Percocet Addiction: Signs, Side Effects, Rehab, and Recovery

By The Fix staff 01/21/15

Percocet Addiction: Signs, Side Effects, Rehab, and Recovery

Percocet Addiction

Percocet is a brand-name prescription narcotic within the opioid family used to alleviate pain. It combines Oxycodone with Acetaminophen, a common over-the-counter pain reliever. The Acetaminophen enhances the effectiveness of the Oxycodone, however, making it a powerful drug with a high risk of addiction. Percocet is a controlled substance, classified as a Schedule II drug by the DEA, meaning that it has a very high potential for abuse and addiction.

Schedule II drugs are considered high risk in terms of dependence and abuse and apply to medications that have an accepted medical use in the United States. This is in contrast to Schedule I drugs, which have no accepted medical use in the U.S. To put the danger of Schedule II drugs into perspective, heroin, ecstasy, and LSD are examples of Schedule I drugs.

How Percocet Works in the Body

There are several ways of administering Percocet, but the most common method is through the mouth. The drug is similar to morphine in the way it acts in the body. It is manufactured to provide a slow release of Oxycodone, over an extended period of time. This is why patients are advised that they should not crush or cut the pill. To do so could cause a life-threatening overdose, as the entire dosage of the Oxycodone is suddenly released into the person’s system.

The Oxycodone in Percocet works in the central nervous system as a depressant. By acting on specific receptors within the brain and spinal cord, it acts as an effective analgesic. There is also some evidence that suggests it acts within the tissues of the body to provide pain relief as well. Within the central nervous system, it binds to receptors, resulting in an abatement of pain, numbness, and, at times, feelings of euphoria or a “high.”

Percocet can affect the body in other ways as well, including drowsiness, itching, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, impaired coordination, respiration depression, slowed heart rate, and urinary retention. When the drug is abused or misused, these effects can be greatly exacerbated and can even lead to coma and death. notes that the Acetaminophen in Percocet can also be a concern due to potential liver damage. Percocet should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor.

Who Is at Risk for Addiction?

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in the United States. According to the CDC, there were 22,114 deaths caused by overdose of prescription medications in 2012. Of those deaths, 72% involved an opioid component such as Percocet. Anyone can fall victim to Percocet addiction, but there are certain groups that tend to be more susceptible. Statistically speaking, women tend to develop Percocet addiction more than other groups. However, youth addiction is quickly growing and adolescents may soon become the primary users.

Those who become addicted to Percocet tend to fall within one of two groups: those who experience chronic or substantial pain for an extended period of time and those who seek the drug’s euphoric high and use it for recreational purposes. In order for the patient or drug abuser to attain the desired effect of pain reduction or euphoria, they will have to take more and more over time. Eventually, as the body ceases to produce the necessary chemicals that the drug replaces or inhibits, the person will require the drug in order to feel “normal.”

Dangers of Percocet Addiction

Those who misuse or abuse Percocet are placing themselves at risk for addiction and dependency. There are substantial physical and neurological consequences that can result from drug use. Death due to overdose is a very real and constant threat, but there are other ways that the drug can damage the body. Even the symptoms resulting from withdrawal can be life-threatening.

Someone with a Percocet addiction may find it difficult to attain the drug on a regular basis. Because of this, they will experience a continuous cycle of getting the euphoric high, crashing when the supply runs out, going through withdrawal symptoms, then getting the drug again and attaining the high once more. This cycle is extremely hard on the body and can cause organ damage, among other detrimental effects. Long-term use can lead to liver damage, heart damage, brain damage, and death.

Signs of Percocet Addiction

Identifying the signs of Percocet addiction is not always easy. The signs of prescription drug abuse often present themselves in ways that differ from illegal street drugs. Many people are able to function somewhat normally when taking excessive doses of Percocet or other pain medications. Often, an addiction is not identified until the patient has overdosed, progressed to other dangerous drugs, or experienced addiction-related physical health issues.

Percocet addiction side effects include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Slow breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweating
  • Constipation

Any person who goes to several doctors to get more medication should be evaluated for addiction. As the dependency takes hold, the patient will require more and more of the drug in order to achieve the desired effect. When desperation takes hold, the patient or addict will steal, lie, and do whatever they can to get the drugs they need. This is common among young people who take the drug for recreational purposes and have no prescription. All prescription medications should be locked up so they can only be accessed by the patient for whom they are prescribed.

