The opioid epidemic has cost tens of thousands of people their lives in the past few years. And the problem has been growing for over a decade. Opioid abuse was responsible for the most significant portion of the overdose deaths in 2015. 

Prescription opioid abuse accounts for much of the raging opioid epidemic, and OxyContin is a big contributor. OxyContin is the brand name for the synthetic opioid oxycodone which can be addictive, especially in people with other risk factors.

Dealing with an addiction may mean having to face withdrawal symptoms, either by accident (because of no access to the drug or situations like long flights) or intentionally. 

OxyContin withdrawal symptoms can be challenging to get through, but the stakes couldn’t be higher. Freeing yourself from opioids might mean avoiding an addiction that can eventually cost you your life.

Withdrawals from Oxycontin aren’t easy to overcome alone. It can be a painstaking process that can take up to several weeks or even months to completely stop. Understanding the detoxification and withdrawal process is crucial to your success in ending the cycle of Oxycontin addiction. 

What is OxyContin?

OxyContin was introduced in 1996 as a longer-lasting opioid that could better treat chronic pain. It was described under the impression it would only be needed once every 12 hours, which gave it an advantage over other drugs that contained oxycodone at the time.

The drug is a time-released formula of oxycodone, which is a semi-synthetic opioid. OxyContin works by binding to receptors in the brain responsible for blocking pain signals. The drug continues to activate receptors in the body to a point where it floods the system with opioids. Thus, sedation and pain relief are induced.

In addition to the feelings of calm and pain relief, it spikes levels of dopamine, which regulates the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. It causes users to feel high.

Over time, OxyContin begins to rewire the brain every time it is used. It does so in such a unique way that people associate OxyContin consumption with the release of dopamine. It initiates a cycle of dependence and addiction.

When the brain is rewired, it pushes a user to need more of the drug to feel normal. Once dependence has been achieved, a user will feel inadequate without the prescription. Once dependency has been reached, a user will experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of the absence of the drug. It can be the first step in the tough road of addiction.

What Are the OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms?

OxyContin is an opioid, and as such, its withdrawal symptoms are relatively consistent with that of other opioids. 

Opioids often have two phases of withdrawal symptoms. The first may come with symptoms that resemble the common cold, and the second can escalate into flu-like symptoms. Opioids are depressants, which means they suppress the central nervous system, ease pain, and relax the body and mind.

However, when chemical dependence develops and drug use is discontinued cold turkey, some symptoms may rebound once the nervous system is no longer being depressed. Since your brain is used to depressant chemicals being introduced by OxyContin, anxiety, agitation, and panic attacks may occur as the mind struggles to produce chemicals to counteract nervous system overactivity.

Other symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attack
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Weakness
  • Fever

While OxyContin withdrawal symptoms are rarely life-threatening, it can make it difficult to stop using opioids, even if you need to stop for medical reasons. In fact, sometimes, prescription opioid abuse can lead to the use of heroin or other illegal opioids. Successful detoxification may require the help of medical professionals.

These physical symptoms can onset fairly early following the final dose of the medication and increase in severity and frequency as you progress throughout the withdrawal process. 

Receiving medical intervention throughout the withdrawal process can be the difference between relapse and recovery since most OxyContin users relapse back onto the medication within the first few days. 

What Are the Stages of the OxyContin Withdrawal Timeline?

Not everyone who depends on OxyContin experiences the same withdrawal symptoms on the same timeline. The severity of your withdrawal symptoms, the time they start, and their duration all depend on a number of factors. 

The longer you abuse OxyContin, the deeper your dependence on it will be. People who use high doses for a long time will experience more intense withdrawals more quickly after your last dose. If you are used to high doses of short-acting opiates like OxyContin, you might start to experience symptoms in as little as six hours. Most of the time, symptoms begin to appear within 12 hours of your last dose.

The first symptoms that will appear may be similar to the common cold with a runny nose, fatigue, and muscle weakness. By the 72-hour mark, your symptoms will start to peak. 

The intensity of your symptoms may increase to diarrhea, vomiting, and depression. Insomnia can also be a severe symptom many people abusing OxyContin experience. Muscle aches and spasms are also reported and can even cause physical pain when the symptoms are severe enough.

After 72 hours, your symptoms will begin to subside, and the physical signs will clear up after a week or two. However, psychological symptoms like depression can last for months without help.

Through the process, you may have constant or periodic drug cravings that can lead to drug-seeking behavior. Even though opioid withdrawal isn’t as deadly as other drugs like alcohol and benzodiazepines, it may be incredibly difficult to quit on your own. 

The desire to stop the physical symptoms may overwhelm the desire to get/clean off of OxyContin. The first few days are the most volatile time period for any addicted opioid users to succumb to relapse. By safeguarding yourself with a professional medical detox, you can protect your recovery and your life. 

Why Should I Detox?

Though OxyContin withdrawal symptoms aren’t deadly, opioid addiction can be life-threatening. According to a study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 15,000 people died because of prescription opioid overdose in that year.

When you recognize that you have an opioid addiction, successfully ridding yourself of it might save your life. Because drug cravings are so intense and withdrawal symptoms are so uncomfortable, it’s challenging to escape from under the oppression of addiction by yourself.

Medical detox is the safest way to go through withdrawals and come out sober. Plus, doctors can mitigate withdrawal symptoms with 24-hour medical treatment. 

While you would typically have to struggle through symptoms by yourself, in medical detox, you will be given everything you need to ease uncomfortable symptoms. In some cases, medications can be used to treat OxyContin withdrawal symptoms as a whole. Clonidine is often prescribed for people going through opioid withdrawal to ease flu-like symptoms. 

Undergoing detox with help from others rather than doing it in isolation may ease feelings of depression. With clinicians available around the clock, you will have constant help and accountability. They can ensure successful detoxification by keeping you from using again in moments of weakness. People who go through withdrawal alone are more likely to use when cravings become irresistible.

Other services that detox facilities offer are the first steps in the therapeutic aspect of addiction treatment. Many medical detox facilities offer different groups and therapy sessions led by certified counselors who can help recovering opioid users discuss and process their feelings in a healthy way. 

Once the fog caused by the OxyContin is removed, many issues that may have led the individual to turn to the drug may once again come to light. By processing these feelings and events in a healthy way, it can help circumvent a relapse after the end of the detoxification process.

What is the Next Treatment Step?

Once you have successfully gone through detoxification, you may still have to deal with cravings and the threat of relapse. 

A continuum of treatment has shown to be the most effective way to prevent relapse. There are a few medications that are used to treat an opioid substance use disorder, but many are opioids themselves and only provide a temporary solution. 

Naltrexone is a synthetic opioid antagonist that stops opioids from binding to receptors. This prevents you from feeling the euphoric effects of drugs like OxyContin. 

There are also a variety of behavioral therapies that can help you get to the root of underlying problems, address any comorbid psychological issues, and train you to deal with stress and cravings while maintaining your sobriety. 

Treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, dialectical behavioral therapy, 12-step programs, or combinations of these options can help you achieve long-term sobriety.

Going to an inpatient treatment facility is often recommended. There, you can continue your addiction treatment with more intensive and frequent therapy sessions to help you get to the root cause of your substance abuse. 

These facilities also act as a buffer between people recovering from substance abuse, and the community at large where temptation lurks around every corner. 

Learning life skills and other coping mechanisms to utilize in everyday life are also benefits clients at inpatient facilities receive by attending these programs.

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