Percocet Addiction Explained
What Is Percocet?
Percocet is a prescription pain medicine, also called an analgesic medicine, comprised of an opiate pain reliever called oxycodone and a non-opiate pain reliever called acetaminophen. The narcotics and oxycodone bind to the opioid cells in the brain and body and tell the brain that the user is not in pain. (1) Acetaminophen increases the effects of oxycodone and can reduce the risk of a fever. (2) With ongoing pain, Percocet can be prescribed to be used as needed in combination with weaker painkillers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. (1)
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Different forms of Percocet
Percocet comes in different-sized tablets with various dosages of oxycodone hydrochloride. There are 2.5 milligram, 5 milligram, 7.5 milligram and 10 milligram tablets, each combined with 325 milligrams of acetaminophen. (3)
The dosage embossed on one side of the pill determines the colour. Respectively, they are pink, blue, peach and yellow. (4) There’s also a liquid form of the medication, but it must be carefully measured to the prescribed amount to reduce the risk of overdose. (1)
Percocet brand and street names
Street names for Percocet are percs, Paulas, Roxi and blue dynamite. Oxycodone has its own nicknames, including O.C., oxycet, oxycotton, ocs, oxy, hillbilly, hillbilly heroin and poor man’s heroin. (4)
Medical Uses of Percocet
Percocet is an analgesic medication or pain reliever that binds to cells in the brain and tells the brain that there is no pain. It’s most effective when prescribed at the start of the pain. If the user waits, then the effect may diminish. (1)
Percocet is only prescribed if the patient can’t take non-opiate painkillers or those painkillers were ineffective. Due to the risk of drug withdrawal symptoms, doctors typically try to wean users off the medication after it’s no longer needed. (2)
Legal Status (UK)
In the United Kingdom, Percocet is considered to be a prescription-only medication. (5) These medications can only be sold or supplied if there’s a prescription written by a medical practitioner in ink with the date, address and other required information. These types of prescriptions must be filled within six months. Repeated prescriptions that don’t specify the number of refills can only be filled twice within six months, unless it’s an oral medication, which can be filled six times. (6)
Routes of Administration
Percocet can be taken orally as tablets or ingested in a liquid form. The 2.5-mg tablet is typically taken two at a time every six hours, while all other doses are taken one at a time.
Percocet Addiction and How It Develops
Since Percocet directly affects the brain and how the user feels, people can become addicted to how they feel when using the drug. Over time, the effects of the medication can diminish, causing the user to take more to reach the desired state. (8) They may develop a substance dependence and suffer from withdrawal when they stop taking the drug.
Why is Percocet addictive?
The body creates opioids naturally, which attach themselves to receptors in the brain and control feelings such as calmness and pain. Percocet tricks the brain into thinking it’s a natural opioid and releases dopamine in the brain, which causes a general euphoria. This leads to people taking more and more of the drug to achieve the same results and becoming dependent on it. Recreational substance abuse of Percocet does occur, but many people become addicted to the drug through medicinal use as well. (4)
Risk Factors and Causes of Percocet Addiction
With Percocet, the risk of addiction and dependence is present whether the drug is being used recreationally or medicinally. The euphoric feeling caused by the drug creates a need within the user, who uses more than recommended to reach the desired effect. If they are cut off suddenly, they could suffer from withdrawal.
Percocet and Common Drug Combinations
Using other drugs in combination with Percocet can lead to dangerous side effects, such as difficulty breathing or withdrawal symptoms. Users should be particularly careful when taking acetaminophen, since the amount already in Percocet may cause a lethal overdose. While Percocet is sometimes prescribed in tandem with other non-opioid painkillers like ibuprofen or naproxen, doctors should always be aware if their patients are taking any medications alongside Percocet. (2)
Co-Occurring Disorders with Percocet Addiction
Those suffering from Percocet addiction are at a higher risk for symptoms from other mental health disorders. One large risk is that of other substance abuse disorders. Once the effects of Percocet begin to diminish, users may begin to seek out other ways of reaching the same state of mind, resulting in other addictions. Other risks include depressive disorders, antisocial personality disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, PTSD and alcoholism. (9)
Signs and Symptoms of Percocet Addiction
Anyone who is suffering from addiction to Percocet may exhibit an array of symptoms, including behavioural, physical, cognitive and psychosocial symptoms.
