Treatment Facilities to Help with Getting off Percocet Addiction
Help Quitting Percocet
Percocet is a brand name prescription painkiller that contains oxycodone and acetaminophen. As an opioid, Percocet shares chemical traits with drugs like heroin and is likewise similarly abused for its euphoric high. Percocet is effective for the short-term pharmacologic management of significantly severe pain; however, it must be used very carefully. Misuse of the drug can quickly lead someone down the path to addiction. Not only that, but overdose from Percocet can cause fatal respiratory depression. If you or someone you care about is suffering from an addiction to Percocet, the good news is that there is hope. Treatment for opioid addiction is available and includes detox, maintenance medications, therapy, and aftercare.
What Is Percocet?
As a potent painkiller, Percocet is appropriate for people whose pain cannot be controlled through alternative means.1,2 Prescription painkillers such as Percocet are in the opioid class of medications, and these drugs act on the opioid receptors of the brain to reduce feelings of pain. These drugs also initiate a large release of dopamine in the brain and, in significantly high doses, can cause a powerful and addictive high.3
When a person takes Percocet, feelings of pain decrease. The cause of the pain doesn’t go away, but the brain’s perception of it is diminished. In addition to the opioid-induced analgesia, most people feel somewhat relaxed or drowsy after taking Percocet. Depending on the dose and method of administration, the user might also feel euphoric.
The side effects of Percocet are usually mild when a person takes the drug according to a physician’s prescribed orders. However, when Percocet is abused, it is more likely that increasingly intense and possibly dangerous side effects will occur. These side effects include:4
- Pupillary constriction.
- Slowed pulse rate.
- Decreased blood pressure.
- Respiratory depression or other breathing irregularities.
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Signs of Abuse
When taken as prescribed, Percocet can be a safe and effective painkiller. However, many people enjoy the feeling it gives them and may begin to take more than prescribed to get high and/or to overcome a growing tolerance.
People taking the drug merely to get high may turn to crushing up the drug and snorting or injecting it in an attempt to achieve an intensified rush. Aside from the physical complications this may cause, including perforated nasal septum (secondary to repeated intranasal administration) and disease transmission (a risk associated with injectable routes), the drug effects themselves may be heightened—making overdose more likely.4
Percocet dependence can develop quickly, and when it does, users often continue taking the drug simply to avoid the withdrawal pain that comes with stopping or cutting back. As addiction takes hold, a person may go to more than one doctor to obtain multiple prescriptions, or even engage in criminal activity, such as illegally buying Percocet or stealing it from friends, family, or a workplace where Percocet is available.
More than 90 people die every day in the United States from an opioid overdose. People may also abuse Percocet in combination with alcohol or benzodiazepines to intensify the high. Percocet, like other opioid painkillers, impacts the brain’s respiratory center, and alone can slow breathing rate. Taking Percocet with alcohol or benzodiazepines—two other central nervous system depressants—is extremely dangerous since it greatly increases the risk of severely depressed respiration and possibly coma or death.5
Abuse of opioid painkillers like Percocet can be deadly. More than 90 people die every day in the United States from an opioid overdose.3
Recognizing and Handling an Overdose
If you or your loved one takes Percocet or other opioids, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose. The signs of an overdose include:1-3
- Pale skin, which is often clammy.
- Shallow respiration, or completely stopped breathing.
- Lips and/or fingernails turning bluish or purple (cyanosis).
- An inability to communicate.
- Extreme drowsiness.
- Loss of consciousness.
Every second matters when a person is overdosing on opioids such as Percocet. You should call 911 for immediate medical attention if you suspect an opioid overdose.
In some cases, naloxone (Narcan) can reverse the effects of overdose. Many first responders, such as EMTs and police officers, now carry naloxone with them so that they can administer it in the field, reducing wait times for treatment and increasing the chances of success.3
Naloxone is being made increasingly available to those who are abusing opioids and their loved ones.3 Some cities provide community training on naloxone and how to use it. If you love someone who is abusing Percocet, inquire with your pharmacy about the availability of naloxone in your area and learn more about how to administer it in case of emergency.
Long-Term Effects of Percocet Abuse
There are numerous long-term effects associated with Percocet abuse. Among the symptoms that you or a loved one may experience after long-term abuse include:6
- Dry mouth and mucous membranes.
- Slowing of the intestinal tract and chronic constipation which could lead to complications such as bowel obstruction or perforation.
- Erectile dysfunction in males.
- Menstrual problems in females, such as irregular periods.
