Understanding OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline

OxyContin is a strong prescription painkiller derived from oxycodone, and specifically formulated to release pain medication into the body over a period of up to 12 hours.

This medication was formulated to help patients with severe, long-lasting pain. The Food and Drug Administration recently specified that strong painkillers like OxyContin should only be used for severe, chronic pain from conditions like arthritis and cancer. Prescription doses for OxyContin range from as little as 10 mg to as much as 80 mg. The benefit of the medication, for people who suffer otherwise unmanageable chronic pain, is that the pain relief lasts consistently for several hours, making it easier for these individuals to participate in daily activities. This also means that these individuals do not have to take pain medication every 4-6 hours and can focus on having a normal daily routine.

The time-release aspect of OxyContin, along with restrictions on prescribing practices, make the drug a bit less of a target for addiction, compared to easily accessed painkillers like Percocet or Vicodin. However, many people still become addicted to OxyContin, often for the euphoric effects that can be experienced from a high dose of opioid pain medication. Some people struggling with addiction try to find ways to bypass the time-release aspect of the medication, while others simply take excessive doses of the drug for a long-lasting high.

These dangerous abuses put these people at extremely high risk of overdose and death. Worse, when people develop a tolerance for strong prescription pain medications like OxyContin, they can experience withdrawal symptoms more quickly when the drug leaves the body, and they may feel the need to take dangerous amounts of the medication to feel “normal.”Although people who have chronic pain conditions may build a tolerance to OxyContin, this does not mean they are addicted to the drug.

These individuals should speak with their doctors about how they can best treat their pain. Current prescribing practices recommend that medical professionals ask their patients about any history of drug addiction or abuse, or any history in their family, before prescribing the medication. OxyContin is designed only for those who have ongoing pain and need long-term pain management.

OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms

OxyContin withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of other opioid pain medications, but can be more severe depending on how the drug was abused and how large the dose was. Especially with a strong medication like OxyContin, the potential for addiction and subsequent withdrawal symptoms is very high.

There are typically two phases of OxyContin withdrawal, and the symptoms of withdrawal can be acute for 1-2 weeks after the individual stops taking the drug. Early OxyContin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Mood changes, like anxiety, irritation, restlessness, or agitation
  • Sleep changes like insomnia
  • Physical changes, like muscle aches and cramps, or yawning
  • Symptoms similar to a cold or flu, like a runny nose, sweating, chills, fever, and congestion

Later symptoms of OxyContin withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Reduced appetite
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurry vision
  • Shivering or goosebumps
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

Although OxyContin withdrawal can feel terrible, it is not often life-threatening. However, due to the high likelihood of relapse during opiate detox, medical detox is recommended.