While it is not usually life-threatening, it can be incredibly uncomfortable, making relapse during this time highly likely.
Talk to a treatment professional if you intend to undergo withdrawal. They can help you develop a withdrawal plan that maximizes your comfort, safety, and chances of successfully recovering from opioid dependency.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Timeline
Oxycodone broadly comes in two forms, extended-release (ER) tablets and immediate-release (IR) capsules. It is classified as a short-acting opioid, which is the most important element of predicting what an opioid’s withdrawal timeline is likely to look like.
When a person becomes dependent on short-acting opioids, they typically experience withdrawal symptoms 8 to 24 hours after their last use of opioids (assuming they’re only taking short-acting opioids like oxycodone).
Over a period of 4 to 10 days, the individual will typically experience an increase in the severity of their symptoms until hitting a peak. They will then start to see a decline in the severity of their symptoms as their body adjusts to the absence of opioids.
This initial phase of opioid withdrawal is called acute opioid withdrawal. It is typically what people mean when discussing opioid withdrawal.
There is also a protracted withdrawal phase after this period that can last for up to six months, where an individual will feel generally unwell and continue to experience strong cravings for opioids. It is important to remain vigilant about how one feels during this period and continue treatment, even if what many would call the “worst” of withdrawal has subsided.
Signs of Oxycodone Withdrawal
Opioid withdrawal, including withdrawal from oxycodone, is typically described as causing “flu-like” symptoms as well as significant opioid cravings.
A person going through opioid withdrawal can expect symptoms like these:
- Heavy sweating
- Hot and cold flashes
- Watery discharge from the eyes and nose
Opioid withdrawal is not usually life-threatening, although vomiting can present a choking hazard sometimes. A person will also need to stay vigilant about hydration, as their body will lose a significant amount of fluid through a combination of sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea.
It is usually recommended a person undergo opioid withdrawal at a treatment facility to maximize their comfort and safety. This will also greatly increase their chances of successfully getting treated for withdrawal and continuing with the relevant addiction treatments.
Without medical and psychological support, relapse is highly likely during acute opioid withdrawal. People often return to opioid use simply to make the withdrawal symptoms disappear.
Opioid Misuse Treatment Options
If you are going through oxycodone withdrawal or any other kind of opioid withdrawal, it’s important to talk with an addiction treatment professional about the treatment plan that best suits your needs.
A number of medications can be used to treat the symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal. Loperamide can help with diarrhea and promethazine can be used to treat nausea and vomiting. Ibuprofen can be used for any myalgia (muscle pain) a person experiences. The drug clonidine is sometimes used if a person going through withdrawal experiences an increase in blood pressure.
It is usually recommended that a person who has opioid use disorder (addiction to opioids) receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This type of treatment, explained in more detail later, involves the use of medication to reduce withdrawal symptoms and lessen the likelihood that a person will seek out opioids, usually by reducing their opioid cravings.
These medications should be combined with other types of drug therapy and counseling, notably cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It will also be important to work with a treatment professional on the skills needed to develop a strong support network, often (but not always) by getting family and other loved ones involved in your treatment.
While many people view withdrawal as one of the hardest parts of overcoming addiction, it isn’t the only part. You will need to identify what draws you to use oxycodone in the first place and find healthier ways to channel the negative feelings that may have caused you to become dependent on drugs.
There are two primary medications used to treat opioid use disorder as part of MAT programs: methadone and buprenorphine. Methadone and buprenorphine are not used together, although a person may switch between these treatments if one proves ineffective for their needs.
Methadone is often a surprising choice to non-experts, as methadone itself is a full opioid agonist with significant addiction potential if misused. However, when carefully used as prescribed, it can allow a person to proceed in recovery without experiencing withdrawal symptoms or significant opioid cravings.
Methadone can also only be administered at specialized sites by professionals, meaning it would be difficult for a patient prescribed methadone to misuse it even if they wanted to. This also makes it a less convenient option than buprenorphine.
Buprenorphine, which is often combined with the drug naloxone in medications such as Suboxone, is another MAT option that shares some similarities to methadone. Buprenorphine can similarly help reduce a person’s opioid cravings, but unlike methadone, it is a partial opioid agonist. Broadly, this means it has similar but lessened effects to the types of opioids people typically are at risk of misusing.
Buprenorphine also acts chemically in such a way, especially when combined with naloxone, that it doesn’t have significant abuse potential. Patients can pick up buprenorphine from a pharmacy like other prescription medications, making it a very convenient alternative for people who can’t regularly go out to get methadone at dedicated clinics.
Again, medication isn’t sufficient on its own to treat opioid use disorder. Both methadone and buprenorphine must be combined with traditional addiction treatments, such as talk therapy, as part of a comprehensive care plan to address opioid use disorder.
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- Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms, a Consequence of Chronic Opioid Use and Opioid Use Disorder: Current Understanding and Approaches to Management. (October 2020). Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics.