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Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal From Oxycodone

Oxycodone is one of the most abused prescription drugs in the United States.  Despite government efforts to limit the availability of Oxycodone and prescriptions for the drug, abuse continues to be a problem.  In order to understand the withdrawal symptoms of Oxycodone, it’s important to know what Oxycodone is and how it works.

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid, meaning it’s derived from the chemical structure of opium.  It is used to treat severe pain, often chronic pain.

How Does Oxycodone Work?

Essentially, opioids bind to opioid receptors in the brain, preventing or limiting the experience of pain.  As an opioid, Oxycodone acts upon the brains reward pathway.  The reward pathway is a series of processes in the brain which result in the release of dopamine and/or serotonin which creates a feeling of pleasure.  It is intended to reinforce behaviors which benefit the body or the species.  Eating a good meal, healthy exercise and sexual activity all result in the feeling of pleasure.  Athletes, for example, sometimes speak of a ‘runner’s high’.  It’s the brain’s way of saying, in effect: “Do that again!”

Opioids, including Oxycodone, however, activate this reward pathway, often to an abnormal degree.  Users refer to this as a ‘high’.  Unfortunately, the brain recognizes that more dopamine or serotonin is being released, so it responds by reducing the amount of these neurochemicals that is available or by reducing the availability of receptors for these neurochemicals.  Withdrawal symptoms reflect these changes in the brain.

The video below may help you understand this reward pathway more fully.

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

The seriousness of withdrawal symptoms depend upon the intensity of the person’s use of Oxycodone.  A casual user might experience only limited Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms, while a long-term heavy user will experience much more painful symptoms.

Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms include some or all of the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Teary eyes
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Shaking
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased heart rate

Since the brain has limited the amount of serotonin and dopamine and the availability of receptors for these neurochemicals, the individual may have only a very limited ability to experience pleasure.  Behaviors which previously resulted in an experience of pleasure may feel empty.  This is one of the major obstacles that victims of Oxycodone abuse experience during withdrawal.

Oxycodone Withdrawal Timeline

Symptoms of Oxycodone withdrawal will begin within hours of the last dose.  During the first couple of days of withdrawal, the individual will probably experience muscle aches, joint aches, nausea and extreme sweating.  During the next couple of days, these symptoms will continue, along with shaking and cramps.

After about a week, the physical symptoms will begin to abate, but the psychological symptoms will become more severe.  Anxiety and depression, resulting from decreases in the brain’s natural ability to experience pleasure, can be very discouraging.  Just when the person begins to feel better physically, they must face an existence which initially seems to have no pleasure.  It’s important that these psychological symptoms be closely monitored.

Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can be severe.  Therefore, it’s sometimes better to withdraw slowly, tapering off the amount of use rather than stopping suddenly.  The risk here is that the victim of addiction to Oxycodone may return to using at previous levels as symptoms of withdrawal begin to appear.

Under medical supervision, there are some drugs available which may reduce or limit the symptoms of withdrawal.  Clonidine may reduce vomiting or some other physical symptoms.  Suboxone can provide relief from withdrawal symptoms and especially cravings without providing the same ‘high’ that users receive from Oxycodone.  Naltrexone blocks receptors in the brain that bind to Oxycodone, reducing or limiting the drug’s ability to provide pleasure.  It can also help restore the brain’s natural levels of dopamine and serotonin and the availability of receptors for dopamine and serotonin.

Oxycodone Addiction and Recovery

Oxycodone abuse remains a significant problem in the U.S., despite efforts by state and federal governments to limit the availability of the drug.  Like all opioids, Oxycodone limits the brain’s ability to experience pain, but can also elevate the experience of pleasure to abnormally high degrees.  As the brain adjusts to the presence of Oxycodone, it limits its natural ability to experience pleasure.  In withdrawal, the former user of Oxycodone will experience uncomfortable physical symptoms and a limited availability to experience pleasure until the brain readjusts its neurochemical balance.  Certain medications may address withdrawal symptoms.

Oxycodone addiction recovery is possible.  It’s not easy or advisable to withdraw from the drug without medical supervision. Call us now for help with recovery from oxycodone addiction.

Additional References:, Dr Simon Says Science

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