How To Detox From OxyContin And Other Opiates

OxyContin

OxyContin tabs in a candy-colored rainbow.

Dunno why, but I seem to have paid short shrift to sharing detox experience on this blog. Which is weird, because I got so many stories about opiate detox and recovery.

Received an inquiry recently about how to detox.

 

What do you know about getting off of OxyContin?—the length of time it takes, how safe it is, and what could the consequences be of going off too quickly. Do you have any idea?

Yes, I have some idea. Thanks so much for asking.

First I gotta say that none of this is medical advice or a substitute for it. If you want medical advice, please consult your doctor.

OK, one addict to another. About the length of time it takes to get off OxyContin—depends on a few factors:

  • The level of Oxy you’re taking. (It could be any other drug. Not to put too fine a point on it: with the exception of methadone, Suboxone and tramadol, an opiate is an opiate. Heroin is Oxy is morphine is Vicodin is dilaudid. Even fentanyl is pretty similar, though it’s fat-soluble. They’re all short-acting full-agonists—though their dosage equivalencies differ.) If you’re taking maybe up to 120mg of oxycodone, chances are you could taper just using Oxy, following some rules for tapering that are few but non-negotiable. If you’re on a level that’s a lot higher than that, you might need some help. However, only you can tell, right? You know your own limits. I’ve known people who have detoxed cold-turkey off 600-800mg Oxy.
  • Why you started taking pharma-grade painkillers in the first place. If you have pain, you’ll need to work on figuring out other ways of managing it. Many non-opiate treatments exist that may help, depending on the circumstances. It may take time, consultation with professionals, patience, and a process of trial and error.
  • Whether you’re taking the drug “as prescribed” (i.e., swallowing it whole), or “not as prescribed” (i.e., chewing/snorting/shooting). OxyContin is also a bit difficult to taper from because you can’t split them. So another factor is the strength of dose you have available to you. One of the cardinal rules of a taper is: swallow whole, on schedule. If you can’t take your proper dose of Oxy on time and swallow it whole (I mean what addict can?), then you may need the help of a reliable detox doctor. (Operative word here: reliable. How I chose my doctor: I called the most reputable rehab in town and asked if I could please pay them to run my outpatient detox. When they said No, I asked for the name of someone else who might do it. Then I called my primary care physician and asked for her top referral. When they turned out to be one and the same person, I knew I had my guy.)

Let me also mention that the person who asked today’s question apparently got the idea from this blog that Suboxone treatment was Not Good. I’d like to correct this impression: Suboxone can be a very effective detox tool if it’s used properly. I myself got off an enormous level of opioids using Suboxone and Subutex. The danger comes when vulnerable, fearful detoxing addicts are encouraged to stay on it indefinitely rather than to use it as a tool to get free.

Using Suboxone or another drug as a detox tool doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be “substituting one drug for another.” I mean, in a sense we are, but only for a short period, and strictly under a doctor’s guidance. This can mean all the difference between addiction and recovery. … When I was detoxing with Suboxone, I did not write the taper schedule, my doctor did. I had to visit him every week, and later every other week; I paid him $80 a crack, aside from what I paid the pharmacy for the weekly prescriptions, and it was worth every penny to get free. I keep the receipts for my detox doctor’s visits in my night-table drawer. The equivalent of my parents burning their mortgage (which they did, literally).

The reason I chose to taper off drugs using Suboxone is that I was on such an enormous level—more than 100mcg/hr of fentanyl. I was prescribed one patch every two days; because I did not always take them as prescribed, I used a bit more than that. Fentanyl is a crazy-strong drug, it’s what they give you when you go in for emergency surgery, and this level is roughly equivalent to 400-600mg morphine or oxycodone per day. Somehow my lizard-brain knew it was going to be impossible for me to taper off that level of fentanyl, or get enough of another drug to equal that level so that I could taper. And anyhow, I’d never been able to taper off a full-agonist (a drug that plugs into the receptors and stimulates them fully—like heroin, oxycodone or morphine).

Read Dr. Scanlan’s interview about Suboxone: it has a long half-life, which means it doesn’t create as much of a buzz as the short-acting drugs like oxycodone. As long as you keep tapering, and you have a doctor willing to help you keep the taper short, you can get free with Suboxone.

