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OxyContin Withdrawal and Detox

OxyContin has the potential for staying in the body longer than oxycodone since it is extended-release. Severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms are tied to the duration of OxyContin dependency and dosage. The following are symptoms commonly experienced during withdrawal:1

  • Accelerated breathing
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Gooseflesh (goose bumps)
  • Irritability
  • Joint pain and aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose or watery eyes (unrelated to colds or allergies)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Yawning1,2

OxyContin Withdrawal Timeline

OxyContin withdrawal symptoms emerge within 24 to 72 hours of the last dose. The most commonly reported symptoms during this time include flu-like symptoms, abdominal cramps and agitation. The first several hours of withdrawal can be the most intense and uncomfortable.1

Week 1: Acute withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, drug cravings and the shakes are at their worst during this period.1

Week 2: During the second week, symptoms start to diminish and some bodily systems return to normal, although abdominal cramps, diarrhea and nausea/vomiting can recur. Sleep patterns should also start returning to normal.1

Weeks 3 to 4: A few weeks into OxyContin detox, a person starts feeling better physically. Psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression and dysphoria (an intense dissatisfaction with life) may persist long after physical dependence has been resolved.1

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

PAWS causes an array of characteristic post-acute symptoms during recovery from opioid dependence. It is estimated that 90% of recovering opioid users experience PAWS to some degree. Symptoms of PAWS include mood swings resembling an affective disorder, anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure from anything beyond use of the drug), insomnia, extreme drug craving and obsession, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, suicidal ideation, suicide and general cognitive impairment.3,4

OxyContin Detox Treatment

Opioid agonist treatment and detoxification includes pharmacotherapy, stabilization, tapering off of the drug and pharmacological cessation. Gradual tapering of opioids is administered on an inpatient basis in which individuals receive around-the-clock medical monitoring. Methadone and buprenorphine pharmacotherapy result in similar outcomes during opioid withdrawal. Buprenorphine is typically preferred because it results in less sedation and respiratory depression. To avoid precipitating more intense withdrawal symptoms, buprenorphine should be initiated 12 to 18 hours after the last administration of opioids. It takes about three to five days for the individual’s condition to stabilize, at which time the dose is usually decreased over a period of two or more weeks.5,6

By itself, medically supervised withdrawal is typically not sufficient to produce long-term recovery. It may increase the risk of overdose in people who lost their tolerance to opioids if drug use is resumed. The most efficacious approach includes a combination of education, motivational enhancement and self-help groups coupled with individual and group counseling sessions in inpatient and outpatient programs. A multifaceted behavioral approach helps people change their perception of opioids, recognize change is possible and work toward decreasing old behaviors associated with illicit-drug use and replacing them with healthier behaviors.5,6

  1. How long does Oxycontin withdrawal last? Addiction Blog website. http://prescription-drug.addictionblog.org/how-long-does-oxycontin-withdrawal-last/ Published January 7, 2013. Accessed February 14, 2017.
  2. Northrup TF, Stotts AL, Green C, et al. Opioid withdrawal, craving, and use during and after outpatient buprenorphine stabilization and taper: A discrete survival and growth mixture model. Addict Behav. 2015;41:20-28. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.09.021.
  3. How to Isolate and Treat Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms. The Fix website. https://www.thefix.com/content/paws Published February 4, 2014. Accessed February 14, 2017.
  4. Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). Semel Institute UCLA Dual Diagnosis Program website. https://www.semel.ucla.edu/dual-diagnosis-program/News_and_Resources/PAWS Accessed February 14, 2017.
  5. Schuckit MA. Treatment of Opioid-Use Disorders. N Engl J Med. 2016 Jul 28;375(4):357-68. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1604339.
  6. Volkow ND, McLellan AT. Opioid Abuse in Chronic Pain – Misconceptions and Mitigation Strategies. N Engl J Med. 2016 Mar 31;374(13):1253-63. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1507771.
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