What is Percocet?

Percocet is an Opioid Analgesic. This type of medicine is used for the management and treatment of pain. The opioid (a chemical structure that can be natural, semisynthetic, or synthetic) interacts with the opioid receptors in your brain. The drug travels through the blood and attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain. There are five opioid receptors in the brain mu, delta, kappa, nociception, and zeta. Within these five types, there are subcategories. For our discussion, we will not pursue this complicated path.

Instead, we will focus on the general understanding of what Percocet, an opioid, does to the body, the brain, and user behavior when abused.

Percocet is in a class of drugs that are considered central nervous system depressants. When Percocet travels through the bloodstream and attaches to an opioid receptor, the drug distorts the pain signal, muffling it. Simultaneously, to the muffling of the pain signal, the body experiences a pleasurable sensation.

What is the difference between Percocet and Oxycodone?

Both medications are used to treat pain that do not respond to nonopioid medications. Oxycodone is a derivative of opium, a semi-synthetic compound from the poppy plant. It is often known as OxyContin. Percocet is both oxycodone combined with acetaminophen (Tylenol.) Both are used to treat moderate to severe pain, but Percocet is also prescribed when pain is accompanied by a fever. The acetaminophen can cause liver damage if taken in large quantities. Both drugs are highly addictive and should never be used other than how a doctor has prescribed. Both drugs are classified as Schedule II drugs.

Risk Factors Associated with the use of Percocet

  • Breathing problems
  • CNS (central nervous system depression)
  • Kidney disease
  • Low blood pressure
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Urethral stricture

Percocet is prescribed for pain treatment after surgery, a broken bone, or muscle damage. Because Percocet is combined with oxycodone and acetaminophen, it is often prescribed when oxycodone alone does not work.

Other opioids that are commonly prescribed:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

Methods of Inappropriate Use of Percocet and/or Oxycodone

  • Swallow in original form
  • Crush the pill and snort the powder
  • Crush the pill, mix it with water, and inject the liquid into a vein

While taking the drug as prescribed, users may still experience drowsiness, confusion, nausea, constipation, euphoria, and slowed breathing. When the drug is being misused and/or abused, it can cause slowed breathing, “which can cause hypoxia, a condition that results when too little oxygen reaches the brain. Hypoxia can have short and long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma, brain damage, or death.”

While states have taken steps to tighten the drug’s marketing and dispensing, which in turn has made it more expensive for illegal use, addicts have been turning to heroin, which, like Percocet, is an opioid but on the street is cheaper. People who become addicted to taking Percocet will experience extremely uncomfortable withdrawal levels.  These symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Sleep disorders
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cold flashes
  • Goosebumps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Severe cravings
  • Sweating
  • Fever

Death Can Occur During Withdrawal

“How could someone die during opiate withdrawal? The answer lies in… two clinical signs presented above, vomiting and diarrhea. If untreated, persistent vomiting and diarrhea may result in dehydration, hypernatremia (elevated blood sodium level), and resultant heart failure.” The sad truth is that people do die of opioid withdrawal, which tends to be under-reported.

“From 1999 to 2020, more than 800,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. Increasing rates of drug addiction have contributed to recent decreases in U.S. life expectancy.”

As with other drug addictions, the Percocet user may take the drug because he/she/they feel a sense of euphoria and well-being. Unfortunately, the body quickly becomes used to the drug and requires more to achieve those first feelings of pleasure. Usually, the drug addict will be unable to attain that feeling and will constantly be chasing the sensation by ingesting more and more of the drug. Such behavior usually occurs without regard to financial security, job security, family obligations, and health.

According to a study by the University of Queensland, Australia, “We compared… samples with individuals who were not using opioids or [who] were prescribed lower dosages, and the results showed that higher doses of prescription opioids might increase the risk of developing depressive, bipolar and anxiety disorders, particularly with prolonged use.” It should be noted that the longer one takes Percocet, the stronger the chances are that he/she/they will develop an addiction.

Using Percocet and Alcohol or other CNS drugs

All CNS drugs depress breathing, thinking, muscle movement, coordination, and a host of other functions not the least of which may be loss of consciousness. Combining Percocet with alcohol can, as stated above, slow breathing but can also lead to slowing or stopping the heart. Furthermore, the combination of Percocet and alcohol can produce intense withdrawal symptoms that include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Panic attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Full body tremors
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens that produce hallucinations and delusions

Breaking the Cycle of Percocet Addiction

If you or a loved one is addicted to Percocet, you/he/she/they should seek medical attention immediately. Percocet, as discussed before, is a CNS depressant and can be dangerous when suddenly discontinued. If you or a loved one has been taking Percocet in combination with other drugs, medical attention should be sought immediately. To withdraw safely from Percocet addiction or polydrug addiction, the addict must undergo a medically supervised detox where licensed addiction physicians, nurses, and staff can monitor the detox properly. In this environment, all reactions to the withdrawal can be handled without risk to the client. After completing detox, the substance abuser should enter a licensed drug treatment program as soon as possible. In a best-case scenario, the client moves from detox directly into treatment. All clients should receive an individualized detox plan followed by an individualized treatment plan. This plan needs to be regularly reviewed by the treating team allowing individual issues to be addressed as they arise. Drug treatment is not a one size fits all approach. Treatment plans must be continually reviewed and revised. To find out more about the best program for you or your loved one, call now and speak to one of our professionally trained staff members. We can answer all your questions and put your mind at ease that seeking treatment is the correct step for Percocet/polydrug addiction.