Percocet Addiction, Withdrawal and Treatment
- Percocet Addiction
- Signs and Symptoms of Abusing Percocet
- Percocet Withdrawal & Detox
- Treatment for Percocet Dependency
Percocet is a brand of prescription narcotic used to alleviate pain. It includes oxycodone, an opiate, and acetaminophen, an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. The combined effect of these pain relievers is released over time to manage chronic, long-term pain. Percocet is most commonly used in tablet or capsule form. It goes by the street names of Percs or Percodoms. In order to counteract the time-release qualities and experience an immediate high, users may chew the pills, crush and snort them, or dissolve them in water and inject the solution.
Oxycodone, the active ingredient in Percocet, is an opiate similar to morphine and heroin. Doctors typically prescribe the drug in its short-acting, generic form to treat short-term, severe pain caused by surgeries and injuries. Physiologically, oxycodone works as a central nervous system depressant, acting on receptors in the brain and spinal cord to provide pain relief, numbness, and a feeling of euphoria. It is this “high” that people who abuse the drug are seeking.
Percocet, for all its legitimate, medical applications, also has a high potential for abuse. For this reason, it has been classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in the United States, and deaths from prescription opioids like Percocet have more than quadrupled since 1999. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as one in four patients taking prescription opioids on a long-term basis struggles with addiction. In 2014, almost two million people in the United States were either dependent upon or abused opioid pain relievers.
Long-term misuse or abuse of drugs containing oxycodone can change the manner in which your brain works. Once a user has built up a tolerance or become addicted to the drug, more of the active ingredient will be required to achieve the same effect. Eventually, the body will discontinue production of the chemicals replaced by the drug altogether. At this point, a user will require the prescription version to function normally.
Due to the relative expense and difficulty of acquiring prescription medications, addicts may resort to any means necessary to get them. This may mean stealing them from a friend or family member, pursuing prescriptions from multiple doctors, or even purchasing them from illegal, black market sources. In some cases, addicts have switched to cheaper, more dangerous drugs like heroin.
Signs & Symptoms of Abusing Percocet
Addiction to prescription opioids typically occurs in two groups: those who are taking the medication to relieve chronic pain and those who are using it recreationally to get high.
Most users under the influence of Percocet will experience at least some side effects, including
- cognitive impairment,
- mood swings,
- changes in sleep patterns,
- low blood pressure,
- depressed breathing,
- increased sweating, and/or
- lack of coordination.
In some cases, people appear to function normally even when taking Percocet in large quantities or without a prescription. There are additional physical symptoms of addiction that could indicate a user has become addicted, such as
- dry mouth, and/or
Overdose is also possible with drugs containing oxycodone and, without proper medical attention, could be fatal. A user experiencing an overdose may exhibit
- loss of consciousness,
- clammy or cold skin,
- difficulty breathing,
- extreme sleepiness,
- muscle weakness,
- change in size of pupils,
- blue lips, fingernails, or skin, and/or
In the event of an overdose, a medical professional may administer naloxone to reverse the drug’s effects. Available as an injectable or nasal spray, naloxone can be purchased in some states by addicts or their friends and family members. Depending on the local laws, it may or may not require a prescription.
Percocet Withdrawal & Detox
Depending on the amount and duration of use, withdrawal symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. Flu-like symptoms are common, including fever, nausea, and vomiting. A patient may also experience anxiety, panic attacks, or muscle pain or weakness.
In some cases, patients can take over-the-counter medications for mild pain, nausea, and diarrhea as the drug leaves their systems. In most cases, doctors advise against stopping the use of medications containing oxycodone abruptly. When severe, withdrawal symptoms can cause life-threatening complications like dehydration, high blood pressure, seizures, or liver damage.
Treatment for Percocet Dependency
Research indicates that people who follow detoxification with attempted abstinence are less likely to succeed in rehabilitation and more likely to relapse. For this reason, Percocet addiction treatment is comprised of two separate pieces: short-term detox and long-term management. Due to its similarity to other opiates, the treatment protocol for Percocet is similar to that recommended for heroin and other prescription opioid pain relievers.
Doctors currently utilize three different medications to treat patients participating in opioid maintenance programs: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Physically, each of these medicines works in different ways. However, each of the drugs help addicts recover by combating withdrawal symptoms and reducing drug cravings.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that binds to opioid receptors. Buprenorphine activates the receptors with less force than abused drugs to effectively reduce symptoms and drug cravings. Doctors can administer this treatment in an office setting, as a 6-month subdermal implant or via a monthly injection, making buprenorphine easier to access than other maintenance medications.
Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist. By activating opioid receptors in the brain similarly to heroin and morphine but more slowly, methadone combats withdrawal symptoms without euphoric effects. It has been used for more than 40 years to treat opioid addiction but, because of its potential for abuse and addiction, this treatment is only available through certified opioid treatment programs. Because daily doses are required to be successful, this type of treatment can be difficult for patients to maintain.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that works by blocking opioid receptors. This prevents any opioid drug from activating them and eliminates the “high.” In the past, naltrexone treatment has been difficult for patients to tolerate and adhere to, reducing its success rate. A long-acting form of the drug, available in injectable form, has been developed. It is thought to be a good option for patients who cannot access daily treatment and those who struggle to adhere to other treatment programs.
To increase the chances of successful rehabilitation, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also requires patients to participate in individual and/or group counseling. These services are offered in order to help patients stop or reduce substance use, build necessary skills, and adhere to their plan for recovery.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on the identification of behaviors that lead to drug abuse, as well as teaching former addicts the skills they need to discontinue those behaviors. In counseling sessions, patients talk about how to avoid the stressors, feelings, and situations that lead to abuse and how to respond without abusing drugs.
Contingency management provides incentives to patients for positive behaviors, encouraging them to adhere to their recovery program. Motivation enhancement therapy works in a similar way, motivating those with substance use disorders to participate in specific activities that will further their recovery.
Group counseling and twelve-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offers former addicts fellowship and social reinforcement as they rehabilitate by keeping individuals engaged and accountable. These programs also keep patients within reach of additional resources as they recover.
Oxycodone – Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR)
Opioid Overdose – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Percocet Addiction: Signs and Symptoms – Healthline.com
Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Withdrawing from Opiates and Opioids – Healthline.com
Medications to Treat Opioid Addiction Research Report – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Treatments for Substance Use Disorders – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)