Percocet is a widely prescribed opioid painkiller medication that has helped many people manage severe short-term pain. However, it has also become a major contributor to the ongoing opioid epidemic due to its high potential for misuse, addiction and overdose. JourneyPure can help with an addiction to percocets.

What Is Percocet Made Of?

Percocet is a combination drug that contains two active ingredients:

  • Oxycodone: Oxycodone is a powerful semi-synthetic opioid derived from thebaine, a compound found in the opium poppy. As an opioid agonist, it works by binding to and activating opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system, especially the mu-opioid receptor. This reduces the perception of pain, but also produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation by boosting levels of the feel-good brain chemical dopamine. Oxycodone is about 50% more potent than morphine.
  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is a non-opioid painkiller and fever reducer that is the active ingredient in over-the-counter medications like Tylenol. It works by blocking pain signals and reducing inflammation. Acetaminophen enhances the painkilling effects of oxycodone in Percocet.

The ratio of oxycodone to acetaminophen varies in different dosage formulations of Percocet, but the most common is 5 mg of oxycodone combined with 325 mg of acetaminophen. Percocet may also be prescribed at dosage levels of 2.5/325 mg, 7.5/325 mg and 10/325 mg.

When Is Percocet Prescribed?

Doctors usually prescribe Percocet to treat moderate to severe acute pain, such as following surgery, dental work or an injury. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies it as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has an accepted medical use but also a high potential for abuse and addiction. Some common conditions Percocet may be prescribed for include:

  • Post-surgical pain management (e.g. joint replacements, invasive dental work, etc.)
  • Severe injury (e.g. fractures, burns, etc.)
  • Cancer pain
  • Severe headaches or migraines
  • Kidney stones or gallstones
  • Sickle cell pain crises

Percocet is intended for short-term use only, usually no more than 7 days. It is not appropriate for minor aches and pains or chronic long-term pain management due to the risks of physical dependence, addiction and overdose with prolonged use.

How Does Percocet Work in the Body?

When taken orally as prescribed, Percocet tablets are swallowed and broken down by stomach acid, allowing the oxycodone and acetaminophen to be absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the small intestine. The effects usually begin within about 20 to 30 minutes, peak around 60 minutes, and wear off in about 4 to 6 hours.

Once in the bloodstream, oxycodone travels to the brain and binds to mu-opioid receptors, triggering a cascade of chemical reactions. It mimics the effects of endorphins, the body’s natural painkilling chemicals, by reducing the perception of pain. However, it also boosts dopamine, leading to feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Other common effects include drowsiness, mental clouding, nausea, and slowed breathing.

With repeated use, the brain adapts to the flood of exogenous opioids by reducing its production of endorphins and increasing the number of opioid receptors. This leads to tolerance, where higher doses are needed to achieve the same effects. It also causes physical dependence, where the body becomes reliant on opioids to function normally and goes into withdrawal if use is suddenly stopped.

Percocet pills

Percocet pills

Percocet Abuse and the Opioid Epidemic

While many people are able to take Percocet responsibly as prescribed for short periods, the drug’s euphoric effects and addictive potential make it ripe for abuse. People may start misusing their prescriptions by taking higher doses than directed, taking it more frequently, or combining it with other drugs or alcohol. Some people crush and snort the pills to achieve a more rapid and intense high.

Percocet misuse can quickly escalate to addiction, a chronic brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite negative consequences. Common signs of Percocet addiction include:

  • Persistent cravings for the drug
  • Increasing time spent obtaining and using Percocet
  • Neglecting work, school, or family responsibilities due to drug use
  • Mood swings, irritability, and defensiveness about drug use
  • Continuing to use despite physical or psychological problems
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit

Percocet addiction often develops through a combination of genetic, environmental and psychological factors. People with a personal or family history of substance abuse, mental illness, trauma, and chronic stress are at higher risk.

