Oxycodone (OxyContin) Abuse, Effects, Withdrawal, & Rehab
Oxycodone is a prescription opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. It’s the primary painkilling component of drugs such as OxyContin and Percocet.1
Like other prescription opioids, oxycodone can be a safe and effective means of pain management when used properly and for a short period of time. However, it may have some significantly negative health effects, and can be extremely dangerous when abused.2
How Can Oxycodone Abuse Start?
In addition to altering pain signaling, oxycodone and other opioids are associated with an increase in dopamine activity in the brain.2
When opioids are used in high enough doses, the accompanying increase in dopamine helps elicit a rewarding, euphoric high. This in turn may reinforce continued use—and misuse—of OxyContin and other drugs like it, even in some who originally began taking the drug for medical purposes.2
Others may never have been prescribed oxycodone and purely started abusing prescription painkillers to get high.
Misuse of oxycodone means any of the following:3, 4
- Taking someone else’s prescription or otherwise acquiring the drug illegally.
- Taking OxyContin or another medication containing oxycodone for non-medical reasons, such as to get high.
- Using oxycodone more frequently, for longer, or in higher doses than prescribed.
- Using oxycodone in an unintended way (e.g., crushing pills and snorting or injecting them).
What Are the Signs of Oxycodone Abuse?
There are several signs that may indicate to medical professionals that someone has been misusing oxycodone.
Signs of oxycodone abuse in someone who has been prescribed the medication for pain management include:6
- Complaining of more pain despite their physical condition improving.
- Repeatedly requesting an increase in medication amounts.
- Attempting to refill prescriptions early or reporting their medication stolen.
- Contacting multiple doctors or pharmacies trying to obtain oxycodone.
- Evidence of opioid withdrawal during follow up appointments.
Doctors and other treatment professionals may diagnose an oxycodone addiction as an opioid use disorder. Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a chronic, treatable illness characterized by a problematic pattern of continued opioid misuse and drug seeking behavior as it is outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition) (DSM-5).7
Such a diagnosis is based on the presence of several characteristic signs, symptoms, and behavioral changes that reflect compulsive, problematic use of a drug like oxycodone.7
Examples of these diagnostic criteria include:7
- Oxycodone is taken in larger amounts and/or over a longer period than intended.
- Craving or a strong desire or urge to use the prescription opioid.
- Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problem caused or exacerbated by the effects of oxycodone.
Oxycodone Detox and Withdrawal Symptom Management
Many who struggle with oxycodone addiction develop significant physiological dependence, which places them at risk of experiencing a sometimes severely unpleasant withdrawal syndrome when continued opioid use slows or stops.
The supportive care and pharmaceutical interventions offered through a supervised medical detox program can help people through this difficult period of early recovery.
What Are the Symptoms of Oxycodone Withdrawal?
Common OxyContin withdrawal symptoms may include:8, 9
- Runny nose.
- Teary eyes.
- Dilated pupils.
- Muscle aches.
Other symptoms may include:8, 9
- Insomnia and anxiety.
- Rapid heartrate.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Abdominal cramps.
- Bach ache.
- Joint pains.
- Nausea and vomiting.
The character and severity of these symptoms may vary according to the magnitude of physical dependence, but may also be influenced by a person’s general health.10
For relatively short-acting opioids like oxycodone, withdrawal symptoms may start between 8 and 24 hours after the last use of the drug, with gradual symptom resolution within 4-10 days.10
Oxycodone withdrawal is seldom life-threatening. However, it can be very uncomfortable, which could increase relapse risks in people whose withdrawal symptoms are not mitigated. Medically assisted detox can make this process easier, as medical staff monitor patients and administer medication when necessary.9
While getting past the acute withdrawal stage is a necessary hurdle to overcome, there’s much more to addiction recovery than detoxification. In fact, research shows that detox on its own may not be very effective in treating addiction.9, 11
Oxycodone Addiction Treatment & Rehab Centers
Addiction treatment is a highly individualized process, meaning certain approaches may be effective for some and ineffective for others. Most of the time, however, opioid addiction treatment involves a continuum of care that includes:
- Medical detox.
- Rehabilitation treatment.
- Residential treatment, where patients stay in the facility 24/7 until they complete rehab or transfer to a less intensive level of care.
- Partial hospitalization (day treatment), where individuals visit the facility daily for treatment but continue living at home. Partial hospitalization, or PHP, is the most intensive form of outpatient treatment.
- An intensive outpatient program, which is similar to day treatment but with relatively fewer hours per week required for treatment sessions.
- A standard outpatient problem, where patients meet with a therapist or counselor several times a week based on their needs.
Regardless of setting, treatment for OUD involves various forms of evidence-based therapy methods that are used to help patients recognize triggers, alter unhealthy coping mechanisms and behavioral patterns, treat any co-occurring disorders, and more.11
Medication is also often a necessary part of treatment for many people suffering from OUD.11 An opioid agonist like methadone or buprenorphine may be used to help lessen withdrawal symptoms and cravings. These OUD treatment medications may be administered during detox and potentially afterwards as maintenance medication.12
Additionally, naltrexone—an opioid antagonist that reduces the subjective effects of opioids—may be prescribed to discourage someone from relapsing.12
Some patients that complete rehabilitation find it helpful to reside at a sober-living facility for continued recovery work. Many people, both during and after rehab, participate in mutual-support programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Forging and maintaining a network of supportive peers and continued group therapy following rehab is often vital to the success of someone’s long-term recovery.11
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, please reach out to an Admissions Navigator at for more information about the care and addiction treatment in MS at Oxford Treatment Center.
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