Percocet Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options
In the United States, over-the-counter (OTC) medication is the third most commonly misused substance among those over 14 years of age. OTC misuse follows directly behind marijuana and alcohol, partly thanks to its easy availability. Out of all the OTC drugs a person may misuse, opioid painkillers top the list.
When looking at OTC painkillers, Oxycodone is sure to appear on some labels. Oxycodone is a semisynthetic opioid produced using thebaine, which is derived directly from opium. You’ll find oxycodone as the active ingredient in many prescription-strength medications. For instance, oxycodone is the active ingredient in OxyContin, which is a prescription pain reliever. It’s also found in generic forms of combo medications, including Percocet, which combines oxycodone with non-narcotic analgesics like acetaminophen, and in aspirin (Percodan).
The purpose of oxycodone is to treat acute pain. Oxycodone works by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain. When someone takes oxycodone, it will trigger the release of more serotonin and dopamine, which are chemicals responsible for sedation and relaxation. These chemicals also allow oxycodone to minimize the sensation of pain. For its intended purposes, oxycodone is very effective.
Unfortunately, too many individuals have begun misusing prescription and OTC drugs, like Percocet. Educating oneself on the dangers of Percocet and oxycodone misuse is crucial to understanding how to get help. In this article, we’ll explore what Percocet is, how it impacts the body, and the treatment options available for those dependent on it.
What Is Percocet?
Percocet is a type of opioid-based pain reliever. It’s a prescription combination drug, meaning it combines oxycodone (derived from opium) with acetaminophen (paracetamol). Acetaminophen in itself helps relieve minor pain and reduce fever, and it is found in over-the-counter medications like Tylenol. With that said, the main ingredient of concern in Percocet users is oxycodone.
The oxycodone in Percocet is great for alleviating pain, at least when taken as prescribed by a doctor. Percocet can help someone suffering from moderate or severe pain get back to their preferred lifestyle with minimal side effects. However, for someone who is misusing Percocet, the presence of opioids can lead to a euphoric high. The elevated sense of wellbeing and relaxation induced by Percocet, especially in high doses, makes it particularly addictive.
For anyone who misuses Percocet or other opioids like oxycodone, it’s critical to note the withdrawal symptoms. Opioids can induce extremely strong withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult, if not impossible, to quit the drug. Percocet is no exception to this. When someone tries to quit Percocet, they may be met with uncomfortable and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that can lead them to take the drug again, which puts them at a higher risk of overdose.
Are you interested in learning more about the Percocet recovery process and what treatment options are available to you? Contact Zinnia Health today to talk to our team.
Is Percocet the Same as OxyContin?
Understanding what Percocet is and how it works is important in exploring treatment pathways. While Percocet does contain oxycodone, it’s essential to recognize that oxycodone is not identical to OxyContin. OxyContin is a prescription-strength pain reliever where oxycodone is an active ingredient, but OxyContin works a bit differently.
While oxycodone can be given as a tablet or as an intravenous liquid, OxyContin is always taken orally. OxyContin has been formulated to release oxycodone over time. This helps OxyContin control pain for long periods instead of giving a short burst of pain control, only for the pain to set back in before a person can take their next dose.
What makes OxyContin concerning is that it’s stronger than many other opioids. In fact, OxyContin is most often given to individuals who have become tolerant of other opioids and to people who haven’t responded positively to other medications. A doctor who prescribes OxyContin will tell a patient to take a tablet every 12 hours, with the manufacturer releasing strengths ranging from 10 to 80 milligrams per dose. The lowest effective dose is recommended in every case.
For someone who is misusing OxyContin, it will prove very addictive. Many people choose OxyContin because it has such a large amount of oxycodone in it. The purpose of the high dose is to allow the medication to release the right amount gradually over 12 hours, but taking more than needed or taking OxyContin in a form other than prescribed, like by crushing the tablet so it can be snorted, can lead to a rush or high that gets around the time-release design.
