Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Detox
Last Updated: December 7, 2023
Article at a Glance
- Oxycodone is an addictive Schedule II prescription opioid, and physical dependence can develop even when taken as prescribed.
- Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and, in rare cases, life-threatening.
- It’s important to get a medical assessment when withdrawing from oxycodone. Medications can help decrease withdrawal symptoms and keep you comfortable.
- Medically managed oxycodone withdrawal can happen in residential and outpatient treatment settings, and there are pros and cons to both.
- Factors to consider when choosing a treatment center can include treatments offered, staffing, location and cost.
What Is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a powerful opioid medication prescribed for moderate to severe pain. It is also a Schedule II controlled substance because of its potential for misuse, dependence and addiction — even when taken as prescribed. Physical dependence develops over time when oxycodone is used consistently, meaning withdrawal symptoms will develop if stopped “cold turkey.” Therefore, it’s important to talk with a doctor about long-term goals when prescribed oxycodone and work with them to develop a plan to wean (or taper) off.
What Is Oxycodone Withdrawal?
If someone uses oxycodone consistently, their body gets “used” to it, which causes changes in their brain or physical dependence. If they then stop using opioids like oxycodone, withdrawal symptoms will occur. Withdrawal symptoms include physical symptoms (such as diarrhea, nausea, chills and muscle aches) and psychological symptoms (like anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping).
These symptoms can be very uncomfortable and, in rare cases, deadly; they also can be responsible for a high return to opioid use. For these reasons, it’s important to undergo medical supervision if going through oxycodone withdrawal.
Can Oxycodone Withdrawal Lead To Death?
Death from withdrawal from opioids (like oxycodone) is rare but has been reported. This is due to two of the main symptoms of opioid withdrawal: vomiting and diarrhea. Severe vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration and electrolyte disturbances; when left untreated, these can lead to your heart stopping (also known as cardiac arrest). This is why it is so important to seek medical supervision when undergoing oxycodone withdrawal.
How Long Is Oxycodone Withdrawal?
Oxycodone withdrawal generally lasts around three to five days, though this can vary from person to person. However, some people can experience some symptoms, like anxiety, sleep issues or trouble with executive functions (like planning tasks) for weeks to months after — this is known as protracted withdrawal.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Timeline
If someone stops oxycodone abruptly, withdrawal symptoms typically start within 12 hours after they last used, peak within one to two days and resolve within three to five days. Precipitated withdrawal can also happen if someone is given a medication that blocks opioids, such as naloxone. If precipitated withdrawal occurs, it is generally quickly after the opioid antagonist is given and resolves as the medication wears off.
Tapering off of oxycodone (or other opioids) can help decrease withdrawal symptoms. Medically supervised withdrawal and a taper plan can keep someone using oxycodone safe and comfortable. The doctor can also prescribe other medications to help the symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal.
Factors Affecting Withdrawal Duration
Many factors can affect oxycodone withdrawal, duration and severity, including:
- Amount and frequency of use
- How long someone has been using oxycodone
- How physically dependent someone is on oxycodone
- Other substance use
- Mental health
- Physical health
- Availability of a support system
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Oxycodone withdrawal has many symptoms. Physical symptoms include:
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose and eyes
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Stomach cramps
- Fast heart rate and respiratory rate
There are also several mental health symptoms to watch for:
- Trouble sleeping
- Low energy
How To Cope With Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
There are several things you can do to cope with oxycodone withdrawal symptoms. It is important to eat healthy and drink plenty of water. Oxycodone withdrawal can make one particularly prone to dehydration. Light exercise, mindfulness and meditation can be especially helpful for the psychological symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal. It also can be beneficial to engage with support groups to learn from others who have experienced similar things.
Detox Treatment for Oxycodone Withdrawal
During the medical detox process, a healthcare provider carefully assesses the person going through oxycodone withdrawal to ensure their safety. Medications can be given for oxycodone withdrawal, such as opioids, that can be gradually tapered, and other medications to address individual symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal. During medically supervised detox, the person is carefully assessed to prevent serious complications like dehydration. Return to oxycodone use can be common after medical detox without long-term treatment, so another important aspect is developing a longer-term treatment plan.
Medical detox, where a person checks into a treatment center and stays there for the duration of their treatment, can have several advantages. This allows a person to be quickly assessed by a physician or other medical provider and be supervised around the clock. That means if any issues arise, they can be quickly addressed. Medical detox can also allow a person to have no access to substances and get away from an environment that might trigger an urge to use substances.
This part of treatment generally lasts through their acute withdrawal, often within a week. During medical detox, opioids may be tapered, and medications for opioid use disorder and to help symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal may also be provided. Counseling is often also offered to help address causes of substance use and develop skills to avoid return to use.
