OxyContin Signs, Withdrawal Symptoms, & Side Effects

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OxyContin (oxycodone) is a prescription medication indicated for the management of moderate to severe pain. OxyContin achieves pain relief by attaching to receptors in the central nervous system and altering the perception of pain. When used in a way inconsistent with its intended use, it can lead to harmful consequences and various health risks.

Individuals struggling with the misuse of OxyContin or other opioids are encouraged to seek professional help to address psychological issues such as addiction and mental health disorders. Guardian Recovery offers an innovative approach to the treatment of these conditions through the use of various evidence-based behavioral health services. To learn more about our comprehensive programs and commitment to providing effective, individualized care, contact us today.

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Physical & Psychological Side Effects of Using OxyContin

While it can be effective in providing pain relief, the use and misuse of OxyContin can also lead to various short- and long-term physical and psychological side effects. 

Common Short-Term Side Effects Include:

  • Respiratory depression.
  • Constipation.
  • Itching.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Drowsiness and sedation.
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness.
  • Restlessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Mood changes.
  • Cognitive impairment.

Common Long-Term Side Effects Include:

  • Tolerance, or requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects.
  • Physical dependence, where the body becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug and requires it to function normally.
  • Addiction, when drug-seeking and use are compulsive despite adverse consequences.
  • Respiratory problems, such as shallow or labored breathing and infections.
  • Gastrointestinal issues, including constipation.
  • Cognitive impairments, including those in memory, attention, and decision-making abilities.
  • Hyperalgesia, or increased sensitivity to pain. (1)

Several factors, including a person’s physiology, the specific opioid used, dosage, duration of use, and whether the medication is taken as directed or misused, can affect how long side effects from OxyContin or other opioid medications last.

OxyContin Withdrawal Symptoms Associated With Dependence & Addiction

Individuals who have developed physical dependence on OxyContin will experience withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation or reduction of use. These symptoms usually onset within a few hours to a couple of days after the last dose, peak within the first few days, and gradually improve over a period of one to two weeks. 

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, including muscle aches, joint pain, sweating, chills, and a runny nose.
  • Gastrointestinal distress, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and appetite loss.
  • Sleep disturbances, including difficulty falling and staying asleep, insomnia, and disrupted or irregular sleep patterns.
  • Depression or overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • A general sense of unease.
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability and agitation.
  • Mood swings.
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night.
  • Goosebumps and sensations of bugs crawling on or under the skin. (2)
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure. 
  • Intense cravings for OxyContin or other opioids.

OxyContin Withdrawal Timeline

First 24–72 Hours:

  • Initial withdrawal symptoms may appear, including muscle aches, restlessness, anxiety, agitation, sweating, and insomnia.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps, may occur.
  • Dilated pupils, goosebumps, and flu-like symptoms may develop.
  • Drug cravings may intensify during this period.

Days 3–5:

  • Withdrawal symptoms tend to peak during this time, becoming more intense.
  • Symptoms may include continued muscle aches, increased anxiety and restlessness, digestive issues, insomnia, sweating, and general discomfort.
  • Some individuals may experience mood swings, depression, irritability, and fatigue.

Days 6–7 and Beyond:

  • Withdrawal symptoms gradually begin to dissipate during this period.
  • While symptoms may persist, they generally become less severe and more manageable.
  • Symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue may still be present but gradually improve over time.
  • Some individuals may experience residual mood changes and drug cravings.

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Should You Taper Off OxyContin & Painkillers?

Tapering or weaning off OxyContin and other painkillers may be advisable when discontinuing long-term or high-dose use. Tapering involves gradually reducing the drug’s dosage over a period of time instead of stopping abruptly. This approach can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and increase the likelihood of a successful transition to a lower dose or complete cessation.

The tapering process should be supervised by a healthcare professional who specializes in pain management or addiction. They can provide guidance, set an appropriate dosing schedule, monitor progress, and adjust the tapering plan if necessary. They can also ensure the individual’s safety and well-being and provide the necessary support, resources, and additional treatments, such as counseling or alternative pain management strategies, to facilitate a successful transition from opioid medications. (3)

What Symptoms Are Caused by an Overdose Of OxyContin & Painkillers?

An overdose of OxyContin or other opioids can have severe and potentially life-threatening effects. This is considered a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. 

