Oxycodone Abuse: How to Tell if You Have a Problem
Oxycodone, often known by the popular brand name OxyContin, is commonly abused. In 2020, nearly 3.5 million people in the United States misused an oxycodone product. Even when used as directed through a medical prescription, oxycodone can be habit-forming.
Oxycodone misuse and recreational use can more quickly lead to drug dependence, difficult withdrawal symptoms, and addiction.
Signs that you have a problem with oxycodone abuse include the following:
- You take the prescription in a way other than it is prescribed. You may chew it, crush and snort it, smoke it, or inject it. You may take more than one dose at a time, take the medication in between doses, or take it for longer than necessary.
- You continue to take the medication after your prescription has run out. You “doctor shop” to get more medication, or you exaggerate symptoms to obtain oxycodone.
- You take oxycodone to get “high” and not for pain relief as intended.
- You use oxycodone without a valid and necessary prescription for the medication.
- You compulsively seek out and use the drug. You take more of the drug than intended at one time, or you take it for longer than you intend. You spend a lot of time thinking about oxycodone, and you are unable to stop taking it despite multiple attempts to do so.
- You have developed drug tolerance. You need to take more oxycodone to feel the same effects you used to experience with a lower dose.
- You experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings when the drug wears off. This is drug dependence.
Key Facts About Oxycodone Detox
- Oxycodone detox can be dangerous, particularly if you become dehydrated. Relapse is likely without support due to the discomfort involved.
- It is important to have medical monitoring, support, and medications to manage oxycodone detox.
- Withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity and duration based on how physically and psychologically dependent your brain and body are on it.
- A specialized oxycodone detox program can help you safely detox. This can be a good first step in opioid addiction treatment and recovery.
How Long Does It Take to Detox From Oxycodone?
Oxycodone detox typically takes between 10 and 14 days, depending on the severity of drug dependence.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from moderate to significant based on how long you have been taking oxycodone, how large the doses were, whether or not you took it with other substances, how you took it (swallowed it, snorted it, smoked it, or injected it), and if you have underlying medical or mental health conditions.
Generally, oxycodone detox and withdrawal will follow this timeline:
- Within 12 hours of the last dose of oxycodone: Withdrawal symptoms start and can include emotional regulation issues and early flu-like symptoms.
- Days 2–5 after stopping oxycodone: This is acute withdrawal and when withdrawal side effects will typically be the most intense.
- Week 1–2 of being off oxycodone: Withdrawal symptoms will start to taper off and become less physically intense.
- Week 2–Month 3 of stopping use: Protracted withdrawal symptoms may include sleep difficulties, drug cravings, and mood regulation issues for a few weeks or months.
Is Detox From Oxycodone Dangerous?
Withdrawal symptoms in someone who is opioid dependent can be life-threatening, so oxycodone detox can be dangerous. For this reason, it is best to not stop taking oxycodone suddenly and without professional help.
Oxycodone is a central nervous system depressant that slows down life-sustaining functions like heart rate and respiration while lowering body temperature and blood pressure. When you stop it suddenly after the brain is used to it influencing its chemical makeup and function, the effect can be like a rubber band snapping back. Extreme stimulation can occur.
Oxycodone detox commonly requires the use of medications to minimize intense withdrawal symptoms and balance out brain chemicals for less of a reaction. The goal of detox is to help you become physically stable and to allow the brain a chance to recover before moving forward with addiction treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Oxycodone Withdrawal?
Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms are both physical and emotional. They can include the following:
- Trouble concentrating and thinking clearly
- Runny nose
- Tearing up or watery eyes
- Stomach cramps
- Joint, back, and muscle pain
- Dilated pupils
- Depression and trouble feeling pleasure
- Sleep difficulties
- Drug cravings
Why Is Detox From Oxycodone Necessary for Recovery?
During detox, your brain is given the ability to recover and heal as the drug processes safely out of your system, often with the aid of medications. This can help to minimize symptoms of withdrawal and the odds of a relapse.
Relapse after a period of abstinence can be particularly dangerous. Returning to previous levels of opioid use after your brain’s tolerance levels have been reset can quickly overwhelm the body and lead to a potentially fatal opioid overdose.
Oxycodone detox helps to stabilize the brain while reducing drug cravings and difficult withdrawal symptoms to lower the chances of relapse and enhance recovery.
Tips for Detoxing From Oxycodone
When detoxing from oxycodone, it is important to follow all instructions from your medical provider. You will often be given medications or told to taper off oxycodone slowly to avoid precipitating dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
It is helpful to let your body rest and recover during this time and to minimize stress as much as possible. Aim to be in a calm, safe, and supportive living environment or ideally a detox center or treatment facility.
You will need to take good care of your body by getting enough sleep, eating healthy and nutritious meals, and drinking enough water. Warm baths, massage therapy, and adjunctive holistic methods can help to alleviate physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal.
Detox is optimally managed in a specialized center with medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals on site to provide supervision, support, and care as needed.