Behavioural symptoms involve any changes to how the victim acts towards other people and themselves. Physical symptoms affect the person’s ability to move about and the body’s functions. Cognitive and psychosocial symptoms affect the mind and brain of the user. (9)
Behavioural symptoms of Percocet addiction are symptoms that affect the user’s actions involving themselves and others. These behaviours are typically negative and result in lower overall health of the user. Most of the actions are tied to obtaining more and more Percocet, including:
- Abusing Percocet even after prior use has resulted in negative effects
- Abusing Percocet when it is clearly dangerous to do so
- Attempting but being incapable of reducing one’s Percocet use
- Attempting to obtain a prescription for Percocet, or trying to acquire the drug through another illicit means
- Social withdrawal
- Taking Percocet in greater quantities or for a longer period of time than intended
- Trying to borrow or steal money in order to get Percocet
- Trying to borrow or steal Percocet
Physical symptoms of Percocet addiction are symptoms that change the victim’s health and body. They either cause difficulties with the body’s functions or affect the ability to move around. These symptoms include:
- Coordination and motor skill difficulties
- Problems with balance
- Shallow breathing
- Sleep problems
- Slowed heart rate
- Slurred speech
- Weight loss
- Withdrawal symptoms when not using Percocet
Cognitive symptoms of Percocet addiction change the victim’s mental abilities. These effects may result in changes to the user’s life, such as loss of money, jobs or friends and family. Symptoms may include:
- Lack of focus
- Memory problems
- Poor concentration
- Poor decision-making
Psychosocial symptoms of Percocet addiction affect the user’s social interactions. They may cause the user to be unpleasant and dissimilar to who they were before the addiction. These symptoms may include:
- Mood swings
Common Negative Consequences of Percocet Addiction
Negative consequences of Percocet addiction can be both permanent physical damage and problems caused in life by the constant attempt to acquire more Percocet. These consequences may eventually lead to serious illness, hospitalization or even death.
- Damage to heart and lungs
- Development mental health problems
- Eye problems
- Family discord
- Financial problems
- Job loss
- Liver failure
- Sexual dysfunction
- Social isolation
- Strained relationships
- Suicidal ideation
- Suicide attempts
Short-Term vs Long-Term Effects of Using Percocet
Percocet has a variety of side effects even when used medicinally. Often, the mild, short-term side effects will disappear after a few days, but a doctor should still be notified if a patient is experiencing any of these effects.
Short-term effects may include dizziness, nausea, blurred vision and a dry mouth. Long-term effects are much more severe and include organ damage or failure, osteoporosis, immune suppression, dependence and decreased testosterone levels. (10)
The impact of long-term Percocet abuse on the brain
Extended use of Percocet will cause the opioid receptors in the brain to become less affected by stimulation. This causes the user to require more opiates to reach the same effect, and when opiates are not used, the user will experience more pain than usual.
it affects the mood of the user as well, causing them to be more withdrawn and depressed. Addicts will stop engaging in normal daily activities to use Percocet. It also causes sexual dysfunction, sleepiness and confusion. (10)
Percocet Overdose Explained
Percocet overdose has the symptoms of both oxycodone and acetaminophen overdoses. Oxycodone and other opiate overdoses lead to muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, fatigue, nausea, blue or purple coloration of the nails and lips, fainting or a coma and seizures.