When comparing OxyContin to Percocet or its active ingredient, oxycodone, perhaps the biggest difference is that it’s not a time-release medication. On its own or in any immediate-release formula, like Percocet, the body will begin absorbing the whole oxycodone dosage as soon as it enters the bloodstream. Oxycodone then has rapid effects on the brain and opioid receptors. The half-life of oxycodone is short at just three hours, which means the effects of oxycodone should wear off within six hours.
Most often, Percocet is prescribed for short-term relief of acute pain while OxyContin is prescribed for long-term pain management or chronic pain relief. Despite their differences, it must be acknowledged that both Percocet and OxyContin are addictive and listed on the Schedule II narcotics list by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). These drugs have made it to the Schedule II list, which is the second-most restricted list, because of the high risk of misuse and addiction.
Why Do People Take Percocet?
On paper, the appeal of using a drug like Percocet or oxycodone is clear. These drugs induce euphoric or high feelings that can seem to melt away any sense of sadness, anxiety, stress or physical pain. For some, Percocet provides a temporary release from their reality. For others, Percocet begins as a prescription from their doctor but ends in a dependence they didn’t realize they were creating. Whether Percocet use begins as prescription, self-medication or recreation, the dangers remain the same.
Any opioid can be addictive because of how it interacts with opioid receptors in the brain. Taking an opioid creates a “high” or euphoric feeling. The scientific cause of this is simple: Opioids trigger the brain to release more dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical found naturally in the body and is used to regulate the mood. Dopamine also suppresses the central nervous system, which can minimize pain, sedate the body, slow breathing, lower blood pressure and reduce heart rate and body temperature.
A person taking too much Percocet or any other opioid may end up feeling lethargic. They may also find themselves with poor coordination and/or impaired decision-making abilities. Opioids can impair cognitive function, affecting short-term memory and impairing a person’s ability to think and act rationally. These are all signs of opioid intoxication, which indicates misuse. In these cases, users are most likely to experience changed behavior, get into an accident, or be involved in a crime.
Percocet Side Effects and Risks
Taking Percocet and other oxycodone products can impact the body and mind. Physically, Percocet can disrupt sleep and appetite, lower body temperature, cause an irregular heart rate and blood pressure level and sedate a person or make them lethargic. Mentally, Percocet can impair judgment, interrupt short-term memory and cause confusion or cloudy thinking.
Ingesting Percocet can also upset the gastrointestinal system, causing constipation, stomach ulcers and intestinal blockages. For those who try to smoke or snort Percocet, it can have negative effects on the respiratory system, which can cause or worsen a respiratory disease or infection. Those who regularly smoke or snort Percocet may find themselves coughing often. Snorting also weakens the nasal cavity, causing regular nosebleeds or a runny nose.
Long-term use of Percocet can impact the cardiovascular and respiratory systems permanently. At some point, Percocet users will find that their systems are functioning irregularly. They’ll also be at a greater risk of an infection or disease, especially in the heart or lungs.
Percocet Abuse and Statistics
It’s tough to get reliable numbers on the misuse of medications like Percocet, but organizations continue to try to quantify the problem and direct outreach efforts. In 2020, the DEA reported that hydrocodone and oxycodone products were dispensed at more than twice the rate of any other CPD, which remains a steady trend. What’s more concerning is the misuse of Percocet and other oxycodone products amongst young adults.
The U.S. Department of Justice discovered that 4 percent of high school seniors admitted to misusing oxycodone products within the prior year. Further, in the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) found that nearly 9.5 million people within the United States reported they had misused a prescription painkiller like Percocet within the prior month.
When Percocet and other forms of oxycodone are misused, it’s a known fact that strong formulations, like OxyContin, are also being misused. Fortunately, OxyContin was formulated to be harder to abuse in 2010, which turns the drug into a gelatin-like substance when the tablets are crushed, ensuring no one can snort or otherwise consume the medication in a way that might skirt the time-release design.
