optimistic and understand that although the symptoms may be uncomfortable, you will eventually recover. During this time you may want to seek out some sort of therapy and/or guidance if you are struggling. Take withdrawal one day at a time and recognize that you will eventually get better. If you have successfully come off of Oxycodone, sharing your experience in the comments section below may really help another person dealing with the same struggle.