Oxycodone Withdrawal Timeline
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 24 million people in the world are addicted to some kind of opioid painkillers; 2.1 million of them are in the United States. The majority of them have issues with prescription painkillers including one of the most widely used painkillers, oxycodone. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that the prescription pain reliever that a doctor gives them is highly addictive.
Unlike some other drugs, withdrawal from oxycodone cannot kill you, but it is extremely unpleasant. If you are suffering from oxycodone withdrawal, you might be wondering how long it takes before you feel better again.
Knowing the timeline allows you to plan for the withdrawal. This is better explained when you know what is happening during oxycodone withdrawal and what the phases oxycodone withdrawal timeline is.
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What is Oxycodone Withdrawal
Oxycodone withdrawal is a condition that happens when someone stops taking oxycodone. This causes the levels of the opioid painkiller in the body to drop drastically and produce symptoms that are nearly opposite of the drugs regular effects.
When you are taking oxycodone regularly, it binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. This causes the body to flood with dopamine. Unfortunately, once the drug leaves the system the flood of dopamine stops, causing your body to not only crave the drug but also go into physical withdrawal. This happens in three phases.
The acute phase starts anywhere from a few hours to a few days after you stop taking the drug. During the acute phase, the actual drug is leaving your system. It is called acute because the symptoms are usually relatively short lived but very very intense.
There are two ways to stop using oxycodone. The first is stopping oxycodone abruptly. Doctors or most addiction specialists do not recommend this.
The second is through tapering. Tapering means using less and less of the drug to prevent a person from going suffering through the acute phase. During tapering, some of the acute phase symptoms might appear but they are a lot less intense than if a person stopped suddenly. These symptoms are:
- intense cravings,
- runny eyes and nose,
- hot and cold flashes,
- muscle cramps,
- diarrhea, and
Although these symptoms do not seem bad at first glance, they can be extreme. The severity of the symptoms depends on tapering as well as the amount and length of use. Someone is more likely to experience severe symptoms if they are a long term, heavy user, than if they have only used it for a short time. The acute phase lasts anywhere from four to ten days.
Protracted Phase or Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
In the protracted phase or Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), the symptoms are similar to acute withdrawal but can persist anywhere from a few weeks to months after the acute phase. Not all users suffer from PAWS but it develops in the protracted phase.
The protracted phase is another name for cravings that persist. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is much more severe. The symptoms of PAWS are:
- physical complaints that cannot be identified by any other method,
- cravings of oxycodone,
- difficulty with concentration,
- lack of focus,
- difficulty deciding on things that are inconsequential,
- irritability or general disinterest,
- insomnia or hypersomnia,
- memory issues,
- lack of pleasurable feelings or inability to feel pleasure, and
- sexual disinterest or reduced interest.
These feelings start to appear anywhere between immediately after the acute withdrawal phase to several months after. They can last equally as long. The PAWS timeline is difficult to predict and may increase the risk of relapse.
People who experience PAWS are normally long term or very heavy users but it is possible for light addiction as well. The exact withdrawal symptoms often depend on the user’s chemistry as well as the amount and type of use.
The extinction phase occurs after PAWS. Sometimes users skip this phase entirely depending on their overall ability to recover and the treatment they have chosen. Most people experience cravings and the inability to feel pleasure during this phase.
The majority of the other physical symptoms are gone. Much like other addictions, the user may feel general cravings for the rest of their life. They might also miss the drug or miss the feelings they had while on the drug. This is why continuing aftercare is so important.
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Aftercare, although not part of the overall timeline for oxycodone addiction, is an extremely important part of recovery. It normally involves continuing the practices that worked during the acute and PAWS phases. If counseling, therapy, or holistic practices worked then those should be continued.
The recovery program a person chooses is integral to changing the oxycodone withdrawal timeline. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, oxycodone dependence is best treated with a combination of therapy and medical practices. Some people choose to do it on their own while others choose an inpatient or outpatient approach.
Regardless of the treatment, someone withdrawing from oxycodone needs to be sure to treat the cause of the addiction and not just the symptoms. Recovery efforts are more successful when this cause is addressed either by the user or through counseling and a recovery program.