During outpatient detox, a person goes to a treatment center for evaluation by a medical professional and medications but still lives at home, where they return at the end of the day. How long the person stays throughout the day and how intensive the treatment is can vary from place to place (and from program to program). However, some benefits are that it can be much cheaper than residential medical detox, and you may be able to continue working and addressing other obligations (such as caring for children or pets).
However, there are some risks to outpatient detox. Because you return to your usual environment each day, it can be harder to stay away from substances like oxycodone than in a residential program. Getting medical attention may also take more time if any issues arise during the detox process. If someone chooses to proceed with outpatient medical detox, having a strong support system is important for boosting your odds of success.
Detoxing at Home
Detoxing from oxycodone at home can be risky because of withdrawal symptoms and potential complications. The withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, which can trigger strong cravings and lead to a return to oxycodone use. In fact, current guidelines don’t recommend detoxing by itself because of high relapse rates. If this happens, it is important to remember that tolerance to oxycodone will be decreased, so you will need to use less.
Another major risk of detoxing at home is dehydration. It is important to eat well and drink plenty of water. Consider sports drinks for more electrolytes. It’s also important to closely engage with your support system during this time.
Quitting Cold Turkey
Quitting oxycodone abruptly — or “cold turkey” — isn’t recommended. Slowly tapering off of oxycodone will help decrease withdrawal symptoms. Without a tapering plan, the withdrawal symptoms can be, at best, highly uncomfortable — at worst, they can be deadly.
Quitting “cold turkey” has a high rate of relapse because of withdrawal symptoms and strong cravings that aren’t addressed. If you return to oxycodone use after stopping abruptly, you are at higher risk of an overdose because your tolerance will be decreased. It is important to ask your doctor or pharmacist about having naloxone available, and if you do return to using oxycodone, start with a low dose.
Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms themselves can also be deadly if left untreated. In rare cases, vomiting and diarrhea can be severe enough to cause dehydration, electrolyte disturbances, heart failure and death. That is why it is crucial to be medically assessed and get withdrawal symptoms addressed.
Finding a Detox Center
There are several things to keep in mind when choosing a detox center that’s right for you.
- Treatments offered: Different treatments work better for different people. It’s good to make sure that several different evidence-based treatments (such as medications and counseling).
- Accreditation: Facilities may be accredited by different bodies, such as the Joint Commission, which helps hold them accountable to certain quality standards.
- Location: Do you want somewhere far away or close by? It’s good to consider what may work best for your recovery and see what centers are offered in that area.
- Staffing: It can be helpful to ask what the average staff-to-patient ratios are. The lower the ratios, the more time staff members can spend with each patient.
- Cost: More expensive doesn’t always mean better. It is also good to look at what places are in-network with your insurance.
How Long Does It Take To Detox?
Detox tends to be a fairly quick process. It generally lasts the duration of the acute opioid withdrawal or approximately five days. However, there is a high rate of relapse to opioid use with medical detox management alone. During medical detox, it’s recommended to transition to longer-term care. Depending on what’s right for you, this can be residential or outpatient treatment programs.
Medications Used in Oxycodone Detox
Several medications can be effective for oxycodone medical detox. Commonly used medications include:
- Methadone: Methadone is an opioid that can be used for oxycodone withdrawal as a taper and longer-term maintenance treatment. It can also be helpful for pain.
- Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is an opioid that is a “partial agonist,” meaning it does not fully “activate” the opioid receptors, and there is a “ceiling effect.” Once someone is in moderate withdrawal, it can be used as a taper to manage symptoms. It can also be used longer-term to manage opioid use disorder and tends to have a lower incidence of side effects than methadone. It is also helpful for pain.
- Clonidine: Clonidine is an alpha-2 adrenergic agonist. During opioid withdrawal, there’s an overactive fight-or-flight response, and clonidine works to help fight this. It is given as a taper over two to four days. However, because it is not an opioid, it is not helpful for cravings.
Oxycodone Detox in Atlanta, Georgia
The Recovery Village Atlanta offers a spectrum of physician-led services to help with oxycodone detox and the transition to longer-term care. Services include medically managed detox and medications for opioid use disorder, residential rehab, a partial hospitalization program and aftercare services. Our experienced interdisciplinary team is board-certified in addiction medicine and passionate about helping people recover.
If you or a loved one is struggling with oxycodone addiction or needs oxycodone medical detox, you don’t have to wait. We offer same-day admissions. Speak to a Recovery Advocate today to learn how The Recovery Village Atlanta can help.
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