Opioid drug addiction has hit epidemic levels in the U.S., and the crisis looks to be far from over.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 91 Americans die daily from opioid overdose. In 2016, the annual governmental tally hit 60,000, which was higher than that of 2015, which was tallied up to be 52,404 deaths.

Overprescribing of pain pills has been listed as one reason for the seemingly never-ending overdose deaths, and one of those pain relievers is OxyContin, a powerful prescription pain reliever used to treat moderate-to-severe pain.

Physicians started to prescribe drugs in this class in the 1990s for patients who were managing chronic pain that ranged from moderate-to-severe. OxyContin is derived from oxycodone, but a time-release feature allows the medication to be taken less often. It is released in four- to six-hour intervals to make pain easier to manage in a 24-hour period. However, OxyContin is stronger because of the higher concentration of oxycodone in it, and this has led to it being abused for its euphoric effects.

On the streets, OxyContin is called OC, Oxycotton, Kicker, and Hillbilly Heroin. Crushing the drug into a powder to snort it or swallow it or diluting it with water to inject it into the body are common ways OxyContin is abused. Changing the drug’s physical form allows users to bypass the time-release feature and take stronger doses of the drug, which can lead to death.

According to the CDC, oxycodone is one of the most commonly overdosed opioids along with hydrocodone (Vicodin) and methadone.

Longtime or frequent OxyContin users will build up a tolerance for the drug, which means they will have to take larger amounts of the drug for their bodies to respond to it. Higher amounts can lead to overdose. Those who suddenly stop or reduce their usage likely will experience withdrawal, the period when the body attempts to adjust to the changes.

What are the Withdrawal Symptoms of OxyContin?

Users in OxyContin withdrawal may experience:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Aches
  • Anxiety
  • Blurry vision
  • Brain fog
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dysphoria
  • Excessive yawning
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms (a runny nose, chills, fever, congestion)
  • Goosebumps
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shaking/sweating
  • Shivering
  • Teary eyes
  • Vomiting

Psychological symptoms of OxyContin withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Mood Swings
  • Depressions
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness

What are the Stages of OxyContin Withdrawal Timeline?

OxyContin withdrawal will not be the same for everyone. The intensity and duration depend on various factors, including:

  • Age, health, medical history, environment
  • OxyContin history
  • How long OxyContin has been used (shorter period of use may mean a shorter withdrawal period)
  • How much OxyContin is used
  • The manner in which OxyContin has been used (such as whether it was snorted, smoked, or injected)
  • If OxyContin has been used or cut with other drugs and substances (such as alcohol and heroin)
  • Co-occurring disorders (when substance use disorder and mental health disorder are present at the same time)

OxyContin’s half-life is 4.5 hours compared to 3.2 hours for immediate-release oxycodone, so that means it stays in a person’s system longer. Acute withdrawal symptoms can start with eight to 12 hours after the last dose. It might take four to 10 days for the withdrawal period to end, depending on the person.

Here is a general overview of what happens when an OxyContin user stops taking the drug.

Days 1-3

Recovering OxyContin users may experience flu-like symptoms, such as a runny nose and chills. They may have aching muscles, appetite loss, diarrhea, and sleeping difficulties. They also may battle intense cravings for OxyContin, which makes this a vulnerable period for relapse. Symptoms can peak within the first three days.

Days 4-7

While physical symptoms may ease up, users may still have trouble sleeping, and drug cravings may continue. They could also experience aches, cramps, anxiety, and depression during this stage.

Week 2

Symptoms continue to ease up as the body gets back to normal during this time. Recovering users may now be getting more sleep but continue to manage diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Week 3 and Beyond

Long-time OxyCont<code>in users will generally feel better but may have Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). This is a period when persistent withdrawal symptoms randomly appear for several more weeks or months, and in severe cases, years.

PAWS symptoms include emotional instability or mood swings, short-term memory loss, depression, insomnia, dizziness, and cravings for Oxycontin or other drugs and alcohol. Professional addiction treatment programs and other support systems, such as a 12-step program, can help recovering users manage this period.

Why is OxyContin Detox Safer to Do at a Rehab Center?

Quitting OxyContin abruptly after frequent or longtime use is a dangerous practice that is strongly discouraged. The highly addictive drug makes it difficult for some users to stop, but once they do, the psychological discomfort they feel may prompt them to pick up the drug again. Doing so can end in a dangerous relapse, which can permanently damage the body or cause death.

Receiving treatment at a drug rehabilitation center or detox center can help recovering OxyContin users stay on the path to getting off OxyContin and keep them safe while doing it. Also, you don’t have to wait for your symptoms to get worse to start detoxing from OxyContin. If you think you need to detox, start as soon as possible.

A 24-hour detox conducted by medical professionals ensures you or your loved ones are monitored in a controlled setting as uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms are managed. The medications that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has specifically approved for OxyContin include:


An opioid medication that can be administered at a medical facility or doctor’s office, can be used at home under doctor’s prescription. It acts on the same receptor targets of heroin and morphine, but it does so without producing the same intense high or harmful side effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Is a medication used to lower blood pressure. It can come in the form of an oral immediate-release tablet, extended-release tablet, or patch. The medication also reduces recovering users’ anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose, and cramping.


Sold under the brand names Neurotonin and Gralise, is a non-opioid medication prescribed to treat epileptic seizures and nerve damage-related pain. It works by stabilizing electrical activity in the brain.


Is a prescription medication that combines buprenorphine and naloxone. It is used to ease discomfort and reduce cravings that accompany opiate withdrawal.


An opiate, is used to treat clients with chronic pain and to help rid the body of opioids. It helps reduce physical discomfort and cravings for oxycodone. It is habit-forming and should be used with care.


Comes a pill or an injection. It works to block the effects of opioid medication. It used to prevent relapse in people with drug and/or alcohol dependence.


Trazodone is an antidepressant and sedative. According to WebMD, it may help improve appetite, mood, and energy levels. It also works by helping restore the naturally occurring brain chemical serotonin.

Clients also may be given medicines to help ease high blood pressure, nausea, chills, cravings, depression, and other symptoms.

What is the Next Treatment Step After OxyContin Detox?

Recovering users who have completed OxyContin detox are encouraged to enter an inpatient, residential, or outpatient treatment program where they can focus on their addiction. Outpatient treatment offers the most flexibility while inpatient and residential likely require a 30-day or longer stay at the treatment facility.

Research shows that at least three months or more are needed to treat drug addiction.  A longer stay gives residential clients a chance to develop the life skills and strategies they need to live OxyContin-free. They can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and other therapies and approaches that support their path to recovery.

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