Percocet is a commonly-prescribed pain medication. Abusing the drug can lead to dependence and addiction. This substance belongs to the opioid family of drugs, alongside other drugs including codeine, morphine, heroin, and fentanyl.
These substances are abused with or without prescription for their desired effects of pain alleviation, elevated mood and euphoria, and deep sleep, but even medically-advised use to treat pain can be habit forming. Once tolerance and cravings have manifested in an individual, a rapid process in these highly addictive substances, it becomes difficult to stop reaching for higher and higher doses, or riskier forms of substance abuse. Opioids accounted for almost 75% of drug overdose deaths in 2020, an epidemic that can be tied to poor access to appropriate detox and withdrawal care for prescription medications like Percocet.
Percocet Drug Abuse and Opioid Withdrawal
Percocet is the brand name of a generic formulation of oxycodone and acetaminophen prescribed to treat physical pain. While it is theoretically possible to overdose on both acetaminophen and oxycodone, acetaminophen is a non-addictive mild substance found in over-the-counter medications like paracetamol. Oxycodone, the opioid component of prescription Percocet, is the drug responsible for dependence.
When oxycodone enters the nervous system for the first time, it floods the brain’s neurons with opioids – chemicals that resemble our naturally-produced pain-relieving and calming neurotransmitters, but which are far more potent. The brain’s opioid receptors soon become dependent on their presence to function normally – this causes cellular-level changes in the system, and leads our bodies to stop producing their natural analogs. If the individual stops using at this point, the body enters a state of extreme chemical imbalance, called Percocet withdrawal.
Opioid dependence can be very serious, and taking measures to stop the progress of Percocet addiction is always worth it. However, it is important not to underestimate the discomfort and risks associated with cold-turkey Percocet withdrawal symptoms. Safely passing through this acute state calls for medical guidance and, often, residential care.
Percocet Withdrawal Symptoms
As with other opioids, sudden cessation of Percocet abuse can produce a range of mild to severe mental and physical symptoms. In the average case, this resembles intense flu. While these symptoms are not generally considered to be life-threatening, they can be extremely difficult to get through without relapse, especially when they almost always co-occur with intense Percocet cravings. Many people start using again simply to obtain relief from the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal, leading to a potentially life-threatening cycle.
Symptoms of Percocet withdrawal include:
- Muscle pain
- Bone pain
- Dysregulated temperature
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Stomach cramping
- Mood shifts: anxiety, irritability, paranoia, hopeless
- Dysphoria and suicidal thoughts
Percocet withdrawal symptoms differ in severity according to several factors related to how one was abusing Percocet – namely, individuals are more likely to have severe withdrawal symptoms if they used the drug for a long period of time, or in high doses.
More severe symptoms of withdrawal are also linked to a number of physiological factors, making the exact intensity of one’s theoretical withdrawal difficult to estimate without a professional opinion. All of the following can affect the intensity of an individual’s withdrawal symptoms:
- Body mass and height
- Physical fitness
- Co-occurring mental health condition
- Polysubstance use
Detoxing from Percocet
Percocet abuse disorder and chemical dependence should be understood as treatable medical conditions. Cold-turkey solo withdrawal from opioids has low success rates. The Centers for Disease Control recommends medical detox, in combination with approved psychotherapies and social support, as the most appropriate and clinically successful form of care.
A Percocet detox center is a medical environment that generally provides the following:
- Ongoing medical assessment
- 24-7 supervision
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
- Therapy and counseling
- Relaxation tools
- Comfortable lodging
- Substance-free environment
Detox only describes the first stage of addiction recovery: retreating to focus on the acute therapies necessary to safely pass the last of the drug of abuse from the system. After this, the client in care will often graduate to a more engaging schedule of care. That said, the core techniques of detox are aimed dually at easing the process of withdrawal, and at building the mental foundations for long-term recovery.
Percocet Detox: The Process
At most clinics, ours included, clients can undergo assessment for Percocet addiction before they even arrive on campus. At this point, treatment has begun. They can expect a check-up and detailed evaluation aimed at reviewing the detox options that are most suited to their individual case, and invited to the Percocet detox center.
The biological half-life of Percocet is short, averaging around 3.5 hours, and varying slightly according to the same factors that affect withdrawal risk, described above. Because of this, most people start to experience withdrawal symptoms somewhere between 5-8 hours after the last time they consume Percocet.
These withdrawal symptoms grow in intensity, often peaking around day two or day three. This is when individuals are most likely to experience severe pain, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and cravings intensify. Staff at the detox center will monitor their clients on an ongoing basis, and intervene with therapeutic or medical support to alleviate withdrawal signs when needed. It is critical to be safely in a comfortable and relaxing environment at this time when relapse risk is most pronounced.
The physical symptoms of chemical dependency tend to resolve on their own approximately one week after Percocet withdrawal starts. Individuals who receive medication-assisted treatment through tapered and monitored buprenorphine or methadone can have an altered timeline, but broadly, this marks the end of withdrawal management, and the mental and behavioral symptoms of prescription medication abuse can be addressed.
A short list of medications have been approved by the FDA to treat physical dependence:
- Buprenorphine: a mild opioid that can be used in acute withdrawal stages to quell symptoms.
- Naloxone (in Suboxone): An opioid agonist medication originally formulated to halt overdose. It can be used in combination with buprenorphine to weaken opioid use effects and cravings.
- Naltrexone: Another opioid agonist medication, which can be prescribed long-term to reduce or eliminate the felt effects of opioids.
- Methadone: a long-term maintenance medication and synthetic opiate that can be used as an early substitute in cases of severe dependence, and tapered off to avoid symptoms.
Family members and clients alike occasionally express concern over the administration of buprenorphine or methadone during treatment. It is important to note that MAT has proven itself to be a powerful tool in the long-term cessation of opioid use, and also that not all individuals abusing Percocet who receive detox treatment will be recommended for MAT. Client welfare and professional integrity demand that opioid treatment programs take these medications extremely seriously.
Detox and Addiction Care in Residence
Holistic treatment for Percocet abuse and addiction involves more than managing withdrawal symptoms and undergoing detox. Here at NP Addiction, we can help you tackle the reasons that led you to abuse Percocet in the first place. Behavioral therapy and psychotherapy are core tools in reaping the long-term benefits of one’s decision to quit Percocet and developing the tools for sobriety.
Our residential opioid addiction treatment program includes detox, MAT, group and individual therapy, as well as CBT and recreational therapy. The medical professionals on our team will assess cases in detail and offer a wide range of options to each of our clients because we are committed to doing what works, in the long run. Call us today to hear more about how we can help you live a life free of drugs.