Percocet is a prescription painkiller that includes the powerful synthetic opioid oxycodone and acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol.) Percocet, like all opioids and opiates, is addictive because when used, it activates the reward center of the brain. Percocet addiction can develop over time when a person uses or misuses the drug regularly.
When Percocet is consumed, it releases a massive amount of dopamine – a chemical that induces intense feelings of well-being or euphoria. As the brain attempts to adjust to this uncharacteristic surge of dopamine, both dependence and tolerance can develop.
Dependence forms over time as neurons in the brain adapt to the repeated presence of drugs or alcohol, and can no longer function properly. When someone is dependent on a substance, they will experience highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit or cut back. Often, this is a primary reason why people relapse.
Percocet withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Watery eyes/runny nose
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle aches
Dependence develops when brain neurons adapt to the repeated drug exposure and only function normally when the drug is present in the user’s system.
Tolerance also forms due to repeated exposure. With regular use, the person experiences less response from the drug that they are accustomed, and therefore, need increasing amounts of the substance in order to achieve the desired effect.
Symptoms of Percocet Addiction
Percocet addiction can result in a number of side effects, including:
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbances
- Low blood pressure
- Lowered breathing rate
- Impaired coordination
In addition to physical and mental problems, users may also engage in risky behavior such as driving while intoxicated, become involved in illegal activity, or fail to meet important work, family, or school obligations.
Not all people who are addicted to Percocet have prescriptions. Sometimes they are purchased or somehow obtained from friends and family. They are also a common product of drug diversion, sold on the street or on the dark web illicitly.
Percocet can also be obtained through forged prescriptions or multiple doctors and pharmacies (doctor shopping.)
Someone who is dependent on Percocet may be more likely to use other substances such as alcohol or heroin.
While an overdose of Percocet on its own can be fatal, death is even more likely to occur when Percocet is used in conjunction with other central nervous system depressants.
A Percocet overdose can include any or all of the following symptoms:
- Muscle weakness, limpness of the extremities
- Difficult, uneven, or labored breathing
- Fatigue or stupor
- Nausea, vomiting, or gagging
- Cyanosis – blue or purple discoloration of lips and nails
- Seizures and body spasms
- Fainting spells
- Respiratory arrest
Consuming high doses of Percocet can also result in poisoning from acetaminophen. Symptoms include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in stomach or abdominal region
- Profuse sweating or clammy skin
- Feelings of irritability or confusion
Other complications from a Percocet overdose include kidney or liver failure, liver damage, urinary infection, chronic constipation, and a compromised immune system.
How Much Percocet Does It Take to Overdose?
The standard Percocet dose is 5-10mg of oxycodone per 325mg of acetaminophen, taken every six hours as needed for pain. Someone with a low tolerance to opioids could suffer overdose symptoms at just four 10mg doses.
But another danger lies with exposure to high amounts of acetaminophen, which can cause permanent damage to the liver, and when taken in doses of more than 10,000mg within 24 hours, death is likely imminent without treatment.
How Long Does Percocet Stay in Your System?
Percocet has a half-life of 3.5 hours, meaning that depending on individual factors, this is about the time for half a dose of Percocet to be purged from a user’s system. Furthermore, it takes an average of 19 hours to eliminate Percocet from the body completely.
This process may take longer for heavy, long-term users, however, as the drug is absorbed into the body’s fatty tissues when there’s more Percocet in the system that the person’s liver can handle.
Treatment for Percocet Addiction
Treating Percocet addiction usually begins with a medical detox. During detox, the patient is supervised by clinicians while their body cleanses itself of drugs or alcohol. In many cases, medication can be administered to mitigate withdrawal symptoms.
Undergoing a medical detox also ensures the patient does not have access to substances or situations that would trigger a relapse during this critical time.
After discharge, patients should be admitted to our center for no less than 30 days of intensive inpatient or outpatient treatment. During this time, patients participate in individual and group therapy, counseling, 12-step meetings, and other holistic approaches such as music and art therapy.
By promoting participation in multiple therapeutic activities, we aim to foster sobriety using a comprehensive approach and reduce the likelihood that patients will relapse after discharge.
After residential treatment is completed at our center, patients often move into an approved sober living home where they can continue their progress under reduced supervision while still residing in a safe, supportive environment.
We also offer aftercare support and alumni activities that help former patients stay engaged in their recovery long-term.
If you or your loved one is suffering from substance abuse, please seek help as soon as possible.