Lily never planned on becoming addicted to oxycodone. Instead, she’d planned on running a marathon. But her life took an unexpected turn when she tripped during a morning jog and injured her knee. The pain was intense, and her doctor prescribed oxycodone to manage that pain. Unfortunately, the oxycodone wasn’t enough to control Lily’s agony. …
How to Quit Oxycodone: Talking Opioid Detox and Withdrawal
Lily never planned on becoming addicted to oxycodone. Instead, she’d planned on running a marathon. But her life took an unexpected turn when she tripped during a morning jog and injured her knee. The pain was intense, and her doctor prescribed oxycodone to manage that pain.
Unfortunately, the oxycodone wasn’t enough to control Lily’s agony. She took more than the recommended dosage several times, just to take the edge off. And even though she told herself she had nothing to worry about, Lily really liked the feelings of euphoria the drug provided. She couldn’t run anymore, so she was feeling depressed. She secretly welcomed the opioid high.
Oxycodone Addiction and Opioid Detox
Lily started taking more oxycodone pills – and she took them with increasing frequency. She needed more of the drug in order to make her feel the desired high. Then one day, she ran out of pills.
That’s when Lily got sick.
Her muscles cramped up, she had a headache, she felt nauseated, and she was sweating profusely. She searched her symptoms online and quickly realized she had become physically dependent on the opioid painkiller.
The steady supply of opioids was no longer there, and her body’s systems were reacting with a fierceness in the drug’s absence. Lily understood in that moment she experiencing oxycodone withdrawal.
Symptoms of Oxycodone Withdrawal
Some of the typical symptoms people experience when they quit oxycodone include:1
- Muscle cramps
- Vomiting and nausea
- Cold and hot flashes
- Trouble sleeping
- Watery eyes and nose
Note: It is possible to become physically dependent on oxycodone when you take it as prescribed. Your body gets used to the presence of the drug, so when you stop taking oxycodone, you can experience withdrawal.2
What Happens After You Quit Oxycodone?
How long do the withdrawal symptoms last once you quit oxycodone? The process usually unfolds in the following timeline:
- Days 1-2: Initial withdrawal: Symptoms usually start 8-12 hours after the last dose of oxycodone.
- Days 3-5: Intensified withdrawal: Symptoms are usually at their worse during this time. Muscle aches are common, along with shaking and cramps.
- Days 6-7: Psychological withdrawal: At this point, physical symptoms lessen, and psychological symptoms grow stronger. Depression and anxiety are common.
- Days 8 and beyond: Detoxed: After eight to 10 days, oxycodone has usually been purged from the body (detoxed). Physical symptoms are gone. However, psychological addiction may still be present. If this is the case, you should seek additional treatment.
Is it Safe to Stop Oxycodone Cold Turkey?
Because she ran out of pills, Lily abruptly stopped taking oxycodone. Quitting cold turkey like this can produce very distressing symptoms, both physical and emotional.
For people who have other health conditions, the body’s physical reaction can cause serious issues. Even in healthy individuals, severe vomiting and diarrhea can cause life-threatening dehydration. And many people start using the drug again in a desperate attempt to make the oxycodone withdrawal symptoms stop.
To prevent this unhealthy cycle, it is usually best to taper off oxycodone as part of a professional opioid addiction treatment program. This is what Lily decided to do.
What’s the Process of Weaning Off Oxycodone?
Lily consulted with her doctor to develop an oxycodone tapering plan that worked for her. This plan would slowly wean her off the drug, minimizing withdrawal symptoms and helping Lily adjust to daily life without oxycodone.
Tapering plans typically include the following important steps when weaning off oxycodone:1
- Flexible approach: The plan for tapering off oxycodone must consider the person’s risk, preferences, and goals.
- Initial decrease: The amount of the dosage decrease is less important than successfully achieving some form of initial decrease.
- Dose and interval: Tapering off oxycodone involves two separate processes: dose amount and the interval between doses. One or both can be adjusted throughout the weaning process.
- Slow progress: A slow taper is 5-10% dose reduction per month. This may be necessary if you’ve been using oxycodone for more than a year. A faster taper decreases doses by 10% per In extreme cases, where there is medical risk due to other conditions, a decrease of 30-50% may be appropriate. But this requires close monitoring.
- Scheduled dosing: If possible, it’s good to continue with the same dosing schedule. For example, if you’re used to taking prescribed oxycodone in the morning, continue to take it then.
- Pauses: Putting the tapering process on pause may be appropriate at some point in the process. This break gives you time to adjust to the new dosage and learn new coping skills.
- Progress: Tapering off oxycodone is considered a success as long as you’re making progress by reducing your oxycodone use.
- Support: During the weaning process, social support, mental health care, and physician supervision are important. Lily began seeing a counselor to help with her anxiety and depression.
- Healthy habits: Lily also benefited from developing ways to manage pain and maintain a healthier lifestyle. These included:
- Good sleep habits
- Healthy nutrition
- Physical activity
- Non-opioid pain medications
Medical Detox Helps You Successfully Quit Oxycodone
Sometimes, medications are used to help people detox from oxycodone. These FDA-approved treatments can help reduce oxycodone withdrawal symptoms and cravings. A healthcare provider prescribes the medication and closely monitors the patient’s progress. For some, this medical support can be the key for how to quit oxycodone.
Medical detox may involve one or more of the following medications:
- Buprenorphine: This is prescribed for moderate to severe oxycodone withdrawal. It reduces the person’s cravings for oxy and provides relief for withdrawal symptoms.3
- Methadone: This medication also reduces cravings and alleviates oxycodone withdrawal. It is used for medical detox from opioids that are longer acting, such as morphine.3
- Suboxone: This medication is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. It prevents cravings and blocks the intoxication effects of other opiates.4
- Other Medications: There are a number of drugs used during the detox process to treat withdrawal symptoms. Healthcare providers may prescribe medication to treat insomnia, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. These may include temazepam, metoclopramide, and propantheline.3
- Sarah.Rinn,. (n.d.). Tapering and discontinuing opioid use. Minnesota Opioid Guidelines. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from https://mn.gov/dhs/opip/opioid-guidelines/tapering-opioids/
- Doj/dea. (n.d.). Drugs of Abuse, A DEA resource guide (2020 edition). Retrieved November 30, 2023, from https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-04/Drugs%20of%20Abuse%202020-Web%20Version-508%20compliant-4-24-20_0.pdf
- Withdrawal management. (2009, January 1). NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/
- Grinspoon, P. (2018, March 20). 5 myths about using Suboxone to treat opiate addiction. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/5-myths-about-using-suboxone-to-treat-opiate-addiction-2018032014496