Statistics on Percocet and Opioid Use

The availability of prescription opioids like Percocet continues to be a significant factor in the opioid epidemic. In 2018, 15% of Americans had at least one opioid prescription filled, a decrease from 17% in 2017. The overall national opioid dispensing rate has seen a steady decline, from a rate of 46.8 opioid prescriptions dispensed per 100 persons in 2019 to a rate of 39.5 opioid prescriptions dispensed per 100 persons in 2022.

This exposure to opioids has led to an increase in opioid misuse and addiction. According to recent data, an estimated 2.5 million people aged 18 and older had an opioid use disorder in the past year in 2021, an increase from 2.1 million in 2017.

The consequences of Percocet addiction remain devastating, leading to strained relationships, job loss, legal troubles, and financial ruin. It also increases the risk of transitioning to cheaper, more readily available illegal opioids like heroin. The percentage of heroin users who first misused prescription opioids remains at approximately 80%.

Opioid overdose deaths have continued to rise dramatically. In 2022, there were over 107,941 drug overdose deaths, with synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, involved in over 70,000 of those overdose deaths. This is a significant increase from the 47,000 lives claimed by opioid overdose deaths in 2017. These numbers represent real people who are impacted by the opioid crisis, highlighting the importance of seeking professional help if struggling with opioid addiction.

Withdrawal and Detox

One of the reasons Percocet addiction can be so difficult to overcome is the intense withdrawal syndrome that occurs when use is reduced or stopped. Opioid withdrawal is rarely life-threatening but can be extremely unpleasant, with flu-like physical symptoms and severe psychological distress.

Common Percocet withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Sweating and chills
  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Insomnia and restless legs
  • Drug cravings

Symptoms typically begin within 8-12 hours of the last dose, peak within 1-3 days, and gradually subside over the course of a week or so. However, some people may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms like depression, fatigue and insomnia for weeks or months.

Attempting to quit Percocet cold turkey can be dangerous and is often unsuccessful due to the intensity of withdrawal. The safest and most effective way to withdraw from Percocet is through a medically-supervised detox program.

Detox

In a detox program, patients are closely monitored and given medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Options may include:

  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone): A partial opioid agonist that activates the opioid receptors enough to suppress withdrawal and cravings without producing a high. It can be taken daily in an outpatient setting.
  • Methadone: A long-acting full opioid agonist that is taken daily to prevent withdrawal and reduce cravings. It is only available through specialized outpatient clinics.
  • Clonidine: A blood pressure medication that can help reduce anxiety, agitation, sweating and runny nose during withdrawal.

With a slow, medically-supervised taper, many people are able to successfully detox from Percocet with minimal discomfort. However, detox is only the first step in recovery from Percocet addiction.

Addiction Treatment at JourneyPure

Detox addresses the physical aspects of Percocet dependence, but further treatment is necessary to tackle the psychological and behavioral components of addiction. At JourneyPure’s drug rehab centers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida, we offer comprehensive evidence-based treatment programs to help people overcome Percocet addiction for the long-term.

Treatment plans are personalized to each client’s unique needs and may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to identify and change negative thought patterns and develop healthy coping skills
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to improve emotional regulation and distress tolerance
  • Individual and group counseling to address the underlying issues that contribute to addiction
  • Family therapy to repair relationships and build a supportive home environment
  • 12-step facilitation to connect with peer support groups like Narcotics Anonymous
  • Medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine or methadone to reduce cravings and prevent relapse
  • Dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions like depression, anxiety or PTSD
  • Holistic therapies like yoga, meditation, art therapy and equine therapy
  • Aftercare planning and relapse prevention to maintain long-term sobriety

At JourneyPure, we understand that recovering from Percocet addiction is a journey that looks different for everyone. Our compassionate team of addiction specialists is dedicated to providing the highest quality care to help you heal physically, mentally and spiritually.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Percocet addiction, don’t wait to reach out for help. Call JourneyPure today at 888-985-2207 to learn more about our personalized treatment programs and start your path to a healthier, happier life in recovery. We’re here for you every step of the way.

Staff Spotlight

Will Long


Writer
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • years in the field

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