Can you stop taking oxybutynin abruptly? (+3 disadvantages)

In this article, we will discuss whether you may discontinue oxybutynin abruptly. We will also discuss the adverse effects associated with the abrupt discontinuation and deprescribing process of oxybutynin.

Can you stop taking oxybutynin abruptly?

No, you should not stop taking oxybutynin suddenly. Discontinuing oxybutynin suddenly may cause adverse effects. The symptoms of an overreactive bladder and muscle spasm of the bladder may also return or worsen.

Most of the patients abruptly discontinue oxybutynin due to its associated side effects, especially constipation and dry mouth. Oxybutynin inhibits the muscarinic effect of acetylcholine on the smooth muscles, causing bladder relaxation.

Abruptly stopping oxybutynin might lead to anticholinergic discontinuation syndrome. These withdrawal symptoms are usually moderate but may last up to six to eight weeks.

You should always consult your doctor before discontinuing the treatment of oxybutynin. The doctor will taper off the medication or give you another medication for your underlying disease.

What happens if you stop taking oxybutynin abruptly?

The minor withdrawal symptoms associated with oxybutynin’s abrupt discontinuation involve hand tremors, nausea and sweating (1). The patient also experiences urinary frequency and urgency.

In some cases, the patient might develop anticholinergic discontinuation syndrome. These adverse effects are much more severe and might include:

  • Tachycardia,
  • Anxiety,
  • Mood fluctuations,
  • Inconsistent urinary flow,
  • Urinary retention,
  • Orthostatic hypotension, and
  • Insomnia.

What does research suggest?

Apart from its therapeutic use, anticholinergic drugs like oxybutynin are also reported to decrease depressive symptoms, induce relaxation, improve mood and cause a sense of euphoria.

In one such case report, a young girl taking oxybutynin (40 mg/month) reported tremors, sweating, social phobia, and anxiety when she discontinued the drug abruptly (1).

In another case, the abrupt discontinuation of oxybutynin caused anorexia, insomnia and discomfort in a 22-year-old male. The patient also had trouble focusing but he exhibited normal perception and speech (2).

How is oxybutynin cleared from the body?

Oxybutynin is metabolised in the liver and intestinal wall by the cytochrome P3A4 enzymatic system. Due to extensive metabolism, oxybutynin is converted to its active metabolite known as N-desethyloxybutynin.

Simultaneously, hepatic biotransformation leads to the formation of inactive metabolites known as 2-cyclohexyl-2-phenylglycolic acid. Only 0.1% of oxybutynin remains unchanged and is excreted through the urine.

The plasma elimination half-life of oxybutynin is 2 hours, however, it is prolonged (up to 5 hours) in elderly patients. For this reason, elderly patients might experience more adverse effects than adults during abrupt drug discontinuation.

The elder patients also take multiple drugs, often termed polypharmacy. This increases the chances of developing adverse effects especially if one of the drugs is discontinued abruptly.

How to taper off oxybutynin?

It is important to taper off some medications, especially antidepressants like Citalopram, when there are high risk of getting adverse effects after abrupt drug discontinuation.

If the patient feels that oxybutynin-associated side effects outweigh its therapeutic efficacy, then he may request the doctor to deprescribe the medication. The doctor will examine the side effects and the severity of the disease.

In the first phase, the doctor with reduce the dosing frequency of oxybutynin. Oxybutynin, 5 mg, is usually given thrice a day. The doctor might advise the patient to take 5 mg oxybutynin twice daily for 2 weeks.

In the next phase, the doctor will examine the patient for 2 weeks for urinary inconsistency and other possible withdrawal effects. If the patient experiences minimal side effects, the drug may be tapered off completely.

As a qualified pharmacist, I always advise patients to understand the importance of the recommended dosage regimen. Dose and dosing frequencies are established after strenuous clinical trials.

You should always complete your course of medication. If you feel your side effects are affecting your quality of life, consult the doctor to take suitable interventions and recommend alternate therapies.

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Kınık MF, Dönder F, Duymaz MK, Karakaya I. Addiction of oxybutynin: an adolescent case report. J Addict Res The. 2015;6(228):2.


Sonkurt HO, Altınöz AE. Oxybutynin addiction: two case reports. Journal of Substance Use. 2021 Sep 3;26(5):455-7.