Percocet is a combination of both the narcotic pain reliever oxycodone hydrochloride and the non-narcotic pain and fever reducer acetaminophen. Percocet is prescribed for short-term relief of moderate to severe pain symptoms. Oxycodone is an opioid drug, which modifies pain receptors and emotions, leaving users feeling pleasant, relaxed, and mellow. Opioids disrupt the brain’s natural messengers, the neurotransmitters.
Chronic use can lead to tolerance, wherein more drugs are needed to obtain the same feelings or results. The use of any prescription medication beyond its intended use, or for recreational purposes, is considered abuse through diversion. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that in 2011, the number of Americans over the age of 12 who had used prescription medications for nonmedical purposes in their lifetime reached 52 million.
Methods and Means of Abuse
Percocet is easily accessible, and its abuse spans gender, culture, age, and socioeconomic groups. People mistakenly believe that prescription medications are safer than street drugs; however, Percocet is derived from the same source, the opium poppy plant, that heroin comes from. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that prescription drugs are obtained for abuse from the following sources:
- 2 percent from a relative or friend for free
- 1 percent from a doctor
- 6 percent stole or bought from a relative or friend
- 9 percent from a stranger or drug dealer
- 2 percent from other sources
- 9 percent from more than one doctor
- 3 percent from online sales
Percocet comes in several different strengths and dosages, typically in the form of a white tablet. Percocet is generally abused orally by swallowing or chewing the tablets. Some abusers crush the tablets into a powder form as well in order to snort, inject, or smoke it. When abusers crush or alter the pills, the extended-release safeguard format is destroyed, sending the entire dose of Percocet rapidly across the blood-brain barrier and amplifying the intensity of the “high” as well as the risk factors and side effects. This increases the odds for a dangerous or potentially life-threatening overdose.
Opioids affect the central nervous system (CNS) as well as the reward pathways in the brain, and overdose on Percocet generally occurs when the CNS vital life functions like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure are depressed to dangerous levels. The CDC reports that in 2008, prescription painkillers were responsible for 14,800 overdose deaths, which is more than both cocaine and heroin combined. Overdose symptoms to be aware of are trouble breathing, blue lips or fingernails, clammy skin, change in pupil dilation, excessive sleepiness, dizziness, muscle weakness, and loss of consciousness or fainting. If you suspect an overdose on Percocet, seek immediate medical help.
In 2010, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published that 8.76 million Americans abused prescription drugs, 5.1 million of those drugs being painkillers. Whatever the reason for the abuse, be it societal or peer pressure, the false security of prescription drugs being “safe,” their ease of access, genetics, or a dependence born of legitimate use and tolerance, the prescription drug problem in the United States is approaching epidemic proportions.
Addiction shatters lives and rips apart families if not properly treated; however, it is a disease that can be managed successfully. If you suspect you or your loved one may be struggling with a Percocet addiction, here are some warning signs to watch for:
- Doctor “shopping” or seeking more than one doctor to fill a prescription
- Seeking more drugs after a prescription has run out
- Taking more than the recommended dosage
- Financial struggles
- Pills or pill containers in multiple easily accessible locations
- Empty pill bottles in the trash
- Decline in school or work performance
- Weight loss and/or decline in physical appearance
- Excessive sleeping
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Withdrawal and isolation
- Mood swings or personality changes
Opioid drugs make chemical changes in your body, and once your brain has become tolerant to an opioid drug, the brain no longer functions normally without it. These changes can take time to reverse. When used as directed for short periods of time to avoid this tolerance, Percocet is less harmful, although it still has many health risks and side effects associated with its regular use. The most common of these include:
- Dry mouth
More serious health risks may include trouble urinating, mood alterations, severe abdominal pain, fainting, seizures, trouble waking up, or shallow breathing. Chronic or long-term use can lead to liver damage or toxicity as well.
Percocet abuse can lead not only to a fatal overdose or risk of addiction, but also potentially severe and dangerous withdrawal symptoms when the drug is removed suddenly. Withdrawal occurs when drugs that have been suppressing certain parts of the brain and CNS are removed, causing them to rebound and become overactive without the drugs. This manifests as flu-like physical symptoms, such as a spike in body temperature, sweating, nausea and vomiting, irregular heart rate or blood pressure, and headaches.
Withdrawal also has intense psychological side effects like anxiety, depression, agitation, irritability, restlessness, and hostility. The depression can be so debilitating, it can lead to suicidal thoughts or tendencies. Withdrawal from Percocet can be hazardous and should be supervised by health care professionals. Due to the intensity of withdrawal, you should never attempt to stop taking Percocet “cold turkey,” or suddenly, with medical supervision.
Where to Get Help
Percocet abuse may start innocently and easily enough, but once addiction grabs hold, it can be very hard to break free from. Specialized addiction treatment centers can provide a safe and secure environment where teams of medical professionals can help monitor and manage difficult withdrawal symptoms.
Often, the first step of the rehabilitation process, detox is the process of purging toxic or unhealthy substances from the body. Detox may include a weaning-off process, or tapering schedule, which gradually reduces the amount of drugs down to zero over a specified period of time. Pharmaceuticals may also be used to help manage the more severe physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. In contrast, holistic methods may also be an important part of the recovery process. Addicts often do not take good care of themselves, and a nutritious diet and fitness plan can help support the healing process.
Percocet addiction can be very difficult to recover from emotionally, and individual, group, and family therapies are all part of a successful rehabilitation process. Psychological care should include behavioral therapy to help identify emotional, environmental, or social triggers in an attempt to overcome them and prevent relapse. Life skills and coping mechanisms should be taught, and negative behaviors should be modified to promote the highest rates of success. Support groups help to work through feelings of guilt, shame, and feelings of isolation as they offer a network of supportive care.
Here at Axis, we provide comprehensive treatment tailored to your, or your loved one’s, specific requirements. Our evidence-based and patient-centered approach in a serene, comfortable, and safe environment – staffed by a team of highly credentialed professionals 24 hours a day – promotes a healthy and sustained recovery. Call us to learn more.