Percocet Addiction and Abuse
As one of the leading drivers of the ongoing opioid epidemic, Percocet addiction is dangerous and can be extremely difficult to overcome on your own.
Percocet is an opioid that plays a significant role in the ongoing opioid epidemic. Because Percocet abuse and addiction are possible, the drug carries the risk of dangerous complications like an overdose. If you or a loved one take Percocet, it is important to know the dangers of Percocet addiction.
What Is Percocet?
Percocet is a combination medication containing the opioid oxycodone and the analgesic acetaminophen. The drug is a Schedule II controlled substance with a high risk for abuse, addiction and dependence. Doctors commonly prescribe Percocet for acute pain or following surgery. In 2019, acetaminophen/oxycodone products like Percocet were prescribed to 3.8 million Americans.
Effects of Percocet
Percocet exerts its effects through its actions on the brain’s mu opioid receptors. When this receptor is triggered, pain relief occurs. Opioids like Percocet also activate the brain’s reward circuit, causing a euphoric high and putting a person at risk for addiction.
Percocet works similarly to most other opioids and, like other opioids, is a controlled substance with a high risk of addiction. Like other opioids, Percocet is generally taken by mouth but can be abused in different ways, like snorting or injecting.
Regarding potency, Percocet is a mid-range opioid. It is stronger than codeine, hydrocodone (the opioid in Vicodin) and morphine. However, it is weaker than fentanyl, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and methadone.
Side Effects of Percocet
- Nausea or vomiting
- Mood changes (including euphoria)
- Itchy skin
Except for constipation, most Percocet side effects resolve the longer a person stays on the medication.
Percocet has many drug interactions, including:
- Rifampin, carbamazepine and phenytoin can lessen the effectiveness of Percocet. If you are on one of these medications and suddenly stop, you are at a higher risk of a Percocet overdose.
- Central nervous system depressants like benzodiazepines, muscle relaxants and alcohol can increase the risk of overdose.
- Antidepressants increase the risk of a dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome.
- Diuretics may not work as well if a person takes Percocet.
- Some blood pressure drugs may increase the effects of acetaminophen in Percocet.
As a central nervous system depressant, one of the biggest dangers is mixing Percocet with other central nervous system depressants, which can increase the risk of overdose.
Percocet and Benzodiazepines
Mixing Percocet with benzodiazepine drugs like Ativan (lorazepam) or Valium (diazepam) is very dangerous and can increase the risk of overdose. For this reason, the FDA has a boxed warning on opioids like Percocet and benzodiazepines to caution people from mixing benzos and opioids. In 2020, 16% of opioid overdose deaths also involved a benzo.
Percocet and Alcohol
Mixing Percocet with alcohol is dangerous and can increase the risk of overdose and death. The FDA has a boxed warning on Percocet informing people of the dangers of mixing Percocet and alcohol. You should avoid drinking while on Percocet for this reason.
Taking Percocet While Pregnant
You should only take Percocet while you are pregnant if your doctor prescribes it to you. Experts state that opioids like Percocet can be prescribed during pregnancy if other ways cannot adequately treat the mother’s pain.
If you are pregnant and illicitly taking Percocet, your doctor may be able to switch you to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) like methadone to reduce the risk of harm to you and your baby.
Percocet and Breastfeeding
Percocet can be taken while breastfeeding and is commonly prescribed for a few days following delivery. Experts recommend limiting Percocet to a maximum daily dose of 30mg and continuing the medication for no more than two to three days following delivery, as it can cause sedation in the baby.
Similarly, you should avoid taking illicit Percocet if breastfeeding. Percocet passes into the breastmilk and can cause side effects in the newborn, including sedation or even overdose at high doses. If you struggle with Percocet and are breastfeeding, your doctor may recommend medication-assisted treatment (MAT) like methadone.
Is Percocet Addictive?
Percocet carries a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence as a Schedule II controlled substance. Oxycodone, the opioid component of Percocet, may also be more likely to cause addiction than other opioids. Experts suspect this may be one reason oxycodone has been at the center of the opioid epidemic, with the number of prescriptions for the drug skyrocketing by more than 800% between 1997–2007.
The Percocet High
A Percocet high can feel like euphoria or relaxation to many people. Those who struggle with opioids often say oxycodone-containing drugs like Percocet are one of their favorite drugs to get high, partly due to the low number of side effects Percocet causes compared to other opioids.
Percocet Addiction Signs & Symptoms
When someone struggles with an opioid like Percocet, there are often signs and symptoms in a person’s behavior. Loved ones may first notice these symptoms long before it becomes obvious the person is becoming addicted to Percocet. Signs include:
- Taking more Percocet or over a longer time than originally intended
- Unsuccessful attempts to cut back on Percocet
- Spending a lot of time trying to procure, use or recover from Percocet. This includes going to different doctors or pharmacies to try to get a Percocet prescription.
- Craving Percocet
- Failure to fulfill obligations at work, school or home due to Percocet
- Continuing to use Percocet despite it causing problems in your life
- Giving up or reducing important activities because of Percocet
- Using Percocet even when it is dangerous
- Needing increasing doses of Percocet to achieve the same effects you initially got
- Withdrawal effects when you try to quit Percocet
Risk Factors for Percocet Addiction
Many risk factors exist for addiction to Percocet and other substances. Some risk factors can be controlled by the person, while others cannot. They include:
- Taking Percocet more often or more frequently than prescribed
- Taking Percocet that does not belong to you
- Living in an environment where people do drugs
- Having an unstable family environment
- Having a rebellious or non-conforming personality
- Being unemployed
- Having mental health problems
Percocet and Co-occurring Disorders
Mental health problems like anxiety and depression are closely linked to substance abuse and addiction. Some people may use substances like Percocet to self-medicate their mental health conditions. Unfortunately, becoming addicted to a substance can worsen mental health conditions and vice versa. Additionally, if you have a mental health condition and are addicted to a substance, it can be much harder to cut back or quit without help.
Percocet has a high overdose potential, especially when combined with other central nervous system depressants like benzos or opioids. In 2020, more than 68,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose, and more than 16,000 died from prescription opioids like Percocet.
A Percocet overdose has symptoms similar to those of other opioid overdoses and includes:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Muscle weakness
- Cold and clammy skin
- Small pupils
- Shallow breathing
- Slow heartbeat
- Possible death
If you suspect a person is overdosing on Percocet, you should administer naloxone (Narcan) if available and call 911.
Percocet withdrawal symptoms can occur when a person takes the drug regularly and suddenly quits. Withdrawal often starts within 12 hours of the last use, peaks within the next 24–48 hours and resolves over three to five days. Symptoms can include:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose and eyes
- Enlarged pupils
- Abdominal cramps and diarrhea
- Nausea and vomiting
Percocet Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one struggles with Percocet, quitting without help can be very difficult. Percocet withdrawal can be tough to manage alone, and cravings for the drug may cause you to seek it out again, increasing your risk of overdose. One of the best ways to quit Percocet is by seeking help through a medical detox facility. In medical detox, you convert to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with a drug like buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) as medically appropriate. This eases your withdrawal experience and fights both cravings and overdose potential. Additional inpatient and outpatient rehab after completing medical detox can help you stay away from Percocet for good. The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper will be with you every step of the way as you overcome your Percocet addiction: contact us today to see how we can help.
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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.