How to Stop Using Oxycodone
Approximately 20% of adults ages 12 and older have used prescription opiates such as oxycodone for non-medical purposes.1 Oxycodone users can quickly become dependent on the drug and may experience very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit.
Addiction Treatment Center and Recovery Program Options
Oxycodone is a prescription medication with a high potential for abuse and addiction. Deciding to quit oxycodone is one of the most difficult steps in the recovery process. Quitting on your own can be especially challenging because of the withdrawal symptoms you may experience.
Fortunately, treatment programs are available to assist with the physical and emotional difficulties of overcoming an oxycodone addiction. Treatment programs offer many advantages over quitting on your own, including:
- Substance abuse education and addiction therapy from qualified professionals.
- Support in a safe, drug-free environment.
- Personalized treatment tailored to fit your needs.
- Aftercare planning to build on the progress made throughout treatment, while promoting long-term recovery.
Types of Oxycodone Addiction Treatment Programs
Many different types of treatment programs are available, which range in intensity and length.
- Inpatient or residential rehab offers 24/7 support in a structured environment. Most inpatient programs incorporate individual, group, and family therapy. Many people transition from inpatient to outpatient treatment after they have been sober for a period of time.
- Outpatient rehab allows you to attend treatment while living at home and also working or going to school. Outpatient can range from 1 to 5 days per week.
- Group counseling is led by a addiction treatment professional with a small group of clients. Group therapists help clients work through issues in their recovery. Clients also help one another by providing support and advice from their similar experiences.
- Individual therapy is one-on-one treatment provided by a substance abuse counselor/therapist or other mental health professional.
Maintaining Sobriety With Aftercare
Aftercare reduces the chance of relapse.
The final step in the treatment process is aftercare planning. Having an aftercare plan reduces the chances of relapse.2
Aftercare options include sober living or halfway houses, 12-step programs, and individual therapy and counseling.
- Sober living homes are residences that offer a drug-free environment for people in early recovery. They allow you to work or go to school while working on your recovery.
- Twelve-step and other recovery support groups are free programs to help people in recovery. They include groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Attendees work through the steps of the program, which begin with admitting powerlessness over their addiction. Members are urged to find a sponsor and attend meetings regularly. Other support groups for addiction recovery include SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety and Secular Organizations for Sobriety.
- Psychotherapy and counseling offer additional support to assist in the early stages of recovery.
Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline
Oxycodone withdrawal often includes uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms that progress in intensity and may persist for as many as 5 to 7 days.5
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Abdominal cramps.
- Hot and cold sweats.
- Runny nose.
- Frequent yawning.
- Muscle aches.
Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 12 hours after using.11
- Days 1 to 2: For many people, the first 2 days are the most painful and uncomfortable. Symptoms typically include muscle aches, cramps, sweating, difficulty sleeping, appetite loss, runny nose, nausea and diarrhea. Relapse risk is particularly high during this time of intense physical withdrawal.
- Days 3 to 5: Physical symptoms begin to decrease, but many people continue to experience difficulty sleeping and eating, aches, cramps, and mental symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
- Days 6 to 7: Symptoms continue to decrease and usually resolve by day 7.
While many people report feeling better within 7 days, different factors can affect the length and severity of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are likely to be more severe for long-term users and people who use frequently and in large amounts. Overall health, body weight and age can also impact the severity of withdrawal experienced.
Medications for Withdrawal Symptoms
Doctors may prescribe medications to eliminate or ease oxycodone withdrawal symptoms.
- Buprenorphine and naloxone are frequently prescribed for opiate withdrawal. Buprenorphine is also an opioid, and it can help decrease withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opiates. It has been found to help people stay in treatment longer.6 Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that, when taken diligently, will block the pleasurable effects of opiates in the event of a relapse. It also will reduce the risk of overdose, should this situation arise. Suboxone is a widely prescribed medication that contains both buprenorphine and naloxone.7
- Clonidine is a blood pressure medication found to reduce the intensity of some withdrawal symptoms—alleviating muscle aches, cramping, anxiety, agitation, and cold sweats.8
- Gabapentin has been found to effectively reduce withdrawal symptoms when combined with the opiate blocker naltrexone.9
- Trazodone is another drug that eases withdrawal symptoms, particularly insomnia.10
Some doctors may also recommend over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen and other pain relievers, to decrease discomfort.
Quitting Oxycodone Cold Turkey on Your Own
Abruptly stopping oxycodone can result in severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings that are difficult to endure. They send many people right back to using. Medically supervised detox programs may gradually taper you off of oxycodone and provide medications to ease withdrawal symptoms.
A number of detox medications have been approved as effective for managing withdrawal symptoms and may be prescribed by your managing physician (see “Medications for Withdrawal Symptoms” section above).
Other options include holistic herbs and remedies. These treatments show some promise. But more research is needed to determine if they are effective and safe.
- Passionflower is an herbal extract that has shown some effectiveness in decreasing withdrawal symptoms when combined with the prescription drug clonidine.12
- Chinese herbal medicines, like Tai-Kang-Ning, have been found to alleviate opiate withdrawal symptoms.13
It is recommended that you discuss any type of prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal medications you are taking with your doctor.
Benefits of Quitting
Quitting oxycodone offers many benefits, including:
- Better physical health: Long-term abuse of drugs like oxycodone can cause physical and mental health problems,3 and in some instances may even lead to death.1
- Better mental health: Many people addicted to oxycodone also struggle with co-occurring mental illness.4 Quitting oxycodone provides an opportunity to work with a professional to treat any underlying mental health issues and improve overall life satisfaction.