Following the re-formulation, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that OxyContin abuse dropped. However, this same formulation might be beneficial for weaker medications like Percocet, too. Following the reformulation of OxyContin, misuse went down, but the use of oxycodone in its generic form continued. It’s also theorized that re-formulating drugs like OxyContin simply pushes users to more serious drugs, like heroin.
With all of that in mind, a collective effort is necessary to help prevent and reduce misuse of all oxycodone products and opioids like Percocet.
Misuse and Tolerance
Percocet and oxycodone products have habit-forming tendencies. These tendencies begin with tolerance, which can happen when a person takes Percocet for a long period. Even for someone who is prescribed Percocet, tolerance is possible. Tolerance means that the same dose of Percocet that used to prove effective no longer has the same impact on the body. For instance, someone taking it to manage pain may realize the pain persists even after they take their doctor-prescribed, recommend dose.
Tolerance can cause misuse because it can lead to a person taking more Percocet than they are prescribed to continue experiencing pain relief. Tolerance can also develop in recreational users who take Percocet regularly, and this is risky because it will lead them to increase the amount they use. Over time, tolerance can lead a person to take far too much Percocet, heightening the risk of overdose.
Can You Overdose on Percocet?
A common misconception about prescription drugs like Percocet is that it’s safe to take, and even take too much, simply because doctors can prescribe it to patients. Unfortunately, this misconception leads to many oxycodone-related dependencies and deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 932,000 people in the United States died because of an opioid overdose. Of those, oxycodone products like Percocet were among those most often involved.
Today, opioid overdose continues to rise, and prescription opioids like Percocet account for more than half of overdose-related deaths. What makes opioids the most dangerous is how they interact with the body. The fatal dose ranges from one person to the next depending on various factors. Too much can quickly become toxic, causing a person to stop breathing, fall unconscious, slip into a coma, or die.
Fortunately, innovations in medications, like the development of Narcan, allows first responders to reverse an overdose. However, immediate medical intervention is necessary to help someone who is suffering from an overdose. Better yet, reaching out to an addiction specialist before an overdose ever occurs is the best way forward. Even without overdosing, opioid abuse can have long-term negative effects on an individual.
Percocet Dependence and Withdrawal
Physical dependence happens quickly with Percocet and other opioids. Dependence happens when routine usage alters the brain chemistry as it grows accustomed to the drug. When the person tries to quit Percocet, or when the effects of the last dose wear off, withdrawal symptoms can set in. When dependence is formed, the brain reacts to the absence of oxycodone, so a person may experience intense drug cravings and severe symptoms when they haven’t taken Percocet.
Withdrawal symptoms of Percocet include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Withdrawal can also lead to muscle aches and pain in the joints, bones, and back. A person may experience chills and/or sweating, along with tremors, dilated pupils, elevated heart rate and increased blood pressure. Insomnia is common and so are teary eyes, a runny nose, and changes in appetite. Withdrawal affects feelings, emotions, and behavior as it can cause irritability, agitation, and depression.
Typically, a person will start experiencing withdrawal symptoms as soon as 12 hours after their last dose. Physical dependence on Percocet takes time to work through, and it’s something that must be broken gradually. Suddenly stopping Percocet not only leads to intense withdrawal symptoms but can also prove life-threatening. For someone who wants to quiet Percocet, medical detox is the best way forward.
Percocet Detox and Recovery Process
For anyone who has formed a physical dependence on Percocet, withdrawal symptoms may prove intense and dangerous. Suddenly quitting Percocet is not considered safe, and is highly likely to result in relapse. Instead, quitting Percocet should begin with a plan guided by an addiction specialist. Zinnia Health can help you quit by matching you with caring professionals who will walk with you on your path to addiction recovery. Call us at (855) 430-9439 to learn more about our substance abuse programs.
Percocet addiction can begin in many forms, even in people who are taking Percocet under the guidance of their doctor. Opioids are powerful and taking too much of them or for too long can lead to dependence and addiction, presenting withdrawal symptoms that are impossible to overcome on your own. Medical detox is the best approach for those looking to quit Percocet, and it involves the close oversight of professionals to ensure your health and safety.