Prescription opioids like OxyContin (a brand name version of the drug oxycodone) are powerful medications used to treat moderate to severe pain.1 Even when used as prescribed by a doctor, it’s possible for the body to develop a dependence that leads to withdrawal symptoms in as little as two weeks.2
OxyContin abuse and addiction are exceedingly common. From 2004 to 2016, there were over 158,000 oxycodone-related adverse drug events reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS), resulting in 32,661 deaths.3
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as 4 to 6 hours after the user has taken the last dose of OxyContin.1 These symptoms include:4
- Flu-like symptoms including watery eyes, runny nose, chills (goosepimples) and fever.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Depression and/or anxiety.
- Muscle aches and joint pain.
- Dilated pupils.
Withdrawal Management and Treatment
Individuals addicted to OxyContin will likely benefit from an inpatient treatment program that includes medical detox. During medical detox, withdrawal will be managed by physicians and other medical professionals who may prescribe certain medications to ease the discomfort of moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms.5,6 Medically managed withdrawal is more critical should the individual be combining opioids with alcohol or other CNS depressants (e.g., benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium), as concomitant use contributes to life-threatening respiratory depression that requires a high level of care.6
Medications typically used during opioid withdrawal include methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone). In addition to easing the withdrawal process, individuals will also experience fewer cravings for OxyContin or other opioids while taking these medications.5,6 Another medication, Naltrexone, also helps reduce cravings associated with opioids, but is only used after withdrawal.7
The American Society of Addiction Medicine and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) both support the use of methadone and/or buprenorphine—as well as naltrexone—as part of “medication-assisted therapy” and a critical component for treating opioid use disorder.5,6
Although methadone and buprenorphine work in similar ways, methadone is tightly regulated by federal law and must be dispensed through a SAMHSA-certified opioid treatment program (OTP).5,6 Buprenorphine may also be dispensed by OTPs but can also be dispensed in other settings, such as a physician’s office or by medical professionals at a community hospital, health department or correctional facility.8 Naltrexone, may be prescribed by any healthcare provider licensed to provide medication.9
Successful addiction treatment is focused around individualized therapy, and the use of methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone is determined on a case-by-case basis.5,6
Once withdrawal has been managed, individuals progress to the psychosocial portion of treatment, which helps to further manage cravings, reduces the likelihood of relapse, and arms individuals with coping skills to address the emotional and social challenges that often accompany substance use disorders.5,6 This may include a focus on underlying factors contributing to an individual’s addiction, such as co-occurring mental health issues or family or community dynamics.5,6
- Miller, S. C., Fiellin, D. A., Rosenthal, R. N., & Saitz, R. (2019). The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine, Sixth Edition. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.
- Wakim J. H. (2012). Alleviating symptoms of withdrawal from an opioid. Pain and Therapy, 1(1), 4.
- Veronin, M. A., Schumaker, R. P., Dixit, R. R., & Elath, H. (2019). Opioids and frequency counts in the US Food and Drug Administration Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) database: A quantitative view of the epidemic. Drug, Healthcare and Patient Safety, 11, 65–70.
- Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (5th ed.). (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2005.) TIP 43: Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Opioid Treatment Programs.
- American Society for Addiction Medicine. (2015). The ASAM National Practice Guideline for the Use of Medications in the Treatment of Addiction Involving Opioid Use.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Medication-Assisted Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Medication and Counseling Treatment: Buprenorphine.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Medication and Counseling Treatment: Naltrexone.