- A perforated nasal septum (if snorting the drug).
If you inject Percocet, the number of risks associated with long-term abuse dramatically increases. The added consequences of injecting include:6
- Skin infections.
- Hardening of the veins.
- Heart infections.
- Contraction of HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and other communicable diseases.
Apart from the negative health impact of long-term Percocet misuse, there are several other consequences to consider. One of the most serious is the elevated suicide risk. People who abuse opioids have a higher risk of suicide attempts and completed suicides. This may be influenced by the devastation that living with opioid addiction can cause. People suffering from Percocet addiction may experience significant strain including:6
- Depressive episodes.
- Serious family conflict.
- Unemployment/erratic work record.
- Criminal charges for drug possession, selling drugs, or stealing to support a drug habit.
Withdrawal and Detox
It doesn’t take long to develop a physical dependence to Percocet; it can happen over a period of days or weeks of continued use.2 When you’ve become dependent on the drug, you may find you need to take it to feel “normal,” and when you don’t have enough in your system (the amount you’re used to), you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms such as:2,6
- Excessive sweating.
- Tearing of the eyes.
- Runny nose.
- Dilated pupils.
- Aching muscles.
- Stomach cramps.
- High blood pressure.
- Rapid respiration and heart rate.
While acute Percocet withdrawal can be very unpleasant and uncomfortable, it is seldom medically dangerous. Complications may arise in some cases, however. For example, some people may experience such intense nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea that they become dehydrated and require intravenous fluids.7 It is also possible that you may experience a worsening of anxiety if you have an anxiety/panic disorder.7 You might also experience acute depression and/or suicidal thoughts.6 Because of these risks, you may feel safer and more comfortable withdrawing in a medical detox program.
You may have heard of people quitting Percocet or other opioids on their own by “going cold turkey.” However, this process is risky, insofar as many people find the symptoms so painful that they relapse back onto opioids to relieve their discomfort. Relapse risk is also tied into overdose risk because, after a period of sobriety, the body’s tolerance goes down. So if you’ve attempted to get clean, achieved some duration of abstinence, but then go back to your usual dose, you could overwhelm your body and overdose.
Physical dependence and addiction are related phenomena, but they are often confused as synonymous concepts. If you take Percocet only for the period it was prescribed, you can still develop some degree of physiological dependence and experience a relatively mild withdrawal syndrome, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re addicted. It means simply that your body has adapted to Percocet and needs to re-adapt to the lack of it in the system when you stop.
Physical dependence is extremely common among those who are addicted, but the main indicator of addiction is the compulsive drug-seeking and using that happens in spite of all the harm that doing so causes or is likely to cause.
Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Substance abuse treatment is widely available to help you or your loved one stop using Percocet. It is hard sometimes to know if you really have a problem with Percocet, especially if you began taking it by prescription. But generally, if you’ve begun to feel like you cannot make it through life without using Percocet, and you use it despite it causing negative consequences in your life, you may have what is called an opioid use disorder. Some signs that you are suffering from an addiction include:6
- Taking more Percocet than you set out to.
- Taking Percocet even though using it causes negative social or legal consequences.
- Taking Percocet even though it makes a medical or mental health condition worse.
- Craving Percocet when you aren’t using it.
- Making unsuccessful attempts to get and stay off Percocet.
- Failing to perform in major life roles (work, life, or family) because of your Percocet use.
- Giving up activities or interests that were once important to you so that you can use Percocet.
- Using Percocet under unsafe conditions, such as when driving.
- Spending a great deal of time and effort getting, using, and recovering from Percocet.
How to Get Off Percocet
The first hurdle when you’re attempting to quit Percocet or other opioids is withdrawal. This can be a trying period, physically and emotionally. Detox programs can give you a supervised setting in which to withdraw from Percocet, cleanse your body of the drug, and manage the discomfort. You may choose to detox in a program that utilizes medications or one that provides primarily social and emotional support: 7
- Social detox. This kind of detox provides emotional support and supervision during withdrawal. The staff provides assessment, ongoing support, and monitoring of your symptoms and vital signs. At times, the staff may also provide you with certain medications such as those to help you sleep or to alleviate nausea.
- Medical detox. Medical detox programs combine medical supervision with the administration of specific medications to ease the opioid withdrawal period. Examples of such medications include methadone and Suboxone, the latter of which combines buprenorphine with naloxone. These medications are explained in more detail in the next section. In medical detox programs, any serious symptoms that arise will be addressed immediately by medical staff.