Percocet detoxification is the process the body goes through to remove all traces of the drug from the body. This process can take between five and seven days, and during this time the person is suffering from withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting and sweating. These symptoms help to rid the body of the Percocet, but they also put the person in severe risk of dehydration. Due to the risks, it is recommended to go through the detoxification process in a facility that can provide medical supervision. (12)
Signs and Symptoms of Percocet Withdrawal
Sudden cessation of Percocet usage, or even being weaned off it too quickly, could cause symptoms of withdrawal. Effects include twitching, a state of unease or dissatisfaction, heightened temperatures, diarrhoea, runny nose, sweating, watery eyes, pupil dilation and insomnia. One main symptom is the constant craving of Percocet. (9)
Percocet Addiction Treatment Medications
While naturally detoxifying from Percocet is an option, the use of other prescription medications can actually be very helpful in getting past the addiction. Drugs such as buprenorphine and methadone have been prescribed for Percocet withdrawal. They are both used to treat the symptoms of withdrawal and make the overall process easier on the person suffering. (8)
Buprenorphine is a medication that can be prescribed for opiate addictions. It works similarly to opiates in that it provides a similar, weaker euphoric effect while diminishing the withdrawal symptoms associated with Percocet. To reduce the risk of misuse and addiction to buprenorphine, there is a level at which the euphoric feeling no longer increases, removing the need for the person to use more and more of it. (13)
Methadone is another medication prescribed for opiate addiction that decreases the effects of withdrawal and blocks the euphoric feelings caused by the drug. However, methadone can only be offered for those who partake in a program under the supervision of a medical practitioner. Following a period of sobriety, clients can take methadone at home between visits. (14)
Therapy for Percocet Addiction
Those with an addiction to Percocet may opt to go through inpatient rehabilitation.
Typically, this lasts a minimum of four weeks, but those who stay longer have a higher chance of maintaining stability and sobriety. The benefits of these programs lie in the living environment, which is free of any temptations or triggers. A medical team at the facility helps the client through detoxification. Following this, clients can meet with therapists multiple times a week for individual and group therapy. (15)
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy is based on the idea that a person’s thoughts and perceptions shape their behaviour. It focuses on solving problems as opposed to finding the cause of the problems. The goal of this process is to discover the client’s harmful perceptions, determine if they are accurate and help to change the behaviour when they are not. (16)
Individual therapy is a process between a therapist and a client. The therapist works with the individual to set short-term goals to move past the addiction. Once the client has become sober, they work together to rebuild the client’s health and life, while continuing sobriety. (17)
Family counselling allows the family of the client to heal as well as helping the client to heal and begin to put their life back together. The help and love of a family can greatly assist the suffering person on the path to sobriety. (18)
Group therapy is when a set of individuals with similar experiences and addictions work with a therapist and share their stories. This helps the client to know that they are not alone in their situation and that sobriety is an achievable goal.
Motivational enhancement therapy
Motivational enhancement therapy aims to rapidly change the motivation of the client, rather than guide them through the recovery process. This consists of an initial session, followed by two to four additional individual sessions in which the therapist attempts to motivate and encourage change. (20)
Ongoing Treatment and Relapse Prevention Strategies
Staying in treatment and therapy is a great way to help prevent a relapse down the line. Stress is a large factor in many relapses, so learning to become self-reliant and cope with stress is very helpful in avoiding potential relapses. Some medications are also helpful in regulating moods and keeping withdrawal and cravings to a minimum, further reducing the risk of relapse.
Holistic methods contributing to an overall well-being help to give people a reason not to return to the drug. (21)
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- (1) https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-7277/percocet-oral/details
- (2) https://www.drugs.com/percocet.html
- (3) https://www.rxlist.com/percocet-drug.htm#description
- (4) https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/percocet-addiction/#gref
- (5) https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/4682/smpc
- (6) http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1997/1830/made
- (7) https://www.psni.org.uk/documents/599/GuideLegalRequirements+MedsHumanUsePPOMGSL.pdf
- (8) https://www.healthline.com/health/percocet-addiction#percocet-overview
- (9) https://www.life-healing.com/addiction/painkiller/percocet/causes-effects/
- (10) https://americanaddictioncenters.org/percocet-treatment/dangers-of-use-and-overdose
- (11) https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/percocet-addiction/percocet-overdose/#gref
- (12) https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/percocet-addiction/withdrawal-detox/#gref
- (13) https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/buprenorphine
- (14) https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/methadone
- (15) https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/percocet-addiction/treatment-rehab/#gref
- (16) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/cognitive-behavioural-therapy
- (17) https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/drug-and-substance-abuse
- (18) https://novarecoverycenter.com/treatment/benefits-family-therapy-addiction-treatment/
- (19) https://www.addictioncenter.com/treatment/holistic-therapy/
- (20) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioural-2
- (21) https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/relapse-prevention
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