Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms: Causes, Risks, and Treatment

Ruben Bermea
Calendar icon Last Updated: 12/2/2021

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Oxycodone is a narcotic analgesic in the opioid drug class. Though helpful in treating pain when taken as prescribed, opioids can potentially harm your health. For example, oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can develop when you suddenly stop using your medication or reduce your dosage.

Professional intervention for detoxification can help you safely manage withdrawal symptoms.2 If you have an active prescription, your doctor may gradually reduce your dosage over time to reduce the risk of oxycodone withdrawal.

Causes of Oxycodone Withdrawal

Opioid use and misuse can lead to physiological dependence.3,4 Oxycodone use changes how your brain processes pain.1 Because of how these changes develop over time, you may need more of this substance to get the same effect you experienced at lower doses—clinically known as tolerance.3 You may also need to continue using this medication to avoid the adverse effects of oxycodone withdrawal—clinically known as dependence.4 The development of physiological dependence can adversely impact your physical and mental health.

Withdrawal symptoms occur in response to the body attempting to recover from opioid use.3 Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms can develop after you reduce your dose too quickly—even under a doctor’s care—or stop taking the medication.4 The risk of developing oxycodone withdrawal symptoms increases when you suddenly stop taking this medication, particularly if you have used oxycodone for an extended period or at high doses.3,5

Specific medications are often prescribed to treat opioid use disorder (OUD)—the official diagnosis for an oxycodone addiction. But, some of these therapeutic medications can also initially result in oxycodone withdrawal symptoms.4 These medications include opioid antagonists, or drugs that work against the effects of opioids, and partial opioid agonists such as:4, 6, 7

When taking oxycodone as prescribed, talk with your doctor about safely managing withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping use. Tapering off of oxycodone with medical supervision can improve the recovery process.5

Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Your withdrawal symptom timeline will depend on the pattern of your oxycodone use, medical history, and other factors.3 Common withdrawal symptoms encountered when first discontinuing oxycodone use include:5

  • Increased tear production
  • Excessive sweating
  • Body chills
  • Fever
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Sore, aching muscles

As you continue the withdrawal process, you may notice changes in several areas of your body.5 Common oxycodone withdrawal symptoms you may encounter later in the withdrawal process include:5

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Changes to pupil size
  • Stomach cramps
  • Piloerection, or goosebumps

As you go through the withdrawal process, you might experience changes in your mood and thinking, including:4, 5

  • Irritated mood
  • Anxiety
  • State of uneasiness
  • Inability to experience pleasure or satisfaction
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty or inability to sleep
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fast breathing
  • Increased physical pain
  • Joint aches
  • Backache

Sometimes, symptoms can last weeks or months after you stop using this medication.4 To learn more about your specific oxycodone withdrawal timeline, talk with your doctor.  Consult with a health care provider if you have symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal. If these symptoms worsen, seek immediate medical care.

Risk of Oxycododone Overdose After Withdrawal

After you complete withdrawal and medically supervised detox—if needed—your risk of overdose increases if you use oxycodone again.7 This is because a person’s sensitivity to opioids often increases as they maintain abstinence during and after withdrawal. If you return to using the same amount of oxycodone as before withdrawal, your body may have trouble safely processing the medication.10

Severe signs of oxycodone overdose include:1

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Changes in pupil size
  • Muscle weakness
  • Labored, slow, or an absence of breathing
  • Unresponsiveness

If you have symptoms of overdose, seek emergency medical treatment right away. Emergency naloxone administration can reduce the potentially life-threatening symptoms of overdose.1 You can get a prescription from a health care provider to acquire naltrexone and get trained to self-administer this medication. Some states offer this medication without a prescription.6

Oxycodone Withdrawal Complications

Complications of oxycodone withdrawal can lead to potentially dangerous outcomes.3, 8 Factors contributing to complications during withdrawal include:8

  • Physical health problems
  • Infectious disease
  • Use of other substances or narcotics

