Oxycontin withdrawal

Oxycontin is a time-released formulation of oxycodone, a drug derived from opium, that is prescribed for moderate to severe pain. Because Oxycontin is time-released and intended to be taken only twice a day, it comes in dosages that are much higher than immediate release formulations containing oxycodone like Percocet. As a result, individuals who abuse this drug often develop a very high tolerance and require a large amount of the drug everyday in order not to experience withdrawal.

The symptoms of oxycontin withdrawal are the same as those for other opiates including morphine, heroin, and vicodin and include nausea, cold sweats, diarrhea, muscle and joint pain, goose bumps, dilated pupils, a runny nose, and depression. The severity of these symptoms depends upon how much oxycodone the individual has been taking. While the symptoms of oxcontin withdrawal are extremely unpleasant, they are typically not dangerous. Nonetheless, oxycontin withdrawal can exacerbate other conditions and it is always best to undergo withdrawal under a doctor's supervision.

There are essentially three approaches to the treatment of oxycontin withdrawal. One is abrupt cessation of the drug with no treatment, colloquially referred to as quitting "cold turkey". Interestingly the term "cold turkey" which is now used to describe quitting any substance abruptly  was originally used to describe opioid (such as oxycodone) withdrawal because the cold sweats and goose bumps of the withdrawing addict resembled a cold turkey.

Another method of treating oxycontin withdrawal is to treat the individual symptoms of the withdrawal with a non opiate medication. This is often how oxycontin withdrawal is treated in the inpatient context. One medication is given for anxiety, another for nausea, another for diarrhea, and another to decrease a derivative of adrenaline that becomes elevated during withdrawal. The benefit of this approach is that the withdrawal is less uncomfortable than quitting cold turkey and is not prolonged through the use of substitute opiate medications.

Finally, withdrawal can also be treated with a substitute opiate. There are two substitute opiate medications that can be used for this purpose: methadone and suboxone. Methadone is a full agonist opiate meaning that when it binds to the opiate receptors in the brain, it always activates them. Suboxone contains buprenorphine which is a partial opiate agonist meaning that when it binds to the opiate receptors in the brain, half the time it activates them and half the time it does nothing. For more information on how buprenorphine works, visit our suboxone page. Both suboxone and methadone treat oxycontine withdrawal symptoms by activating the same opiate receptors in the brain that oxycodone does. The benefit to using methadone or buprenorphine to activate these receptors rather than oxycodone is that methadone and buprenorphine stay in the body a long time and thus result in a much more stable state that allows an individual to function in their everyday life, something most oxycontin addicts cannot do. When the decision is made to come off of methadone or suboxone, the drug is slowly decreased thus avoiding severe withdrawal symptoms. However, withdrawal symptoms often do occur with these medications as well, particularly at the very end of the tapering process.

If you or a loved one is suffering from oxycontin withdrawal and need help, call our number above to speak with an addiction specialist right now who can help you decide which treatment option will be best for you.

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