How safe is it?—Opiate detox is not life-threatening. In contrast to alcohol withdrawal and detox from benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, etc.), both of which can cause life-threatening seizures if done too quickly, detox from short-acting opiates can be done safely at home. A “cold-turkey” detox happens in two phases:

  • Acute detox, which lasts 10-14 days or so (depending on level of use), in which the body excretes the drug and, in doing so, experiences signs of active withdrawal such as runny nose and eyes, sneezing, goosebumps, shivering, loose bowels, and restless legs and arms (kicking). All this means the body is healing.
  • Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which lasts an indefinite period (depending on level of use and how well we take care of ourselves), in which the body’s opiate receptors heal and the body learns to produce endorphins again. Most people find exercise and good nutrition help a great deal, as does some kind of support plan.

I can hear some folks out there thinking, “I think I’m endorphin-deficient.” I love hearing people register this claim. I used to believe this about myself before I got on drugs like fentanyl. Then, after I got on drugs like fentanyl (and morphine, and OxyContin, and whatnot), I used to believe that I’d MADE my body permanently endorphin deficient, so I should just stay on the drugs forever. Addiction lizard-brain. … Today I lift weights and cycle 30 miles and play tennis. I do all this having been diagnosed with two painful neurological disorders. I’m not braggin here, I’m just sayin: I’m NOT endorphin deficient. :) If I can get off this stuff, I think anyone can.

The consequences of going off “too quickly”?—There is no “too quickly,” imo. If one is addicted, the only dangers are not quickly enough, or not at all. However, if your level of use is high, and you have kids and a job and still want to function during detox (as I did), it might be worth it to slow the detox down. I’ve always compared detox to learning how to land a plane. Not that I’ve ever landed a plane. But I imagined being in the pilot’s seat, and taking direction from the tower (higher power/physician/etc.), and telling the tower I needed either to make a quick-and-dirty landing or a long slow smooth landing.

You can do either one safely. The first takes a lot less time, but it might be a rougher ride. The second is much smoother, but there’s more time to worry about whether you’re gonna crash. Which is why it’s helpful to get support, not only from a doctor but also from a community of people who have been through similar stuff.

Detoxing was one of the best decisions I ever made. It was the start of a new life.

This site is free. If this helped you, the best thing you can do is pass it on via the little social buttons below. And please subscribe.

Also, please visit my new site: Recovering the Body.

  • jennifer

    Hi Guinivere (It is so ironic because that’s the name my grandfather gave me for his version of a nickname – that brings happier thoughts from decades ago),

    My name is Jennifer and I have been a recovering alcoholic/drug addict for more than 17 years and also suffer from severe clinical depression and panic disorder. Please try not to label me a hypocrite when I tell you that I have gone the 12 steps of the AA program with my sponsor (I have only touched on the surface of the surface of how bad my problem really is with her) and get to a meeting almost every day of the week as well as doing service work in and outside of my home group but I just don’t ever want to pick another drink up again – it ripped my world apart.
    At current, I have been sober off alcohol for a year and a half after having relapsed for 6 years (I had 8 1/2 years sober prior to that). I believe that while addiction is a medical condition to be sure, at the core of my addictions is my unquenchable desire for spiritual fulfillment which I have spent my life trying to attain and never laying hold of – I somehow always have the feeling that I JUST missed my spiritual bus, if you know what I mean.
    If I am having a “good” day (have an adequate supply of Vicodin or Oxy’s), I am marginally functional and will participate in behaviors that are simply “normal” for most other folks but when I am struggling (no or too few pills), I am in agony in every respect. I can’t find my way out of bed, let alone answer the phone, log on to the computer, get dressed and certainly not muster up the ability to meditate, practice breathing or journal – on the days that I struggle, I honestly can’t even brush my teeth.
    I happened upon your webpage via Eckhart Tolle’s video and podcast website where I stumbled onto a link regarding Tolle’s teachings around addiction and saw a piece of a blog where you had commented. You and I both know how these “God Things” go but for some reason the past 24 hours have been really scary for me – I’ve just been feeling totally and completely alone. I don’t ordinarily fall into really nasty bouts of depression anymore but the last day has just felt like nails on a chalkboard in my soul – if that makes any sense whatsoever. I am just terrified- of everything right now. My heart hurts so bad and no amount of praying, crying or meditation seems to be battling the tida lwave of overall despair I have right now in spite of the fact that I am all set with my pills for at least a few days
    The one saving grace is that while I have a hard time having any faith that there is way away from the pills for me even though the struggle with alcohol is at bay, I do have an ultimate belief in a universal entity that embodies goodness and light.

