Percocet Addiction & Abuse
By The Recovery Village Ridgefield
Editor Abby Doty | Medically Reviewed By Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Last Updated: May 26, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Percocet is an opioid medication combining oxycodone and acetaminophen for pain relief. It is also a major contributor to the opioid epidemic in the United States. In 2019, an estimated 14 million prescriptions were written for medications containing oxycodone. That same year, Percocet was the 49th most prescribed substance in the country.
Prescription medications are a primary cause of overdose deaths in Washington State. In 2018, over 700 overdose deaths involved opioids in Washington. Washington has 25 licensed opioid use disorder treatment programs that are regulated and evaluated by the state. There are many local treatment options available to begin the recovery process. Seeking treatment for a loved one’s Percocet addiction can save their life.
What Is Percocet Used For?
Percocet is a narcotic prescription painkiller that combines oxycodone and acetaminophen. Chemically, it is similar to morphine, heroin and other opioids. It is often prescribed to treat short- and long-term pain. Examples include post-operative pain and ongoing cancer pain.
Is Percocet Addictive?
Yes, Percocet and other prescriptions that contain oxycodone have a high potential for addiction and abuse. An oxycodone addiction may start with a valid prescription from their doctor. Even when taken exactly as prescribed, opioids can be highly addictive. Patients who take Percocet for the first time may feel a euphoric, high feeling, making it tempting to abuse by taking higher doses or taking it more often than prescribed.
Taking opioids regularly can lead to a person becoming physically dependent. Dependency is when withdrawal symptoms occur after a person tries to stop taking Percocet because the body is used to having it in its system. Withdrawal symptoms are usually uncomfortable and often trigger cravings.
When a person continues to take Percocet even if it’s damaging their health, relationships, or livelihoods, they likely have an addiction. The good news is that a Percocet addiction can be treated with the help of treatment centers like The Recovery Village Ridgefield.
Percocet Addiction Statistics
Percocet abuse statistics in the United States are concerning, as opioid abuse is considered a serious public health problem. Drugs containing opioids are very commonly prescribed to manage ongoing pain. Millions of Americans also use prescription drugs without a prescription.
- Prevalence in Men: Opioid abuse or dependence has been reported as 1.5 times more likely in men compared to women.
- Teen Abuse: Rates of opioid abuse among teens have increased in the U.S., and there is a serious risk of overdose in this group.
- Senior Abuse: Rates of chronic pain are often higher among seniors. Rates of prescription drug abuse are high among seniors, as they may be taking multiple medications and may not have access to frequent care.
Percocet Side Effects
Side effects are common with Percocet and should be reported to your prescribing physician. Certain side effects, like nausea and stomach pain, often go away with continued use. However, other side effects, like constipation, may be continuous throughout use.
Side effects of Percocet use can also include:
- Cough suppression
- Pain relief
- Slowed breathing
- Dry mouth
- Flushed complexion
- Stomach pain
Stay alert and be on the lookout for any social changes if you suspect that a friend, family member or spouse may have issues with Percocet addiction. Has your loved one been isolating themself lately? Additionally, think about your loved one’s daily activities like school, work, and hobbies. Have they been failing at any of these things? Do they not seem as interested in the things they used to be interested in? How are their other relationships? Are they having difficulty with his finances? These can all be signs that a Percocet addiction may be an issue.
Percocet and Alcohol
Percocet and other opioids are depressants because they slow down different functions of the body, including breathing, movement and concentration. The depressant effects of Percocet may be obvious even when taking low doses and are especially prevalent in people who have never taken opioids before.
Alcohol is also a depressant, but it works in different ways. Unlike Percocet, it does not activate opioid receptors. Alcohol works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is responsible for slowing down nerve signals and different systems in the body.
Percocet and alcohol, taken together, are depressants that work in two different ways. Therefore, combining these drugs is extremely dangerous and significantly increases the risk of overdose and potentially fatal symptoms.
When a person takes a high dose of opioids or mixes opioids with other depressant substances, it can result in an overdose. During an overdose, a person’s breathing will slow, and they often lose consciousness. Severe overdose can even result in coma or death.
If you suspect an opioid overdose, look for the following:
- Blue or gray skin
- Extreme sleepiness or unconsciousness
- Slow and shallow breathing
- Snoring or gurgling
Opioid overdose is a medical emergency. If it happens, you should call 911 (or your local emergency services).
If you have naloxone available, the medication should be given to the patient. Naloxone is an opioid overdose reversal agent. However, naloxone has a short effect and will wear off in 30–60 minutes. After this period, the overdose may happen again. If you ever use naloxone, it is important to call 911 right away to continue emergency care.
Stopping Percocet use will usually result in withdrawal symptoms as with any opioid. Percocet withdrawal symptoms might be worse if you have been using the painkiller for a longer period of time or if you’re taking a higher dosage. For this reason, it’s recommended that you seek a medical detox program if you plan on stopping your Percocet use. The risk of relapse is much higher outside of medical detox.
Percocet Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms are usually different for everyone, but the most common Percocet withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle and bone pain
- Cold sweats
- Drug cravings
- Body cramping
- Sleep disturbances
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Withdrawal may occur within as little as one week of stopping Percocet use. They can even happen if a person uses Percocet exactly as prescribed by their doctor.
Detox is often the first stage of addiction treatment. It is the period when the drug is leaving the body and a person experiences withdrawal symptoms. For Percocet, the symptoms may start in 8–24 hours and continue for 4–10 days.
During medical detox, a person has access to a medical team during the withdrawal process. The team may prescribe medications to treat diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, tremor and cravings. Medical detox is a critical period in treatment because the addiction cannot be successfully treated while Percocet is still in the system.
Percocet Addiction Treatment
If you or your loved one is struggling with Percocet misuse and can’t seem to stop on your own, seek treatment for Percocet addiction. Like cancer or diabetes, drug addiction is a disease that can be treated. It takes courage to reach out and ask for help. Fortunately, there are many treatment facilities where you are able to find Percocet addiction treatment.
One such facility is The Recovery Village Ridgefield. With the serene backdrop of the Cascade Mountains, our treatment center is located near Vancouver, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Tacoma, Washington; Eugene, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. We feature medical detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. Contact us if you’re interested in starting a path to recovery. We are here to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
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- Office of the Inspector General (OIG). “FACTSHEET: Washington State’s Oversight of Opioid Prescribing and Monitoring of Opioid Use.” December 2018. Accessed January 12, 2022.
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