Tapering Off Percocet

Percocet is a prescription narcotic pain medication that combines the over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen with the potent opioid oxycodone. Regular Percocet use can rapidly lead to tolerance and dependence even when taken as prescribed, which can cause misuse and abuse. Percocet is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that although it has a valid medical use, it is also associated with a high risk for abuse and addiction.

Percocet use disorders are challenging to overcome. The most effective strategy to quit using Percocet is to work with a medical professional who has experience in treating opioid use disorders and who can tailor a tapering protocol to suit your needs and lifestyle.

Percocet withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable but are generally not dangerous. It is important for people who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms to understand that they are temporary and will subside over time. Common Percocet withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Hot or cold spells
  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate

How To Taper Off Percocet

Taking Percocet for even a few weeks can cause physical dependence. Attempting to quit cold turkey can be very uncomfortable, and tapering the dose over time is the best strategy. There are several different strategies for tapering off Percocet including a direct taper, substitution taper and titration taper.

Direct Taper

A direct taper gradually reduces the dose of Percocet that is taken over the course of several weeks. Direct tapers are the most common strategy used for people who have mild to moderate Percocet use disorders. When done correctly, direct tapers are highly effective. It is important for someone who wants to quit taking Percocet to consult with a medical professional and not try to devise a tapering schedule on their own.

Substitution Taper

A substitution taper is a process of gradually replacing Percocet with another opioid that has a longer half-life than oxycodone, which is the opioid component of Percocet. Substitution tapers can allow the frequency of dosing to be reduced without risking “interdose” withdrawal symptoms (symptoms that develop between doses), which can increase the risk of experiencing a setback.

The goal of a substitution taper is to transition from Percocet, which is difficult to quit, to another opioid that can provide similar pharmacological effects but with a somewhat lower risk of addiction. Common medications that are used in a substitution taper include methadone or buprenorphine. Clonidine is another drug that can help people manage withdrawal symptoms but, unlike methadone and buprenorphine, it does not act on similar pharmacological pathways as oxycodone. People with severe oxycodone dependence may find the most relief through substituting Percocet with morphine.

Substitution tapers must be done under the guidance and supervision of medical professionals who are familiar with opioid dependence and substitution tapering protocols. There is a risk of increasing drug dependence and worsening addiction if a substitution taper is done improperly.

Titration Taper

Titration tapers refer to the process of dissolving a drug in water. Some people believe that titration tapering gives them more control over the drug dose. Titration tapers are risky and are generally undertaken without medical supervision or even a medical consultation.

Percocet should never be titrated without explicit instruction from a medical professional who specializes in addiction. Percocet is a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone, and since acetaminophen is not water-soluble it will not dissolve, which leaves only oxycodone in solution. For people who struggle with pain, the lack of acetaminophen can cause increased pain perception and may result in someone actually increasing their opioid consumption.

It is important to reiterate that Percocet should never be titration tapered. If you are trying to quit using Percocet, make an appointment with an addiction specialist who can create the most appropriate tapering schedule for your needs and lifestyle.

Percocet Taper Schedule

Percocet tapering schedules can be very different from one person to another. Factors that influence the tapering schedule include the degree of dependence, the dose amount and frequency, age and the person’s mental and physical health status.

People who have taken Percocet for weeks or months may be prescribed a tapering schedule that reduces the dose by 10% per week. People who have taken Percocet for more than a year, or who have extreme dependence or withdrawal symptoms, may respond more favorably to a tapering regimen that is reduced by 10% per month.

Medically-Assisted Percocet Detox

People with serious Percocet dependence may find that they have the most success overcoming the early challenges of a tapering schedule with around-the-clock care from medical professionals. Medically-assisted detox is conducted in a rehab facility that can provide 24/7 access to rehab specialists, therapists and medical staff who can address physical and psychological concerns as they arise. When appropriate, medications that can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms may be provided.

Percocet is a challenging drug to stop using, especially without help. If you are facing an opioid use disorder, contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to speak with a representative and learn how our comprehensive rehab programs can help you achieve a healthier future.

Murphy, Laura; et al. “Guidance on opioid tapering in the context of chronic pain: Evidence, practical advice and frequently asked questions.” Canadian Pharmacists Journal, February 2018. Accessed September 25, 2019.

Kleber, Herbert D. “Pharmacologic treatments for opioid dependence: detoxification and maintenance options.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, December 2007. Accessed September 25, 2019.

Lee A. Kral; Jackson, Kenneth; Uritsky, Tanya J. “A practical guide to tapering opioids.” Mental Health Clinician, May 2015. Accessed September 25, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Pocket Guide: Tapering Opioids for Chronic Pain.” Accessed September 26, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.