Ways to Detox From Oxycodone
Detox from oxycodone is best handled under medical and mental health monitoring and management through an addiction treatment facility or detox center. Both of these options have professionals on site to medically manage withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. By minimizing symptoms, you can decrease the chance of relapse.
A detox program is used as part of a complete addiction treatment plan that is followed with rehab to maintain a long-term recovery.
Addiction treatment facilities commonly have detox programs as part of the full continuum of care. The detox facility can be at the same location as the inpatient rehab program or off site.
The benefit of detox through a treatment facility is the ability to seamlessly transition into rehab after stabilizing, usually in one to two weeks.
An addiction treatment facility will offer medical monitoring and care as needed as well as use medications to aid in detox. Therapies and supportive care are regularly included as well.
A detox center specializes in detox only. This can be a great option for allowing oxycodone to process safely out of your body in an environment that is wholly focused on this process.
Medications can reduce withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings while in detox and beyond. A detox center can also provide around-the-clock medical and mental health supervision and support.
Detox centers commonly work with addiction treatment programs, so you can transition smoothly into a rehab program that best suits your needs.
Oxycodone Medications for Treatment
Medications are used as first-line treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). These medications can be effective both during detox and as maintenance medications in treatment and opioid addiction recovery.
The FDA has approved three primary medications for opioid addiction treatment: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Another medication, Lucemyra (lofexidine) is also FDA-approved to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms. There are additional medications that are used off label to manage specific withdrawal side effects.
- Buprenorphine: This category includes buprenorphine combination medications, such as Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone).
Buprenorphine is a long-acting partial opioid agonist medication that can be taken in place of oxycodone during detox to taper the short-acting, more potent opioid out of the system safely. Buprenorphine acts on opioid receptors weakly to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings without the opioid high.
Combination medications such as Suboxone can be used in opioid treatment and recovery after other opioids are completely out of the system. They can work as maintenance medications to minimize instances of relapse, improve treatment compliance, and enhance overall recovery.
- Methadone: Methadone is a full opioid agonist that is long-acting. It is commonly distributed once per day through specialized clinics both during detox and into addiction treatment and ongoing recovery.
Methadone needs to be taken less often and in lower doses to manage withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Since individuals need to visit a clinic to get their daily dose, it can be less convenient than other options that can be taken at home.
- Naltrexone: Naltrexone is regularly administered as an injection (Vivitrol) during opioid addiction treatment or in recovery as a maintenance medication after oxycodone detox and opioids are completely out of the system. It acts as an abuse deterrent to minimize relapse and sustain recovery.
- Clonidine: Clonidine is a blood pressure medication that is often used off label to treat symptoms of opioid withdrawal during detox. It can work to calm the system down to prevent the more serious physical side effects of withdrawal.
- Lucemyra: A non-opioid medication approved to treat opioid withdrawal, Lucemyra can be used for the first two weeks after stopping an opioid drug, such as oxycodone. It can help to minimize the severity of opioid withdrawal syndrome.
Lucemyra reduces the amount of norepinephrine the brain produces. This is one of the chemical messengers that can be overly stimulated during oxycodone withdrawal and responsible for many of the resulting symptoms.
Additional medications are useful for managing specific symptoms of withdrawal, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to regulate moods, gastrointestinal medications for intestinal issues, and sleep aids for insomnia.
What to Look for in a Detox Center for Oxycodone
When looking for a detox center for oxycodone, it is helpful to find one that offers a full continuum of care and seamless transitions into an opioid addiction treatment program after you stabilize. The environment should feel safe and comfortable.
Detox in a specialized facility or center can be safer and help to make withdrawal smoother. The detox center should have medical and mental health personnel on site to monitor you 24/7 and provide medications, medical treatment, and mental health support that you need.
Detoxing in a dedicated center like this can reduce instances of relapse that can lead to fatal opioid overdose. Nearly 70,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose involving an opioid drug in 2020. The use of medications in detox and opioid addiction treatment can help to lower the risk for relapse and the odds of opioid overdose.
What to Expect During Oxycodone Detox
Withdrawal symptoms during oxycodone detox are physically similar to a bad case of the flu. Emotionally, they can include low moods, anxiety, restlessness, cognitive difficulties, and sleep issues.
You can expect to be given medications during oxycodone detox to lower the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms and to help with opioid cravings. You will need to rest and recover for several days.
Typically, withdrawal symptoms peak within three to five days. Then, symptoms will start to get better day by day for a period of a week or two. Some of the mood swings, sleep issues, and cravings can continue for a few weeks or months. These can be managed with medications, therapeutic, and supportive care.
During detox, mental health and medical professionals will monitor you and provide care as needed. You will often begin therapy and counseling while in detox and receive supportive care.
While detox is a crucial part of recovery, it doesn’t constitute addiction treatment on its own. Detox is intended to set you up to continue with a comprehensive opioid addiction treatment program that may include medication management, counseling and therapies, support groups, educational programming, and life skills training.
During detox, the goal is to help you stabilize after discontinuing oxycodone, often with aid of other medications. It will lay the foundation for the work you’ll do in an opioid addiction treatment program.
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