Percocet is a popular painkiller consisting of the synthetic opioid oxycodone and the pain reliever acetaminophen. Opioids are commonly prescribed by doctors to treat persistent or severe pain. Opiates and semi-synthetic opioids are derived from naturally-occurring alkaloids in the opium poppy. Still, they sometimes are entirely synthetic, human-made compounds (fentanyl, for example) that act on the brain in a similar way as their natural counterparts.
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from the opium alkaloid thebaine. Opioids work by attaching to neurochemicals known as opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, and other body parts. When this occurs, opioids block pain messages transmitted from the body through the spinal cord and to the brain.
While opioids can effectively reduce pain, they come with many risks and can have a high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. The risk of addiction is exceptionally high when opioids are used to treat chronic pain over a prolonged period.
Opioid Tolerance and Dependence
When Percocet is administered, it releases a massive amount of dopamine—a chemical messenger in the body that produces feelings of reward and euphoria. When used repeatedly, both tolerance and dependence can develop. These are hallmark signs of a burgeoning opioid addiction.
Tolerance develops as a reaction to repeated exposure to certain psychoactive substances. After an extended period of regular use, the user’s body will eventually become accustomed to a drug’s presence and decrease the intensity of response. Consequently, they will require ever-increasing amounts of the substance in question to experience the effects they are seeking.
Dependence is a condition that also develops over time as neurons in the brain adapt to repeated exposure to intoxicating substances, and the person becomes no longer able to function normally without them. When someone has become substance-dependent on a substance, they will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit using it. These effects are often the primary reason people relapse.
While tolerance and dependence are two key factors in addiction development, they are not addiction in and of itself. Addiction is a disease that is also marked by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and an obsession with obtaining and using a substance despite the incurrence of adverse effects in many areas of a person’s life.
Symptoms of Percocet Addiction
Percocet abuse and addiction have been associated with several side effects, such as the following:
- Low blood pressure
- Reduced breathing rate
- Impaired coordination
Other Life Problems
Percocet abuse can lead to severe social issues in addition to various physical and mental conditions. Users may engage in risky and impulsive activities such as driving under the influence, becoming involved in illegal activity and neglecting important work, academic, and family obligations.
As noted, the development of dependence is followed by the development of withdrawal symptoms when an individual attempts to discontinue use. Percocet withdrawal symptoms can include the following:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- High blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate
- Muscle aches and pains
Signs of Overdose
A person who is Percocet-dependent may be more likely to use the medication in excessive amounts or in combination with other substances, such as alcohol or heroin. Although an overdose of Percocet on its own can be fatal, death is far more likely to occur if Percocet is used in conjunction with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants.
A person who is overdosing on Percocet or other depressants may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Muscle weakness
- Limpness of extremities
- Respiratory distress
- Nausea and vomiting
- Gurgling sounds (death rattle)
- Body spasms
- Bluing of lips and nails
- Respiratory arrest
Using high amounts of Percocet can also lead to acute acetaminophen poisoning, potentially a life-threatening event. Symptoms may include the following:
- Stomach pain
- Profuse sweating
- Clammy skin
Other complications of a Percocet overdose may include liver damage, kidney or liver failure, urinary tract infection, persistent constipation, and a compromised immune system.
Treatment for Percocet Addiction
Treatment for Percocet addiction typically begins with a medical detox and is followed by comprehensive, personalized care that includes the following:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Individual/family counseling
- Peer support group
- Health and wellness education
- Art and music therapy
- Relapse prevention
- Aftercare planning
The staff at Just Believe Recovery is dedicated to helping people reclaim their lives and free themselves from the chains of addiction. We employ highly-skilled addiction specialists who provide those we treat with the tools, resources, education, and support they need to achieve sustainable abstinence and long-lasting well-being.