    Thank You,
    Jennifer M.

  • just a note

    Thank you,Very nicely put.Ive been on this drug “oxy” for Pain also well over 6-7 years and i knew it was time to get off them didnt have a life and i do have pain so it hard to find things to do but ive seem to with people like your self and doing as the doctor said to do.I always did follow their instuctions so i never thought it would be like this NEVER did i…Just a very good/Bad drug if not used right….again thank you …..

  • Scared

    Please help!! I have been using pain killers purely recreational since I was about 14 years old. I am now 29. It was just a couple of times a year just to get a buzz. Never addicted (I guess), but always liked the feeling. About 4 years ago I started getting vicodin a little more often (about once every couple of months. About 2 years ago I used oxycontin and liked it because it would last for longer. Then I was introduced to oxycodone about a year ago. Started buying about 20 a month when the guy I knew would get his prescription. The last 8 months I have been using more and more averaging about 15 to 20 a week. Taking as many as 4 30 mg’s at a time. Usually only take 2 at a time and a couple of hours later take more until I am out. I HAVE To STOP!!! I am spending money my family doesn’t have and can tell a lot of changes in my personality and extreme memory loss. I have tried to quit cold turkey but I have a demanding job, a wife, a 5 year old daughter and a 4month old daughter and with a combination of cold sweats,shaking,diarrhea, ect. I can’t function or trust myself with my daughters by myself. I have been able to stop for 2 to 3 days but I always end up having to go back. I just want to feel normal!! I don’t care about getting high!! If my wife found out I am afraid that she would divorce me. Here lately she has noticed that I have been off. I am not your average drug user (or am I). I am very active in church, work 50-60 hrs a week and want nothing but to be the best husband and father that I can be. Sorry about the long post but I just wanted to let whoever can read this and answer know what my whole deal is. So here is my question (s). How can I quit successfully without having to tell my wife? Is there a way to consult my doctor or another doctor to get prescribed suboxin, or anything else that will work. I have actually used this before and it did great for the amount of time that I had it. I only had 3 strips but slipped up again about a week after being off them and can not find any since. Or what other ways are ther? I can not go to a rehab clinic. I know that I can do it and want to do it. I just need some good advise. Again, PLEASE HELP!!

  • Kitcat54

    I was prescribed Oxycontin and Fentanyl patches some fifteen years ago. Recently I decided I wanted to get off it all as it is interfering in my Thyroid function. I went online and researched various natural products discussing them with my pharmacist and MD. I began taking food grade Bentonite clay a tablespoon a day in spring water a couple of weeks before stopping the Fentanyl. I had already quit taking the Oxycontin a couple of months before except for severe break through pain. I also used Celtic Sea salt both morning and night (a pinch and a half). I added Milk Thistle capsules following the directions on the bottle per my pharmacist. I have been drinking lots of spring water for years which helps to get rid of toxins and I added Lecithin to help to pull the residue out of any existing fat cells or the liver where it could be stored. I followed the dose on the bottle.

    While I have not felt great I have gotten buy with very little discomfort. A very few spells of feeling hot in various areas of my body. These lasted only minutes. In addition, I had a couple bouts of pain in my lower abdomen. This may or may not have been related. A bonus has been the almost complete ease of terrible pain in my hips when sleeping. I have also lost a lot of fluid and my clothes are loose on me and I can wear rings I have not worn in years. My pulse rate has become stronger so am hopeful to heal the thyroid and get rid of the overwhelming fatigue I have had this last year.

    Wishing you all the best in your journey. Check out Earth Clinic for great tips on healing yourself. As in all things do your research before trying others suggestions. It does get better!

  • Retard65

    Tell your wife you need her support, I tried without telling faked the flu and relasped.Im in same boat with you if she loves you she has your back??Good luck I need some luck also..

  • Corynna Mueller

    My friend is planning on spending a week with a friend that is going to detox at home. This person has been using drugs for the ten years that I have known her. She has been using oxy and a ton of other drugs. Her husband just died from trying to detox at home from this detox kit that they got from south America. Now she will be trying the same thing. She is poor so she can’t afford to go to a facility for help. I would prefer that she goes to the hospital Any advice?