Other symptoms of addiction include

  • Losing control over use of the drug
  • Continuing to use the drug, despite the experience of negative effects
  • Attempting to recreate one’s first Percocet high
  • Spending a great deal of time trying to acquire the drug
  • Developing a tolerance to the drug
  • Losing interest in things once enjoyed
  • Taking more and more of the drug in an effort to relieve symptoms of withdrawal
  • Believing that one must have the drug in order to perform normal or everyday activities

Percocet Addiction Withdrawal 

Doctors advise against abruptly ceasing the use of many medications, but especially those that contain Oxycodone. The risk associated with severe withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening when the levels of the drug in the person’s system cannot be maintained. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fever
  • Anxiety
  • Liver damage
  • Panic attacks
  • Muscle weakness and pain

Percocet abuse can lead to overdose, so it is important to recognize those symptoms as well. Symptoms of Percocet overdose include:

  • Fainting
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Change in pupil size (increase or decrease)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue tinge to fingernails, lips, or skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Percocet Addiction Detox

It is not advised that a person with a Percocet addiction should attempt to detox on their own. There are serious health risks involved, so it is recommended that detox be conducted under medical supervision. This also helps to decrease the likelihood of relapse. Patients who enter a Percocet detox center will be taken off of the drug slowly, which minimizes the effects of withdrawal and is safer for the patient’s health. Detox centers also have medications available that can be administered to the patient and help to alleviate some withdrawal symptoms.

Once detox is complete and the patient is “clean,” it is vital that regular rehabilitation therapy follows. Sometimes a patient will enter an inpatient rehabilitation facility, and detox is the first portion of the process. In fact, inpatient detox and rehabilitation has been proven as an effective method of curing Percocet addiction.

Percocet Addiction Rehab

Entering Percocet addiction rehab treatment can be frightening. It is a huge step to take and uncertainties can present barriers to seeking treatment. This is why it is important for a person addicted to Percocet to have a good support system that will allow them to seek treatment while knowing they are not alone.

Narcotics Anonymous, a peer support group for narcotic drug addiction, states that the first step in recovering from addiction is admitting that there is a problem. From there, admission into a rehabilitation treatment facility can help addicts recover their lives and be free from addiction.

Outpatient treatment may be an option for those who have family or work obligations that prevent them from a full-time commitment to a treatment facility. While this can be an effective way to beat Percocet addiction, most health care professionals and former addicts advise entering into an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

A residential care center protects the patient from temptations that can cause relapse and from triggers that can wear down the patient’s resolve to get well. Rehab professionals are trained to identify signs of relapse and withdrawal and they can help ease the symptoms of withdrawal. Inpatient treatment provides the addict with ongoing, consistent emotional, physical, and psychological support from a staff who understand the process and knows how to best help the patient take positive steps toward recovery.

How to Help Someone With a Percocet Addiction

The best way to help someone with a Percocet addiction is to let them know that they are not alone. No one can force an addict into recovery; they must pursue it themselves. To force recovery almost ensures relapse or even overdose. Loved ones who wish to help an addict seek recovery should first seek the advice of professionals who can guide them in their efforts.

Supporting and helping an addict is a stressful, frustrating, and exhausting process. The person or people supporting the addict should ensure that they are taking care of their health, both physical and psychological, to the best of their ability. Adequate rest, a balanced diet, and counseling are all highly recommended. You can’t be any good to anyone if you aren’t healthy.

Parents with children who are addicted to Percocet should work with counselors and doctors to enter their child into a rehabilitation facility. Once the child is a patient, it is important that the parents get counseling and attend the facility-required family counseling. The addict is not the only one who needs to heal; the entire family has a lot of healing to do in situations that involve addiction.

Adults who are addicted may not want to face the fact that they are dependent upon the drug. In such cases, it is important that the person supporting them not get wrapped up in the denial or refusal for treatment. As painful as it may be, recovery can only come when the addict recognizes the problem and wants to change.

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