Detox programs only address the physical dependence, not the maladaptive thinking and behaviors that drive addiction. Because of this, treatment is not complete when your body is cleared of the drug. At this stage, you can begin the real work of addressing the issue. Treatment for any opioid addiction, including Percocet, can occur in a variety of settings:
- Inpatient rehabs. These can incorporate a detox period or be separate programs. An inpatient program can provide 24/7 supervision alongside therapy and social support. Inpatient rehab centers typically offer stays between 1 and 3 months, though some stays may be longer.
- Outpatient programs. This may be appropriate for some cases of Percocet addiction, though not for all situations. A person may attend an outpatient program for a day or two each week for a few hours at a time. Sometimes, people will attend an intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization program as a step down from a more intense form of treatment, such as inpatient treatment.
- Intensive outpatient (IOP) is a form of outpatient treatment that meets more frequently, usually 2–3 days a week for 3–4 hours a day.
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) usually meet 4–6 hours per day for up to 7 days per week. The length and frequency of services vary from person to person, depending on each person’s need for treatment.
- Therapy. This is an essential component of treatment and usually occurs as a part of a range of services, including group-based treatment on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an invaluable part of treatment for many people recovering from opioid addiction. These drugs help a person stop using Percocet and other opioids of abuse. Methadone is one of the oldest of these medications, and it can be an effective treatment. However, methadone is not widely available, as only a federally licensed program or medical hospital can dispense it. Methadone activates the brain’s opioid receptors to reduce cravings and prevent painful withdrawal. When taken as prescribed, methadone does not induce the euphoric rush associated with other opioids.
Suboxone is an increasingly used alternative to methadone. Suboxone contains buprenorphine, which, like methadone, activates the brain’s opioid receptors. In addition, Suboxone also contains naloxone, which stops the euphoric effects of opioids and causes symptoms of withdrawal if the person injects Suboxone in an attempt to get high. Suboxone is much more widely available than methadone, and many doctors’ offices and outpatient clinics can prescribe Suboxone.
There are also newer drugs used to manage Percocet addiction, such as Probuphine and Vivitrol. Probuphine is an implant that gives a person a 6-month dose of buprenorphine, eliminating the need to remember to take daily doses. Vivitrol is a once-monthly intramuscular injection of naltrexone, an opioid antagonist medication which blocks the pleasurable effects of Percocet and other opioids on the brain. Vivitrol, like Probuphine, is convenient because a patient does not have to take daily medication. Once taken, it will discourage opioid abuse for a full month, helping them to stay abstinent for longer.8
Staying Sober After Treatment
Without ongoing support, a person is likely to relapse and begin abusing Percocet again. Some options for continuing treatment include:
Don’t think that there is no hope for recovery, or that you have to try to stop using Percocet alone.
- Aftercare/continued therapy. Many treatment programs will help you design a plan for your aftercare once treatment ends. This could include continued therapy on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, as well as other forms of support such as sober living and support group meeting attendance (see below). The program you attend will also likely help you to create a relapse prevention plan that you can reference as you work through your recovery.
- Sober living houses. Sober living settings can provide a safe, drug-free environment and the support of peers in recovery, but they are not a hospital or rehab treatment program. Rather, people live in an apartment-like setting and receive assistance in locating jobs and building essential life skills. Houses are completely drug- and alcohol-free, and counselors typically hold groups throughout the week to support residents in recovery and encourage sobriety.
- 12-step groups. These organizations, such as Narcotics Anonymous, give people a place to meet with others in recovery as often as every day. These groups are free and are found in most communities. They can be a valuable tool to help people maintain long-term recovery.
Don’t Wait Another Day
Percocet addiction has potentially serious consequences for your health and well-being. Help is available. Don’t think that there is no hope for recovery, or that you have to try to stop using Percocet alone. There are numerous resources for you to take your first step toward recovery today.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2006). Percocet.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Dailymed: Percocet.
- Bratsis, M. (2017). Be Prepared for Opioid Overdoses. The Science Teacher, 84, 6: 18.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Oxycodone.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2016). FDA Requires Strong Warnings for Opioid Analgesics, Prescription Opioid Cough Products, and Benzodiazepine Labeling Related to Serious Risks and Death From Combined Use.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Physical Detoxification Services for Withdrawal from Specific Substances.
- Ling, W., Mooney, L., Zhao, M., Nielsen, S., Torrington, M., & Miotto, K. (2011). Selective Review and Commentary on Emerging Pharmacotherapies for Opioid Addiction. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 2, 181–188.