OxyContin is an extended-release formulation of oxycodone, an opioid used for treating chronic or severe pain. Like most opioids, prolonged use of OxyContin can result in physical dependence on the drug.
Ending long-term OxyContin use can result in withdrawal symptoms that emerge within 12 hours after abstinence. These withdrawal symptoms persist for up to two weeks and can be difficult to cope with, though they are not typically life-threatening.
When Does Withdrawal Start?
OxyContin contains oxycodone, which is a short-acting opioid. Oxycodone has a short half-life of 3.2 hours when compared to opioids like methadone (35 hours) and buprenorphine (37 hours). As an extended-release formulation, OxyContin has a slightly longer half-life (4.5 hours) than immediate-release oxycodone. However, OxyContin is still considered a short-acting opioid.
Short-acting opioids like OxyContin produce more severe withdrawal symptoms than long-acting opioids like methadone, but the duration of these symptoms is shorter. OxyContin withdrawal symptoms tend to appear 6–12 hours after ending use.
OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline
OxyContin withdrawal symptoms can be differentiated into two phases: the acute withdrawal phase and the protracted withdrawal phase. The initial acute withdrawal phase lasts between 7–14 days, and protracted withdrawal symptoms may last for several weeks or months after ending OxyContin use.
- Acute withdrawal phase: The symptoms during this initial phase are simply referred to as withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms emerge 6–12 hours after ending drug use and may persist for 7–14 days. These symptoms generally involve:
- Muscle pain
- Protracted withdrawal: Some withdrawal symptoms may persist beyond the acute phase. These symptoms are collectively referred to as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or protracted withdrawal. Protracted withdrawal is common in people who used opioids for a prolonged duration. Protracted withdrawal may last between a few weeks to several months after the acute withdrawal phase. These symptoms include:
- Depressed mood
- Sleep disturbances
How Long Do OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
The symptoms of OxyContin withdrawal generally last for a period of two weeks. The symptoms peak within the first week and then gradually subside. However, the symptoms of protracted withdrawal may persist up to six months after ending OxyContin use.
Factors Affecting OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms Duration
The duration and intensity OxyContin withdrawal tend to vary, depending on factors such as the duration of OxyContin use and the person’s physiological characteristics. The severity of dependence on OxyContin plays an important role in the duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms. In addition, there are other factors that affect the severity of withdrawal symptoms, including dose, duration and frequency of intake.
Tapering Off OxyContin to Reduce Withdrawal Symptoms
Ending OxyContin use abruptly can result in severe withdrawal symptoms, and these unpleasant symptoms can be difficult to cope with. The discomfort caused by OxyContin withdrawal can lead to a relapse, so people are advised to gradually taper the dose when ending use. Even reducing the dose too quickly can lead to withdrawal symptoms. To avoid this, people should follow a taper schedule created with the help of a doctor.
A tapering schedule involves reducing the dose by a set amount over time. For example, the dose may be reduced by 5% every four weeks. The tapering regimen may vary depending on the treatment setting (inpatient vs. outpatient detox) and the severity of dependence.
Treatment for OxyContin Withdrawal
Detoxification from OxyContin at home can be difficult due to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Treatment at an inpatient or outpatient detox is typically a more comfortable option. If someone undergoes detox at home, the dose of OxyContin should be gradually tapered with the help of medication and support from family members.
Treatment at a medical detox is generally recommended when ending OxyContin use. Detox centers provide 24/7 supervision by qualified medical staff who can help someone cope with withdrawal symptoms. This may involve gradually tapering the dose of OxyContin and managing withdrawal symptoms as they emerge.
Some of the medications used for managing withdrawal symptoms include:
- Loperamide for diarrhea
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, for muscle cramps
- Clonidine or other anti-hypertensive drugs for flu-like symptoms
The round-the-clock supervision provided at a medical detox allows for a rapid tapering regimen and the use of medication.
An alternative to tapering is the use of medications like methadone and buprenorphine to relieve withdrawal symptoms. These drugs bind to the same receptors as OxyContin but do not produce euphoric effects. This prevents the onset of withdrawal symptoms, and the dose of these medications can be gradually tapered.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an opioid use disorder, Orlando Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to learn more about detox programs, treatment plans and other options that can work well for your situation.
World Health Organization. ”Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings: Withdrawal Management.” 2009. Accessed October 25, 2019.
Prunty, Leesa M.; Prunty, Jeremy J. “Acute Opioid withdrawal: Identification and treatment strategies.” US Pharmacist, November 2016. Accessed October 25, 2019.
Kleber, Herbert D. “Pharmacologic treatments for opioid dependence: detoxification and maintenance options.” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, December 2007. Accessed October 25, 2019.