  • Jc_alarcon

    I have been struggling with pain killers for some time now… I ha spinal surgery and went on oxycodone but after some time it won’t from pain killer to mood stabilizer and now I can’t get off them. I have a family and not only is it becoming the center of my life but it’s also very costly. Help. Any suggestions??? How and where do I start?

  • Mark

    I have had 3 spinal fusions all done in New Zealand and the pain from that is incredible however I was prescribed Oxycontin and Oxynorm. The Oxynorm is fast acting pain relief and from memory I took about 2 x 20mg tablets every four hours for the first 3 months. As prescribed of course. I never do any recreational drugs. I stopped taking the Oxynorm a year ago and started taking Oxycontins once again as prescribed. Now I am on 1 x 20mg of Oxycontin daily at night so I can sleep because I still have a lot of discomfort in my back. The back is getting better this time so I’m really happy although I want to stop taking medication altogether. I have been able to stop for to or 3 days and handle the pain ok but now I’m getting horrible withdrawl symptoms like being really uncomfortable and fidgety. I can’t get to sleep as I toss and turn all night then spend all day fighting not to fall asleep at my technical job.

    I have read a lot of posts about getting off this drug but all the posts I’ve read are from people who abused it and used it to get high (way more pills than I have ever taken). At my low level of usage is it likely I can go through these withdrawls for a few days then come right? I don’t want to replace it with another drug if at all possible. I am finally able to work again and loving it but I just need to be rid of this drug once and for all. Any advise would be appreciated.

  • ryguy

    i have been smoking fentanyl for about a year straight and can smoke a 100mcg patch within a couple hrs and still funtion… i am at the worst state in my life , trying to hold on to a job and pay for my addiction at the same time is like im taking 1 step forward and 5 steps back everyday.. i have tried detox with methadome and cold turkey.. but i think my best bet is to go to detox for a week and then go out west for a month to visit family .. i need to do this for myself and my family and if you have any additional advice id love to hear it. thank you

  • Cody

    So I have baan taking 8-10 5mg IR opana (oxymorphone) which is considered to be 10x more powerful per mg than OC. I am going to quit “cold turkey” again however this time for good. I know what to expect considering this will be the 5th time. I know what helps a lot for me is about 6-10 loperomide daily (anti diarrheal) which turn off the opiate receptors in the stomach. Also about an hour before bed take 1 5mg melatonin, in combo these two help the withdrawls enormously. The only things they don’t help is the tired limbs, irritability, and aches. It does wonders for cravings and sleep which are huge when getting off this substance. I could go on for days about it but I need to get to bed. Hope this helps you all out there. Oh don’t forget Advil or ibuprofen, and allergy pills, those help for the sneezing and coughs.

  • this should help

    Major accident in 1998 left me with 3 spine fractures, 2 fusions, and 2 to go. Had to work through it all though as self employed father of 2. For years I thought I was a an addict, even sought re-hab. Medical professionals all said I WASN’T. It still felt that way because if I didn’t take may daily does of 4-8 Norco’s or equivalent, pain was too bad. Even had morphine pump installed for paid.

    It took 10 years for my injuries to “heal” to a point of tolerable pain. Dr’s said nerve damage takes a long time. I just noticed I was not hurting so bad and found a product you can buy that made dropping off opiods tolerable, and I mean go to work and not miss a beat tolerable.

    Before I say what it is, let me say I have ZERO financial interest in this product or company. I had first discovered it on a blog like this. The reason I;m even on here is because a year ago I exasperate my neck injury to the point where a 2 level fusion was indicated … that would be #3. I fought through in, and with the help of a pain Dr. and injections of Toredol, I am finally better. Much better. I can see I won’t be having a 2 level ACF now.

    I’ve had to go back on opiods off and on during the last 4 years because I either aggraved my injuries and just had a pain flair up. Each time I was able to easily stop.

    I have to tell you. As a chronic pain sufferer, some times the only thing that will help is opiod medications. I just don’t get “addicted” any more. My feeling of addiction came years ago because every time I tried to quit taking meds, I’d get bad detox symptoms, and go back to taking meds. With the help of withdrawl-ease I can stop at will. Fact is I can stop at will without it now as I have the confidence that stopping is not so hard after all. However, Withdrawl-Ease gave me that confidence.

