Addicted to Painkillers – Can I Wean Myself Off OxyContin?

Aging Man with Oxycontin addiction

OxyContin is a drug that is typically used for pain management and relief with moderate or severe pain. Since its introduction to the U.S. in the 1930s, most individuals prescribed this report it working better than any other prescription pain medication [1]. With this painkiller, it is also easy to build tolerance and become addicted.

Some individuals will use OxyContin recreationally to get high. It can create feelings of euphoria, relaxation, anxiolytic, and analgesic effects due to stimulating endorphins.

Depending on the duration and amount of pain pills a person is taking, will influence severity and duration of the withdrawal period.

Factors that Contribute to the Withdrawal Process

First, a person’s addiction duration is important to consider as the longer you have taken the drug, the more likely your body has built a tolerance for it. Some individuals may have been abusing this drug for decades before seeking treatment.

Second, how much OxyContin you are taking influences the withdrawal symptoms. Some dosing is 5mg to 30mg every 4 to 6 hours depending on the need for immediate release (IR) and for those using controlled-release (CR) it is 10mg every 12 hours [1].

A person’s tolerance is typically when a person is taking high doses of the drug daily for an extended period of time. Tolerance occurs when a higher dosage of the drug is used to achieve the same effects of the high.

Woman sitting by the seaWith higher levels of dosage and tolerance means that the nervous system has become used to getting the effects of the drug. When withdrawal occurs, it can take the body a while to rid itself of the drug.

OxyContin, if initially used for pain, can be difficult to wean off of due to body’s normative endorphin function.

When this medication is used for a long period of time, the body’s natural endorphin levels diminish and disappear. It can take months for the body’s natural pain response to become re-established after detoxification [1].

Taper on Own or Seek Detox

Withdrawal can either be tapering or detoxification whether you seek detoxification from a facility or own your own [1]. Those who taper on their own feel that it is a struggle because it can be difficult to avoid using again due to the physical effects of withdrawal.

Tapering is recommended, whether on own or in a facility, be done with the consultation and protocol tapering regimen from a medical professional. Going cold turkey from OxyContin is not suggested because of the dangerous side effects.

Side effects of withdrawal can be abdominal cramps, agitation, anger, and anxiety. Body aches and chills that feel like the flu can occur. Individuals may struggle with concentration and confusion. Cravings for the drug may be intense and crying spells can occur.

Some people may experience depersonalization where you feel no longer yourself when you are coming off the drug. Depressive symptoms or low mood can also occur during the detox process.

Other symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, diarrhea, goose bumps, headaches, and high blood pressure. Some experience hormone imbalance while the body is working on reestablishing homeostasis.

Insomnia may occur and extreme itching or feeling of skin crawling. Nausea and night sweats are also common. Body spasms, vomiting, and suicidal thinking are also common due to the body’s adaptation to it without the drug.

It typically can take up to 2 weeks to fully withdraw from the drug. Psychologically symptoms can last much longer, and it is important to get proper sleep, eat a healthy meal plan, and some light exercise can help with the recovery process.

Withdrawal symptoms can also be medically managed with the use of Methadone to help wean [2]. Methadone acts on the same opioid receptors as painkiller medications and can help with cravings. This drug, however, has a potential for abuse and addiction, so sometimes buprenorphine class of medications such as Subutex and Suboxone is used.

Using More Than Just Detox

Weaning off a painkiller is more than just detoxing. It involves therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapies, and group therapy to help identify underlying addictive issues.

Man's faceAccording to the National Survey for Drug Use and Health reported that 22.7 million people over the age of 12 in the United States suffer from substance abuse and need specialized treatment [2].

OxyContin is a powerful painkiller drug that is easily addictive.

Many individuals struggle with weaning off this medicine successfully without support due to the body’s adaptation of the drug in its functioning. Working with a treatment team, a medical professional, and other recovered peers can help a person taper off this drug.

If you are struggling with drug addiction, first seek an assessment with your medical provider and/or treatment facility to see what your best detoxification options are. It is not recommended that you detox on your own without an assessment.


Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.
Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


References:

[1] Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms Duration. (2014, July 30). Retrieved September 01, 2017, from http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/07/30/oxycodone-withdrawal-symptoms-duration/[2] How Long it Takes to Withdrawal From Percocet or OxyContin | Timeline, Tips, and Symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved September 01, 2017, from https://www.futuresofpalmbeach.com/addiction-treatment/percocet/how-long-is-withdrawal/


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on October 6, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 6, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com