Symptoms of an Opioid Overdose Include:

  • Respiratory depression, or slow, shallow, labored, or stopped breathing.
  • Bluish skin, lips, and fingernails from oxygen deprivation.
  • Extreme drowsiness, confusion, disorientation, and unconsciousness.
  • Cold, clammy, or pale skin.
  • Limp or weak muscles and difficulty standing.
  • Seizures or convulsions, in rare cases.
  • Low blood pressure and a weak pulse.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • A gurgling sound in the throat.
  • Pinpoint or constricted pupils.

If you suspect someone is suffering from an opioid overdose, it is crucial to seek immediate medical help by calling 911. Emergency medical personnel can administer naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, and provide other life-saving interventions. (4)

Signs Someone May Be Dependent on OxyContin

OxyContin dependence can develop through prolonged or excessive use. It is characterized by the body adapting to the drug’s presence. In addition to tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, there are several other signs commonly associated with this condition.

Signs of Opioid Dependence & Addiction Include:

  • Preoccupation With Opioids—Prioritizing the drug’s acquisition and use while neglecting obligations, family, relationships, jobs, education, self-care, and other important responsibilities.
  • Loss of Control—Taking higher doses than prescribed or using it more frequently than recommended.
  • Failed Attempts To Discontinue or Reduce Use—Making efforts to quit or reduce opioid use but finding it difficult to sustain abstinence due to strong cravings or withdrawal symptoms.
  • Social and Interpersonal Problems—Having strained relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, or coworkers.
  • Social Withdrawal and Self-Isolation—Avoidance of social activities or taking care of outside responsibilities.
  • Continued Use Despite Adverse Consequences—Continuing to use opioids without regard to the problems they’re causing.

OxyContin Misuse & Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

OxyContin misuse often coexists with psychological issues and can make individuals more vulnerable to developing them by disrupting brain chemistry and altering mood. Some individuals with untreated psychiatric disorders may resort to using substances to self-medicate and relieve symptoms such as anxiety and depression. OxyContin misuse can contribute to the onset or exacerbation of mental health symptoms, and vice versa. This can result in a perpetual vicious cycle where each condition reinforces and worsens the other. 

Mental health disorders commonly associated with OxyContin misuse include depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and personality disorders. However, any psychiatric conditions or issues can potentially co-occur with substance misuse. Treating co-occurring mental health disorders typically requires the help of a team of healthcare professionals and a specialized approach that addresses both conditions simultaneously. It is crucial to address the underlying mental health issues along with substance misuse to achieve lasting recovery.

OxyContin Addiction Treatment for Withdrawal Symptoms & Side Effects

Treatment for OxyContin addiction is most effective when it addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. The goal is to manage withdrawal symptoms, address the underlying causes of addiction, and support individuals throughout their recovery journey.

Components of OxyContin Addiction Treatment Include:

  • Medical Detox—Often the first step in addiction treatment, detox involves withdrawal from OxyContin under medical supervision. 
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)—Medications commonly used in OxyContin addiction treatment include buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. (5)
  • Psychotherapies—Various therapies are typically used to address the psychoemotional aspects of addiction, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and group therapy.
  • Supportive Services—To assist individuals throughout their recovery, a variety of support services may be used, such as peer support groups, family therapy, and access to community resources. 
  • Aftercare and Relapse PreventionAftercare is a crucial component of OxyContin addiction treatment, as it helps individuals maintain their recovery long-term. Aftercare may include ongoing therapy, support groups, and access to resources that promote relapse prevention.

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At Guardian Recovery, our multidisciplinary team of professionals is dedicated to helping individuals overcome oxycodone misuse and co-occurring mental and physical health disorders. We offer personalized treatment plans and clinically proven therapeutic strategies intended to holistically address each individual’s unique needs and goals. Reach out to us today for a free, no-obligation health insurance benefits check and learn how we can help you or a loved one recover and foster a healthier, more fulfilling life.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/23550-hyperalgesia (2)https://www.goodrx.com/health-topic/mental-health/what-is-formication (3)https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/pain/pain/treatments/non-pharmacological-pain-management.html (4)https://www.samhsa.gov/medications-substance-use-disorders/medications-counseling-related-conditions/naloxone (5)https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/information-about-medication-assisted-treatment-mat

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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