The opioid crisis is more than likely a disaster that you’ve either heard of or experienced firsthand. Never has there been a crisis in the United States that has claimed as many lives as the opioid overdose crisis. The epidemic continues to grow direr by the day, and an estimated 130 people in the United States lose their lives every day after overdosing on opioids.
Prescription opiates like OxyContin have contributed significantly to this crisis since its inception in the 1990s. OxyContin, which contains the active ingredient known as oxycodone, is a drug that is commonly referred to as hillbilly heroin. It is sometimes seen as a gateway to more potent substances like heroin or fentanyl.
The World Health Organization recently released a report that showed a significant decrease in life expectancy in the United States because of opioid abuse.
“The opioid epidemic plays a large role in the continuing decline,” the researchers noted. With such a significant part of our population addicted to drugs like OxyContin, heroin, or fentanyl, it’s no wonder that we have been experiencing such travesties in our nation. If there is any silver lining, however, it’s that access to treatment has become much easier. With President Donald Trump declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency in 2017, it has funneled funding to help those addicted to opioids like OxyContin into treatment.
Opioid drugs are potent substances that can create dependence that is followed by addiction. Once someone has become addicted to a drug like OxyContin, they may find it increasingly difficult to abstain from the substance without help. OxyContin withdrawal symptoms are not inherently dangerous when compared to alcohol or benzodiazepines, but they do contain other risks.
Someone going through OxyContin withdrawal may try to stop on their own and realize it is too harsh a task to overcome alone, turn back to drugs, and overdose because their tolerance has decreased significantly. Let’s take an in-depth look at what someone can expect while going through OxyContin withdrawal.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms come in two phases. The first will be similar to what you’d expect from the common cold whereas the second phase will take on more flu-like symptoms.
Physical symptoms aside, OxyContin withdrawal can also come with intense emotional and psychological symptoms. Anxiety and agitation may be a part of the first phase and depression can occur in the second phase. In many cases, depression can cause suicidal thoughts. Because of this, it is crucial to seek help from an addiction specialist to treat your addiction.
The initial phases of OxyContin withdrawal symptoms include:
During the second phase, symptoms will peak and become even more uncomfortable. These include:
Strong drug cravings are often correlated with symptoms of withdrawal, and when that is added to the other uncomfortable symptoms, it can be nearly impossible to deal with OxyContin withdrawal alone.
While OxyContin is not as dangerous as you’d expect from alcohol or benzodiazepines, it is a challenge to get through. Opiate withdrawal is hard to withstand, and those who attempt to stop alone often relapse. Medical detox is the most efficient and safest method to get out of active OxyContin addiction.
OxyContin withdrawals are going to vary based on the level of chemical dependency. These symptoms can range from moderate to severe based on the length of time the drug was used, how much was used, and the dosage in which you are tolerant. The amount of the last dose will also play a role in what to expect.
The most common OxyContin withdrawal is a severe craving for the substance. In some cases, it will be almost irresistible to stop using the substance, and this can lead to drug-seeking behavior such as looking for alternative opioids like heroin.
Drug cravings can also include withdrawal symptoms that start as mild but increase with intensity over time. Longer-acting opioids such as OxyContin can take up to 24 hours before the initial withdrawal symptoms begin.
The early cold-like symptoms will start first and last a few days. Around the 72-hour point, the symptoms will begin to peak and mimic the flu. After 72 hours, however, the symptoms will start to increase in their intensity. Most symptoms will dissipate in a week, but fatigue, depression, anxiety, and insomnia could persist for as long as a month or more.
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If the symptoms persist longer than a month, you must speak with an addiction specialist. These symptoms can indicate post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), which could last months or even years after abstaining from use.
If you are serious about sobriety and want to achieve long-term abstinence, the short answer is yes, you should commit to medical detox. Quitting cold turkey can have severe effects on the body and mind. Abrupt cessation of OxyContin is risky when you have been engaging in high doses of the drug for an extended period. The higher the tolerance to OxyContin, the more intense the withdrawals and comedown will be.
Opioid withdrawal is not something to try and manage at home. You are susceptible to overdosing, as your sensitivity for the drug’s effects will increase, and your tolerance to the effects will decrease.
If you begin to experience these terrible drug cravings, it may be impossible to resist the urge to use again. If this occurs, you would have to start all over again and experience these effects.Detoxing from OxyContin should not be done at home. Dehydration can present itself in the first stage of withdrawal when you begin to sweat. If you experience confusion, diarrhea, vomiting, or extreme fatigue, it can cause a dire situation. Dehydration can produce its own set of symptoms that can lead to medical complications.
During a stint in medical detoxification, licensed professionals and experienced clinicians will help wean you off OxyContin safely. The treatment program can also offer medications that eradicate some of the more severe symptoms that may be experienced. The emotional side effects of withdrawal while foregoing this process alone can be dangerous and exacerbate psychological symptoms. It is always wise to have help along the way and can be a vital step in a successful detox.
Lastly, medical detox can also hold you accountable to your commitment to sobriety. Detoxing alone often results in falling right back into the trap of addiction when attempting on your own. The clinicians can often empathize with your position and help keep you on track.
Addiction recovery is not over once you complete detox. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that staying in addiction treatment for the proper length of time is essential to a successful recovery. The research shows that you need at least three months of treatment to endure what it takes for lasting recovery. Committing yourself to the continuum of treatment is essential.
The continuum of treatment refers to addiction recovery that starts at an intensive level of care (detox) and decreases in intensity to residential or outpatient treatment. During addiction treatment, the program should offer a combination of therapies that support your current needs.
You also must be involved in some addiction support group long-term. The continual commitment is the best way to ensure lifelong sobriety and a healthy life abstaining from OxyContin.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Principles of Effective Treatment. Retrieved from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment
Thompson, D. (2018, September 20). Opioids Driving U.S. Life Expectancy Decline: CDC. Retrieved from from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20180920/opioids-driving-us-life-expectancy-decline-cdc#1
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis