Nobody starts using Percocet with the goal of becoming addicted. Most users begin taking this prescription analgesic to manage the pain of a chronic illness or injury. But even when it’s used as directed, this opioid pain medication has a high potential for tolerance, dependence and abuse. Percocet is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that although it has a valid medical purpose, it is also highly addictive.

The active ingredients in Percocet are oxycodone, an opioid pain reliever that brings effects to the brain that are similar to morphine or heroin, and acetaminophen, a popular over-the-counter analgesic. When taken as directed, Percocet provides safe relief of moderate to severe pain. Percocet can legally be taken only with a doctor’s prescription, yet thousands of users take this potent narcotic without medical supervision every day, with grave consequences.

The Washington Post reports that with sales of opioid painkillers like Percocet on the rise, overdose fatalities have increased throughout the country. As of 2013, the number of deaths related to drug overdoses exceeded the number of deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents in 29 states and Washington, D.C. If you have a problem with Percocet abuse, or you’re close to someone who’s misusing this powerfully addictive drug, getting help through a drug rehab program could literally mean the difference between life and death.

How Is Percocet Abused?

Recreational users may enjoy the sustained, euphoric high that Percocet can deliver. The oxycodone in Percocet activates chemical receptors in the brain and other organs that respond to opioids. When you take the medication in prescribed doses, this response creates effective pain relief, usually without serious side effects.

But when patients do not take the drug exactly as prescribed, the chemical response in the brain is more intense, creating feelings of relaxation, drowsiness or euphoria.

Known on the streets as “percs” or “percodoms,” Percocet tablets can be taken by mouth or crushed into a powder, which is snorted or dissolved into a powder and injected. Chewing or snorting the drug releases the narcotic effects of the oxycodone more quickly, intensifying the high. But these methods of abuse also increase the narcotic side effects of sedation, respiratory depression, overdose and death.

Most non-medical Percocet users get the drug from one or more key sources, according to the University of Maryland:
  • By seeking Percocet prescriptions from multiple doctors (known as doctor shopping)
  • By forging prescriptions for the medication
  • By taking a friend or family member’s Percocet
  • By purchasing Percocet on the streets

The underground black market supplies recreational users with oxycodone products obtained through pharmacy thefts, foreign markets and smuggling rings. But the most common source of Percocet may be the household medicine cabinet; many recreational users get the drug from friends, family members, classmates or casual acquaintances.

How Does Percocet Affect My Health?

Most of the dangers of Percocet abuse, including dependence and addiction, are associated with the oxycodone it contains. Oxycodone abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Between 2002 and 2003 alone, the number of Americans who reported using prescription narcotics for non-medical reasons rose by nearly two million (from 11.8 to 13.7 million), according to the Journal of Clinical Therapeutics and Risk Management. Percocet is one of the most commonly prescribed oxycodone products, and also one of the most commonly abused for recreational reasons.

Percocet abuse can take a severe toll on your physical and mental health. Oxycodone is a central nervous system depressant, which causes your heartbeat, blood circulation, breathing and digestion to slow down.

The higher the dose you take, the more likely you are to experience the negative side effects of Percocet:
  • Drowsiness and sedation
  • Slow breathing
  • Interruptions in breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Itching or rash
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

An overdose of Percocet can cause unconsciousness, respiratory arrest, shock and death. Mixing Percocet with alcohol, sedatives or sleeping pills magnifies the drug’s negative side effects and increases the risk of an overdose exponentially. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that the number of overdose deaths involving opioid painkillers rose from approximately 4,000 in 1999 to over 16,000 in 2010. Many of these overdoses involved additional drugs or alcohol.

Addiction is one of the most serious risks of Percocet abuse. With repeated use, oxycodone changes the central nervous system in such a way that the brain and body begin to rely on the drug to function normally. The chemical receptors in the brain easily adjust to higher levels of opioids, so you need to take more Percocet to relieve pain or get high. This condition, called tolerance, can rapidly lead to dependence and addiction.

Man holding liquor glass and pillsIn the addiction stage, your Percocet use becomes compulsive. You no longer have control over when, where or how much of the drug you use. You may go to extreme lengths to get and use Percocet, like faking symptoms, forging prescriptions, stealing money from others, or selling drugs to obtain your drug of choice.

Even if your habit is clearly affecting your physical health, your relationships, your career or your finances, you can’t stop using Percocet, no matter how much you want to. If you’ve tried multiple times to stop using this prescription drug without success, it’s time to seek help from a professional treatment center.

Can I Make It Through Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is one of the biggest hurdles you face when you make a commitment to recovery. Withdrawing from opioid analgesics is rarely fatal, but the side effects can be extremely uncomfortable. Within 12 to 24 hours after you stop using Percocet, you might feel like you have a severe cold or flu, complete with chills, cold sweats, muscle aches, nausea, a runny nose and diarrhea. The physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal may last only a matter of days. However, the mental side effects — anxiety, panic attacks, restlessness, cravings and depression — can continue for weeks, even months.

As your brain and body respond to the absence of Percocet, you’ll need professional support to minimize the symptoms of withdrawal. Addiction treatment specialists often recommend that heavy users be weaned off opioids at a controlled pace with the help of consulting physicians. At the same time, less addictive drugs may be prescribed to replace the effects of opioids, reduce cravings, and help you cope with the physical symptoms of withdrawal.

As your brain and body respond to the absence of Percocet, you’ll need professional support to minimize the symptoms of withdrawal.

The time it takes to withdraw from Percocet varies from one person to another. Your personal timeline will depend on how much you’ve been taking, how long you’ve been using the medication, and whether you’ve been using other drugs. A comprehensive rehab program may last from 30 to 120 days or more, depending on your individual needs. The National Institutes of Health advises that for drug rehab to be effective, most individuals require treatment of at least 90 days.

Breaking Free from Percocet Addiction

To make a full recovery from Percocet addiction, you need a holistic treatment program that provides healing for your mind and spirit as well as your body. Opioid detox is only the first step in the rehab process.

Once the drugs have cleared your system, you’ll draw from the following resources to continue your recovery:
  • Intensive individual counseling from addiction treatment professionals
  • Behavioral modification strategies to help you modify your thought processes and apply new coping strategies
  • Peer group meetings with others who share your commitment to recovery
  • Family counseling and addiction education for your loved ones
  • 12-Step facilitation groups and meetings
  • Holistic therapies, such as meditation, yoga, experiential therapy or creative therapy
  • Physical exercise programs and nutritional counseling
  • Aftercare services, including relapse prevention groups, referral services and alumni programs

Your treatment team will support you throughout the recovery process, from the early stages of Percocet detox through rehab and aftercare. With help from experienced addiction specialists, you won’t have to face your doubts or fears alone.

At Black Bear Lodge, we offer intensive, personalized recovery services in a tranquil forest setting. Situated in the foothills of northern Georgia, our Percocet treatment center offers a haven from the stresses of everyday life. We encourage you to call our admissions coordinators today at 706-914-2327 to find out how you and your loved ones can benefit from our comprehensive Percocet recovery programs.