Oxycodone is a prescription opiate painkiller that’s used to treat moderate to severe pain. It has a high potential for abuse and addiction, and quitting oxycodone suddenly can lead to oxycodone withdrawal symptoms, which can be excruciating. Ending an addiction to oxycodone is essential for preventing devastating health problems down the road and reducing the risk of dying of an opioid overdose.
How Oxycodone Dependence Develops
Addiction and dependence are different. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behaviors even though it’s causing negative consequences in your life. Oxycodone dependence is purely physical, characterized by oxycodone withdrawal symptoms that occur when you quit using.
Dependence develops due to brain changes that occur as your brain works to compensate for the frequent presence of opioids. It does this by adjusting the activity of certain neurotransmitters, reducing the production of some and increasing the production of others in an attempt to keep the brain functioning normally.
As the brain adjusts, you need bigger and bigger doses of oxycodone to get the same effects a smaller dose once produced. This is known as tolerance. But as you use more, the brain continues to change the way it operates in order to compensate. At some point, the brain may change so that it begins to operate more comfortably when opioids are in your system. Then, when you suddenly stop using, the brain’s normal chemical function rebounds. This causes oxycodone withdrawal symptoms.
Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms
The symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal include:
- Intense cravings for oxycodone.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
- Irritability, agitation, and anxiety.
- Depression and thoughts of suicide.
- Body aches.
- Increase in blood pressure.
- Irregular heartbeat.
Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms typically begin within eight to 12 hours after your last dose. Symptoms usually peak around 72 hours, and symptoms subside in around a week. However, some psychological effects of withdrawal may persist for much longer, including depression or anxiety and intense cravings for oxycodone.
Medical Detox vs. Medication-Assisted Treatment
Two options for treating oxycodone withdrawal symptoms are medical detox and medication-assisted treatment.
Medical detox involves medications that are offered as needed to reduce the severity of certain oxycodone withdrawal symptoms and reduce the duration of the detox process. Medical detox is essential for oxycodone withdrawal, which can be severe enough to send you back to using oxycodone just to make the symptoms stop.
Medication-assisted treatment is now the recommended way to treat opioid addiction and dependence, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Medication-assisted treatment involves taking medications that either prevent withdrawal from occurring altogether or which reduce cravings and help normalize brain function after the detox process is complete. In addition to medication, a variety of therapies are used to treat the addiction, which is more complex than dependence and often involves a range of underlying issues that must be addressed.
Treatment is Essential
Medical detox and medication alone do very little to treat an addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Professional help is almost always needed to end an addiction for the long-term.
A high quality treatment program will use a variety of traditional and complementary therapies to help you address underlying issues, develop essential coping skills for stress and cravings and help you find purpose and meaning in a life free of opioids. Treatment helps you repair relationships and restore your life on many fronts for a higher quality of life and higher sense of well-being for the long-haul.