- Better social relationships: Oxycodone addiction often has a negative impact on relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. Recovery offers an opportunity to rebuild lost trust and establish healthy relationships.
Tips for Quitting
Tools and resources are available for overcoming an oxycodone addiction and decreasing the chance of a relapse:
- Consider detoxing under the supervision of a doctor. Many people who want to quit end up relapsing due to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. A medical professional will be able to closely monitor symptoms and prescribe medications if necessary, which can reduce the chances of relapse.
- Seek professional treatment away from home.Treatment is more than simply quitting drugs. It is about learning new ways to cope with stress and build a healthy, happy life. Attending treatment away from home is helpful for many because it allows them to get away from the constant reminders of using.
- Reach out to sober support. Building a support network of sober people reminds you that you are not alone.
- Attend 12-step or other recovery meetings. These free meetings can connect you with other sober people. Some programs, such as SMART Recovery, offer online meetings.
- Remind yourself of why you are quitting. It is normal to doubt your decision to quit, especially during withdrawal. Write a list of what you hope to gain by quitting and keep it in a place where you can easily reference it.
- Have a strong relapse prevention plan in place. Create a relapse prevention plan with the help of a therapist or other addiction professional. Identify the people, places and things that trigger you to use oxycodone, and the steps you can take to cope.
How to Help an Addict Quit
Seeing a loved one struggle with addiction can be devastating. Here are some dos and don’ts for helping them get into recovery.
- Don’t be confrontational or judgmental, which will make your loved one defensive. Making threats or accusations is rarely effective.
- Don’t expect changes overnight. Recovery is a process, and your loved one will need continued support.
- Do express your concerns in a supportive way. Be gentle but firm.
- Do encourage them to get help. Often people feel helpless to quit, so remind your loved one that there are options for getting help. Offer to assist him or her in looking into treatment programs.
- Do consider attending a recovery meeting. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon offer support for friends and family members of people struggling with addiction.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do I Need to Know About Quitting Oxycodone While Pregnant?
Deciding to quit oxycodone while pregnant is a healthy decision. Mothers who abuse opiates are more likely to have complications during pregnancy.
Mothers who quit oxycodone while pregnant are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms that can impact the unborn fetus. Your doctor may choose to prescribe buprenorphine and/or naloxone, which is safe and effective for pregnant women and their unborn children.14
It is strongly recommended that you discuss your decision with your doctor.
What Is Kratom? Can You Use It to Quit Oxycodone?
Some people have turned to use of the plant Kratom to alleviate the physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal. However, research studies have found mixed results for its effectiveness,15,16 and it has been linked to severe side effects, including seizures.
Kratom is an illicit drug in many countries. But is not a controlled substance in the U.S.—product quality, dosing, safety, and effectiveness are likely to be highly variable.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Prescription drug abuse. (NIH Publication No. 15-4881). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Fiorentine, R., & Hillhouse, M. P. (2000). Drug treatment and 12-step program participation: The additive effects of integrated recovery activities. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 18(1), 65–74.
- McLellan, A. T., Lewis, D. C., O’Brien, C. P., & Kleber, H. D. (2000). Drug dependence, a chronic medical illness: implications for treatment, insurance, and outcomes evaluation. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(13), 1689–1695.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2005). Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons With Co-Occurring Disorders. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series No. 42. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4849. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.
- Kosten, T. R. & O’Connor, P. G. (2003). Management of drug and alcohol withdrawal. New England Journal of Medicine, 348(18), 1786–1795.
- Gowing, L., Ali, R., & White, J. (2010). Buprenorphine for the management of opioid withdrawal. Evid Based Ment Health, 13(1), 27.
- Bell, J., Byron, G., Gibson, A., & Morris, A. (2004). A pilot study of buprenorphine-naloxone combination tablet (Suboxone®) in treatment of opioid dependence. Drug and Alcohol Review, 23(3), 311–317.
- Gold, M., Redmond, D. E., & Kleber, H. (1978). Clonidine blocks acute opiate-withdrawal symptoms. The Lancet, 312(8090), 599–602.
- Martinez-Raga, J., Sabater, A., Perez-Galvez, B., Castellano, M., & Cervera, G. (2004). Add-on gabapentin in the treatment of opiate withdrawal. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 28(3), 599–601.
- Pozzi, G., Conte, G., & De Risio, S. (2000). Combined use of trazodone-naltrexone versus clonidine-naltrexone in rapid withdrawal from methadone treatment. A comparative inpatient study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 59(3), 287–294.
- National Institutes of Health. (2015). Opiate withdrawal: Medline plus medical encyclopedia.
- Akhondzadeh, S., Kashani, L., Mobaseri, M., Hosseini, S. H., Nikzad, S., & Khani, M. (2001). Passionflower in the treatment of opiates withdrawal: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 26(5), 369–373.
- Kang, L., Li, B., Gao, L., Li, S., Wang, D., Hu, M., & Li, J. (2008). Tai-Kang-Ning, a Chinese herbal medicine formula, alleviates acute heroin withdrawal. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 34(3), 269–276.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Research report series: heroin. (NIH Publication No. 15-0165). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Vicknasingam, B., Narayanan, S., Beng, G. T., & Mansor, S. M. (2010). The informal use of ketum (Mitragyna speciosa) for opioid withdrawal in the northern states of peninsular Malaysia and implications for drug substitution therapy. International Journal of Drug Policy, 21(4), 283–288.
- Boyer, E. W., Babu, K. M., Adkins, J. E., McCurdy, C. R., & Halpern, J. H. (2008). Self-treatment of opioid withdrawal using kratom (Mitragynia speciosa korth). Addiction, 103(6), 1048–1050.
You are never too old to improve your health and quality of life!