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Percocet Addiction

Percocet (oxycodone/APAP) is an opioid painkiller that is prescribed to patients for moderate to severe pain and is classified as a schedule II narcotic.  Prescription drugs are scheduled in order of how addicting they are to the patient. The lower the schedule, the higher the addictive liability of the drug. The schedule II assignment means that physical and psychological dependence can occur very quickly, even within the first week of taking the medication on a daily basis. Percocet contains a combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and oxycodone, a powerful and addictive opiate. The addition of acetaminophen in Percocet and other opiate painkillers is intended for two purposes – to discourage the diversion of the drug for street use, and to provide a synergistic effect for pain management. While Percocet is a commonly prescribed painkiller, the risk for addiction to the drug is extremely high. 

Oxycodone EffectsPercocet is prescribed for patients in need of painkillers for conditions ranging from chronic headaches to broken bones and postoperative pain. Prescribing doctors must be vigilant about patients’ tolerance and addictive behaviors to identify addiction if and when it becomes a problem and to combat diversion and “doctor shopping”.

Percocet Addiction And Withdrawal

In contrast with other classes of drugs (including marijuana, amphetamines, and hallucinogens) which are mainly psychologically addictive, but generally don’t produce physical dependence, opiate addiction is characterized by violent withdrawal symptoms when the drugs are removed from the addict’s system.  This physical withdrawal (often referred to as “dope sickness“) has been described as flu-like to an extreme with symptoms including:

  • High fever
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscles spasms
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts

Percocet withdrawal should be undertaken with medical support.  Addicts should be monitored and provided with detox medication to help minimize discomfort and deleterious symptoms, a process which takes an average of 5-10 days.  To successfully recover, the psychological addiction must also be addressed.

Treating Percocet Addiction

Opiate addicts become slaves to their addiction, requiring their drug of choice to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms.  While they may appear outwardly functional, Percocet addicts live their lives around obtaining and using the drug.  This often leads to an addict doing whatever it takes to obtain the substance, including doctor shopping, lying, stealing, cheating, scamming, and prostitution. 

In order to treat Percocet addiction, the addict must be willing to admit to his or her addiction and recognize that his or her life has become unmanageable as a result of chemical dependency.  Opiate addicts continue to use in order to avoid extreme withdrawal symptoms caused by physical dependence. It is not uncommon for Percocet addicts to be resistant to treatment because they were legally prescribed the narcotic for pain, and therefore justify its continuing use.

Percocet addicts experience physical dependence that forces them to use more and more of the drug just to not be sick from withdrawal (tolerance). 
Once a Percocet addict decides to enter treatment, the first step is detoxification, a process during which the drug and its metabolites are withdrawn from the body.

Once in treatment, an addict can begin to address their addictive behaviors and the unmanageability they create. Generally, residential addiction treatment is recommended for recovery from Percocet dependence, in which addicts engage in a series of activities and therapy sessions, both individual and group, to identify core behavioral problems and help the addict learn to cope with everyday stressors without the use of mood-altering chemicals.  Through this process, many opiate addicts learn that the substances themselves were never really the root problem, but rather a symptom of the problem that made it so they felt a need to escape by getting high.  Addiction treatment programs help addicts to realize why they use substances, address these issues, and learn to live a healthy and drug-free life.

Aftercare and Recovery

A number of services exist to support addicts in recovery following formal treatment.  In sober living, recovering addicts and alcoholics live together in a drug-free group home, supporting each other, submitting to random drug testing, complying with house rules, chores, and curfews, and attending support group meetings for maintenance of sobriety.  In these settings, residents are usually required to be employed or attend school or generally engage in activities to better their lives and further their recovery. 

Length of stay in a sober living home can vary from one month to multiple years, depending on the recovering addict’s confidence in leaving the safety of living in a controlled, drug-free environment. In severe cases of opiate addiction, it can take several months to over a year before the brain can repair itself to the point at which a recovering addict feels “normal” on a daily basis without ingesting their drug of choice.

While it is often a long and challenging process, recovery from opiate addiction is possible, and treatment services are widely available. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to Percocet or other opiates, call us support and guidance. We’re here to help!