Percocet is a prescription painkiller that is made up of a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen. Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller and acetaminophen is an over-the-counter, non-addictive pain reliever. Though many individuals are prescribed Percocet to reduce pain after an injury or invasive procedure, misuse of this medication can pose a significant threat and may cause addiction.
How Does Percocet Work?
Because Percocet is a combination of an opioid painkiller (oxycodone) and a non-opioid pain reliever (acetaminophen), it can be used to treat moderate to severe levels of pain. The oxycodone attaches to opioid receptors within the brain, minimizing the transmission of pain across these receptors. Though acetaminophen is not addictive, it does increase the effects of the opioid to enhance the pain relief felt by the user.
Effects of Percocet
When used as prescribed, Percocet relieves pain and fever and can help a person through the healing process if they are injured or are healing from surgery. When misused, however, it can cause addiction and other adverse effects such as:
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Lightheadedness or Dizziness
- Serious Interactions (such as with other medications, drugs, or alcohol)
- Slowed Breathing
- Addiction or Dependence
- Mood Swings
People taking Percocet should not take other opioid painkillers or medications that also cause drowsiness or pain relief as this could increase certain side effects and cause an individual to lose consciousness. Mixing Percocet with alcohol is also extremely dangerous as it can enhance the effect of the opioid and cause an overdose.
Why Is Percocet Addictive?
The main reason why Percocet can become so addictive is because of its opioid properties. When taken, Percocet takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes before the effects are felt, but it can be in a person’s bloodstream for up to 24 hours. The amount that a person is prescribed and how often they take it depends on their specific condition and what their doctor feels is an appropriate amount. That being said, people often feel the need to take a higher dose of these medications because the effects are not the same the more they take Percocet.
As more of this medication is taken, the effects tend to ware off sooner, and more is required to achieve those same effects. Users will take even more of the drug, and if their doctor stops prescribing a dose, they may seek alternative methods of opioids.
Signs of Percocet Abuse
When people abuse Percocet or are in need of more in order to reach that same high as when they took their first dose, they may begin to use more or find other opioids that can be used to achieve that same high. Because Percocet is a prescription medication, it can be difficult to determine when someone is abusing the medication or when they are at risk for addiction. Some of the aspects of addiction that can be seen with Percocet users include:
- Doctor Shopping – When one doctor stops prescribing individuals with Percocet, users may move to a different clinic and try to find a different prescribing physician.
- Withdrawn Behavior – People who suffer from addiction tend to withdraw from their friends or family members who might notice symptoms of addiction.
- New Friends – Along with withdrawing from friends and family they once used to hang out with, users may start hanging out with other people who abuse Percocet or other drugs because it is easier to be around people with similar interests.
- Being unable to stop using prescription painkillers despite the desire of wanting to stop.
- Increased Tolerance – As an individual uses more and more of the drug, their tolerance for that drug increases. In order to meet that increased tolerance, more drugs are needed in order to achieve the same effects.
- Withdrawal Symptoms – Once the person begins using an increased dosage of Percocet, their body may begin to induce symptoms of withdrawal so that the user takes more. Those symptoms are often uncomfortable, possibly painful, and may lead to more drug use in the long run.
- Overdose – Using an increased amount of Percocet or mixing drugs in order to achieve that same high may lead to an overdose, which could be deadly.
Treating Percocet Addiction
The best way to treat a Percocet addiction is through a treatment facility that specializes in opioid addiction. Depending on the level of abuse, clients may also need to be detoxed under medical supervision. Once detox is complete, clients will then work with their specific treatment team to design a program that addresses their individual addiction. Some of the most effective treatment services available include:
- Inpatient or PHP Programs
- Medication Assistance
- Coping Skill Development
- Trauma Therapy
- DBT or CBT
- Mindfulness Training
- 12-Step Programs
- Relapse Prevention Training
Though there is not one specific method of treating Percocet addiction, clients are encouraged to work with their treatment team to plan a program that addresses their addiction while also preparing them for a life of sobriety. A well-rounded treatment program can help meet the needs of the entire individual, but the first step is to seek help and commit to the recovery process.