Percocet is a popular prescription medication given for pain. It is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen. Oxycodone is an opioid, which is also referred to as a narcotic. Acetaminophen works with oxycodone to increase its effect to reduce pain. Because of the opioid ingredient, it can lead to dependency and addiction.
Nearly 12.5 million Americans age 12 and up have taken a prescription painkiller for a reason other than to reduce pain. Of those who have abused a prescription medication, over four million have done so with a pain reliever like Percocet. This information is from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and shows how serious of a problem prescription medication addiction has become.
Because Percocet is an opioid like heroin, morphine and other opiates, it can lead to addiction. While it is given as a pain reliever in prescription form, the medication must be monitored to ensure abuse doesn’t result. It works similar to heroin by impacting the pain receptors in the brain and the central nervous system to change the brain’s ability to recognize pain.
When taken as directed, most people will not become addicted to Percocet. However, when it is taken in high doses, it creates a feeling of euphoria, known as a “high”, which is similar to illicit drugs like heroin. Just like with those other drugs, Percocet stops working and more must be taken to achieve the same effects. Many times, a person will be given a prescription for a real medical condition. If the Percocet becomes less effective, the person may increase the dose on their own without consulting with a doctor. Some people are prone to addiction because of genetics and other factors. When they take the medication, they quickly develop a tolerance and require a higher dosage.
Another group of people who abuse Percocet are those who try it just for the high. They may have a friend or family member taking the prescription, so they take one of the pills. Some try it due to peer pressure or to deal with boredom or anxiety. Still others may self-medicate with Percocet to deal with a mental health disorder. People can often function and lead productive lives even while abusing this prescription medication until the addiction becomes severe.
Many people assume that because Percocet is a prescription medication it is safer than illicit drugs. However, there are risks with abusing this medication just like with heroin or morphine. As the body becomes addicted to having the medication present in the system, it develops withdrawal symptoms when the Percocet is gone. The medication alters the brain and system, so that when it isn’t present, the body sends out warning signals that something is wrong.
When a person abruptly stops taking Percocet, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. When a doctor prescribes the medication, they may gradually reduce the dosage until the person no longer needs the medication. When a person is abusing it and stops because they cannot access it, they suffer from a variety of symptoms that are uncomfortable but not generally life-threatening.
These withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Agitation and irritability
- Mood swings
- Muscle aches
- Sweating or chills
These symptoms most often occur when someone tries to stop taking Percocet on their own or if they cannot obtain more of the medication. To avoid withdrawal, a person should seek out the help of a medical provider or drug treatment center.
When someone does seek out help for Percocet addiction, they will have to remove the medication from their system. This happens with detoxification, which enables the body to readjust to life without the substance.
Detox is the first step in treating addiction. When completed in a medical facility or treatment center, the person will be less likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. They may be prescribed methadone or clonidine to help with the process. Both medications have been successful in the treatment of opioid addiction.
Methadone blocks the euphoric feelings and prevents the highs and lows often associated with opiates. It helps reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms and reduces the risk of relapse. Clonidine relaxes blood vessels and slows down the heart rate, helping the person to relax.
Detoxification can last for several days before the person is ready for treatment. It’s important for them to seek out treatment or they will be more likely to relapse. Treatment may be inpatient or outpatient, depending on the severity of the addiction and the patient’s need. They may receive counseling to deal with underlying issues that contributed to the addiction. The person will also learn how to prevent future problems by avoiding pain medications with addictive properties.
The Risks of Percocet Addiction
One of the greatest dangers of Percocet addiction is the idea that it is safer than illicit drugs because it is prescribed by a doctor. Some people start out with a prescription, and then they increase the dosage or frequency on their own. Others choose to take Percocet when they decide to experiment with drugs. They may know someone who takes the medication, and they are either offered a pill or they take it secretly.
Percocet can slow a person’s breathing, which may result in them not breathing at all. They may choke and go into a coma. If they overdose on the medication, they may even die. A person who uses Percocet may mix it with alcohol or other drugs to intensify the results. Many times, this mixture turns out to be a lethal combination. Overdose symptoms include dizziness, fainting, problems breathing, cold and clammy skin, sleepiness, weak muscles, loss of consciousness and respiratory failure. It’s important to call for emergency medical help if you suspect a loved one has overdosed on Percocet.
Just as with any drug addiction, dependency on Percocet can impact a person’s performance at work or school. It may hurt their relationships and lead to other risky behaviors. A person who uses Percocet illegally may engage in illegal behaviors such as forging a prescription or stealing one from others.
Another danger when taking Percocet illegally is in experimenting with other drugs, especially other opioids. If the prescription becomes too difficult to obtain, the person may be willing to try morphine or heroin off the street. Heroin is even more addictive and often leads to overdose and death.
Signs of Percocet Addiction
If you have a loved one who was given a Percocet prescription for pain relief, you may suspect an addiction. A person who is addicted or abusing the medication may exhibit some of the following symptoms:
- Slowed breathing rate
- Low blood pressure
- Mood swings
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Lack of coordination
When it becomes difficult to get a prescription for Percocet, the person may attempt to steal from others or go to a second doctor to obtain a new prescription. They may try to forge a prescription or come up with excuses about losing it to try to get a new one.
Someone who has become addicted to Percocet may visit multiple doctors to get more than one prescription. They often appear excitable or agitated. On the other hand, the person may show signs of being sedated or extremely fatigued.
Percocet addiction is a real condition that affects many. Withdrawal and detox from the prescription medication is necessary, but it is only safe when handled in a medical facility or drug rehab. If you have a loved one who is addicted to this medication, encourage them to seek help. With the right treatment, they can become drug-free.
If someone you love is struggling with alcoholism or addiction and you need help, or just have questions, please call Lighthouse Treatment Center today. We are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Help is available now