Oxycodone withdrawal can impact mood, thinking, and behavior; therefore,  a person’s mental health concerns may be a priority during the medical detoxification process.8

Some people experiencing oxycodone withdrawal develop suicidal ideation.5 Changes in mental status may require immediate intervention, including hospitalization.8 If you or a loved one experiences suicide ideation or has a plan or means to take their life, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or local crisis service.11

Teach loved ones how to recognize signs of opioid overdose and what to do in the case of an emergency. The help of a knowledgeable and supportive person can save a life and prevent overdose injury.1

Treatment for Oxycodone Withdrawal

The intensity and variety of symptoms a person experiences in oxycodone withdrawal may require several different sources of support.

Detoxification services include a medical process involving withdrawal symptom management. Often, withdrawal symptoms management involves 24/7 monitoring to ensure medical stability.2 Detox medication helps alleviate severe withdrawal symptoms.8

A qualified medical professional can help you decide which detox and withdrawal management approach works best for you.

Oxycodone Detox Settings

Withdrawal management can be provided in various settings depending on the severity of oxycodone withdrawal symptoms. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), there are three settings where oxycodone withdrawal management interventions can take place:8

Outpatient oxycodone withdrawal management services may involve extended on-site monitoring.8 Residential services can offer clinical management for withdrawal, while hospitals can provide 24/7 medical services. According to the ASAM, medical services can include monitoring (e.g., taking vital signs) or management (e.g., giving detox medications) depending on the severity of a person’s withdrawal and symptoms.

Medication Management

Several medications can support the withdrawal management process.

Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine lowers opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings. This drug also blunts the euphoric effects of oxycodone and other opioids. However, you must be in oxycodone withdrawal before starting on buprenorphine.7 This is because buprenorphine can cause adverse side effects such as triggering withdrawal symptoms.7 Buprenorphine overdose can occur when someone takes this medication with benzodiazepines or alcohol. The risk of overdose can increase after you stop taking buprenorphine.

Methadone

Methadone works similarly to buprenorphine in that it helps reduce cravings and alleviate oxycodone withdrawal symptoms and facilitate the detoxification process.3 The same risks of overdose that exist with buprenorphine also exist with methadone.7

Health care providers can monitor your progress while taking methadone or buprenorphine and recommend long-term buprenorphine or methadone maintenance.3

Tramadol

Health care providers may recommend tramadol for oxycodone withdrawal symptoms. A review of clinical trials concluded that tramadol was potentially effective in some instances of withdrawal management, even in outpatient settings.9

Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of various withdrawal management approaches.

For more information on your recovery options, speak with a treatment specialist today at 800-926-9037 (Info iconWho Answers?) .

Resources

  1. S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, February 15). Oxycodone. MedlinePlus
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, June 27). Treating opiate addiction, Part I: Detoxification and maintenance.
  3. S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, August 05). Opiate and opioid withdrawal. MedlinePlus.
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Association Publishing.
  5. S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019, April 09). FDA identifies sudden discontinuation of opioid pain medicines.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, June 01). Naltrexone DrugFacts.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021) Medications for Opioid Use Disorder for Healthcare and Addiction Professionals, Policymakers, Patients, and Families. TIP, No. 63). Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  8. Miller, W. R., Forcehimes, A. A., & Zweben, A. (2019). Treating addiction: A guide for professionals (2nd Ed). The Guilford Press.
  9. Shah, K., Stout, B., & Caskey, H. (2020, July 11). Tramadol for the management of opioid withdrawal: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Cureus, 12(7),
  10. Hoey, N.M. (2019). Overdose. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health. Salem Press.
  11. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Lifeline By the Numbers.
Pen iconAuthor
Ruben-Bermea
Ruben Bermea, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor, Author
Ruben Bermea, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has had the privilege of serving Texans as they navigate personal and mental health challenges. Ruben has provided therapy to clients in inpatient, residential, private practice, and community mental health settings. His personal and professional interests include the intersection between technology and mental health, the impact of misinf