Because Percocet contains the opioid drug oxycodone, thousands of people in the United States have developed an addiction to it. Although many people who suffer from an opioid dependence eventually move on to more potent drugs, such as heroin, the wide availability of Percocet continues to be a gateway for many into opioid addiction.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 1,000 people visit emergency rooms every day to receive treatment for opioid overdose. In 2014, nearly two million Americans reported struggling with opioid abuse. It is likely that about one-quarter of those who receive an opioid prescription to treat non-cancer pain, such as Percocet, will develop an opioid use disorder.
The withdrawal symptoms associated with overcoming physiological dependence on opioids like Percocet are very rarely life-threatening, but they may be extremely uncomfortable. It is essential to work closely with a physician to detox safely from these drugs, which may involve a replacement medication such as buprenorphine, or easing pain, diarrhea, and nausea using over-the-counter medications.
Oxycodone present in Percocet attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, identical to other opioids, including heroin. These receptors react to pain signals in the body, and taking an opioid drug mitigates sensations of pain. However, Percocet also interacts with the brain’s reward system, releasing serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters that boost mood.
When a dependent person discontinues opioid use abruptly, especially after using them for an extended period, the brain is unable to regulate the balance of neurotransmitters in the same capacity as when Percocet was present. This effect leads to temporary withdrawal symptoms as the system reestablishes chemical equilibrium.
Withdrawal symptoms produced by opioid use may onset a few hours after the last dose has been eliminated from the body. This timeline varies depending on the drug’s halflife and the severity of the dependence. Percocet is found in both regular and extended-release versions, and the half-life of the standard formula is just over three hours, while the extended-release version has a half-life of more than four hours.
A person’s body is considered to be clear of the drug after five half-life cycles. Withdrawal symptoms onset after the drug has been eliminated from the brain. For Percocet withdrawal, symptoms will usually begin between 5-8 hours after the last use.
Stages of Percocet Withdrawal
Percocet withdrawal consists of three overlapping stages: early, peak, and late. Percocet withdrawal symptoms will vary somewhat in each stage.
For most short-acting opioids, this occurs within the first 8-16 hours after the last dose. Symptoms will be mainly physical, although anxiety, cravings, insomnia, and restlessness may be present as well.
Most symptoms of Percocet withdrawal resemble a cold or the flu and include the following:
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Aches and pains
- Goosebumps, chills or shivering
- Involuntary twitching
Symptoms will increase in severity for the first 36 hours of withdrawal and reach their peak within 2-3 days. Symptoms include increased intensity of aches and pains as well as flu-like symptoms.
The person may also report abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Because opioids cause constipation and loss of appetite, as the drug is cleared from the system, the body’s digestive system will respond. The person may also feel nauseous and vomit. Psychological symptoms will become more severe, as well.
Psychological symptoms may include the following:
- Irritability and agitation
The person’s heart and breathing rate may also increase since opioids depress both of these functions, and this effect may feel like anxiety.
With less powerful opioids such as Percocet, withdrawal symptoms should subside within one week to 10 days. Physical symptoms will dissipate, and the brain will begin producing more of its own neurotransmitters, so mood should improve as well.
However, after this stage, the person may still feel tired, sluggish, or mildly sick, but these symptoms will continue to abate over time. Long-term psychological effects caused by addiction include cravings, anxiety, and compulsion to consume the drug, and these symptoms may persist for much longer. For this reason, entering a rehab program after detox is essential for long-term recovery.
Treatment for Percocet Addiction
Addiction to opioids is not directly curable, but it is treatable. Research has shown that the most effective treatment programs maintain a comprehensive approach to addiction that includes evidence-based treatments such as behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, and group support.
Harmony Treatment and Wellness employs caring addiction specialists who design treatment programs in accordance with each client’s individual needs and goals. We are dedicated to providing every person we treat with the tools and support they require to overcome opioid addiction and reclaim the fulfilling, joyful life they deserve.
If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction to Percocet or other opioids, please contact us today to find out how we can help you on your journey to recovery!