Oxycodone is an opioid that is prescribed for pain that is both chronic and severe, such as those suffered by cancer patients. An opioid is a narcotic that’s derived from the opium poppy. Technically, an opiate is a natural substance, and an opioid can be a natural or synthetic narcotic. Most opioids can only be prescribed by a doctor, and many run a high risk of dependency and addiction, which makes them Schedule II drugs according to the Food and Drug Administration. Heroin, another synthetic opioid, also has a high potential for abuse and addiction but has been deemed to have no medical use. This makes it a Schedule I drug.
One advantage that oxycodone has is that it is long-lasting. One dosage can last up to 12 hours, which allows a person whose pain would otherwise be unbearable to have a good quality of life.
Unfortunately, oxycodone has become overprescribed and is even a popular street drug whose abuse has contributed to the opioid epidemic currently ravaging the United States. The best way for a person suffering from opioid addiction to heal from it is to attend a drug rehab center, either as an outpatient or a resident. Many of these centers offer patients medical detoxification that allows them to purge the drug from their systems under supervision. Despite this, some people are determined to withdraw from the drug on their own. People who do this should be aware of the symptoms that accompany oxycodone withdrawal. The severity of oxycodone withdrawal symptoms depends on the dosage the patient was taking and how long they were taking the drug.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline
The person may start to feel symptoms of withdrawal four to eight hours after they last took their medication, but it will take between 12 and 24 hours for the drug to leave the person’s system entirely. A complete withdrawal takes between one and two weeks, with the worst of the symptoms lasting over about three days.
Early Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
During the early stages, the person starts to experience changes in mood. They may become anxious or easily irritated. They may find it hard to rest or stay still.
Another early symptom is insomnia. They may find it difficult to go to sleep or difficult to stay asleep. These symptoms are accompanied by cramps and aches in the muscles, and the person may find themselves continually yawning even if they’re not particularly tired.
After a while, they’ll start to experience symptoms that recall the cold or the flu. Their nose may run or be congested, and they may have alternating chills and fever.
Later Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
As time goes on, more symptoms start to develop. Interestingly, many of the symptoms are the opposite of the effects of taking opioids. Opioids depress the central nervous system, and the person may experience slowed breathing, slowed heart rate, and constipation, as well as the easing of their physical pain. Now, when the body is in withdrawal, the person experiences nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that’s accompanied by abdominal cramps. They also experience a loss of appetite, whether as a result of the withdrawal itself or an effect of the gastrointestinal upset that comes with withdrawal.
Other oxycodone withdrawal symptoms are enlarged pupils accompanied by blurred vision. The patient may shiver uncontrollably, and goosebumps may appear on their skin. Instead of the slowed heartbeat that comes from taking opioids, their heart rate becomes rapid. They can also experience elevated blood pressure.
Though withdrawal symptoms from oxycodone can be frankly dreadful, they are rarely life-threatening. This isn’t true of other drugs of abuse such as barbiturates and is not true for someone who has a severe alcohol addiction and tries to detox without medical supervision. The greatest risk of oxycodone withdrawal is that the person will go to great lengths to make the symptoms stop. This means they are at high risk of relapsing.
Medical detox greatly lowers the risk of relapsing. During this type of detox, the patient has prescribed medications such as buprenorphine or Vivitrol. Buprenorphine is taken orally every day, while Vivitrol is given as a monthly injection.
These medications, which are themselves opioids, lock into the opioid receptors of the patient’s central nervous system and block oxycodone and other opioids from working. At the same time, unpleasant oxycodone withdrawal symptoms are greatly reduced, as are the cravings that usually arrive as the levels of the drug start to diminish.
However, most credible drug rehab programs do not simply use medical detox. Even though the patient undergoing medical detox is in withdrawal, they are comfortable enough to attend other types of therapies that can help them recover from their addiction.