    It’s not cheap; $70-$80 a bottle depending upon how you buy it, but I assure you it’s worth every penny. It’s 100% natural. Even if getting permanently off opiods in not in your future because of real injury, and i know that is the case for many peopl, use Withdrawl-Ease to take breaks. That will keep your prescribed dosage working well, and help your mindset about addiction as well.

    Now if you are snorting/shooting/or over taking opiods (no judgement, I went through periods of abuse just ot get more relief or to feel better when things were bad) , this stuff will help as well.

    I also find walking, drinking lots of water, milk thistle, Vitamine B and C, Immonium, and naps every 2 hours to be very helpful.

    Good luck you guys.

  • Judy

    Thank you. Going through this all — have major pain/medical issues and have to get off because I moved. New doctors, new rules. No money so just dropping it morphine at a large level per day and seeing where the chips land. Your idea for loperomide is most graciously received. Any ideas on what to hold down food/liquid wise?

  • Judy

    Thank you. Going through this all, and no one to talk to — have major pain/medical issues and have to get off because I moved. New doctors, new rules. No money so just dropping it — morphine — at a fairly large level per day I suppose, and seeing where the chips land. No money for a gracious bow out of this in a hospital or out patient that handles it. Filing for disability but don’t have it yet. Been very ill for 6 days now. Saw the idea for loperomide below; it is most graciously received. Any ideas on what to hold down food/liquid wise?

  • http://guineveregetssober.com/ Guinevere

    For some people gabapentin (Neurontin) works to help with restless legs and the other involuntary muscle movements, including nausea. For others, anti-nausea medications like metoclopramide (commonly prescribed for migraine) and phenergan. You might speak with your doctor about these. None of them is very expensive.

  • Dunner

    I was on the same and quit cold turkey. I was in bed vomiting and jittery extreamly sick for about 8 days. I just thought I had a really bad flu. It didn’t occur to me it was withdrawals. I only realized I had a problem until I had to start taking them again for pain and am now trying to get off them and am suffering the same problems again. I am trying to cut my doses in half and then keep doing that instead of cold turkey. The biggest problem I am experiencing is anxiety and the jumps I call it. It totally sucks but I am determined to get off the damn things no matter what it takes. Good luck to you. I hope you can persevere.

  • Pingback: TheNutriFarm How To Detox From OxyContin And Other Opiates - TheNutriFarm

  • Gmindyg1

    Guinevere, I am inspired by your story. I have been on OxyContin 80 mg for 14 yrs now due to a brain disease called pseudo tumor cerebri. It is NOT a tumor as it sounds, but very high fluid in the brain…my pressure is 4 times higher than the normal should be. I have had a few surgeries where I had a shunt placed in my brain, but it became infected which gave me meningitis. They had to remove it, and it suffered every possible complication in the book! I refused it get it put back on after I almost died. I have 3 kids, and just wouldn’t take that chance. Needless to say, the headaches are horrible everyday. Pain management docs could only come up with OxyContin after a while to help with the pain. I hated to go on it, but it helped me function and go to work and be a semi- normal person. Now, I honestly can’t say it’s doing anything for my pain, and I’ve been on this dose forever. I refuse to raise it any higher. I just want off of it!! I am 56 years old and don’t want to turn around and be 75 one day, and still be on oxy!! Not to mention, my husband will retire one day and we won’t have insurance to pay for it! I NEED to get off of it NOW!! I want to try to use Suboxone and do it under a controlled detox way. Not suddenly have it taken away and be sick as a dog!! Do you know if insurance will pay for a Suboxone doctor??

  • http://guineveregetssober.com/ Guinevere

    Different insurance plans pay for different services. You’d have to call your insurer and inquire. I’m sorry to hear about your health troubles—one single serious health problem can financially and emotionally drain a family. Are you sure it’s not controlling your pain? I found it difficult to gauge how much pain control I was actually getting while I was still on the painkillers. I hope you find a solution—please let us know.

  • Mahi Tuna

    not enough Dr. like him. I really believe the greed aspect comes into play and Dr’s use Subs as a income stream. How many Dr.’s get busted prescribing Narco’s? This is a Godsend. “I can make just as much and look like a hero” Subs should be used short term. The desire to use again will be there, If someone really was sick of the drug life, really sick of it and went on a short Sub detox they would have the willpower to beat the cravings. Subs don’t rewire you into not wanting to use again, there is no drug. It’s all up to the person, do they want to stop or not. Subs can make it easier.