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Percocet (acetaminophen and oxycodone) is a medication prescribed to treat moderate to severe chronic pain. This article will discuss the basic features of the drug, its uses, how the drug can be abused, signs of addiction to or abuse of the drug, and treatment options for a Percocet use disorder.
Percocet is a combination of two pain-relieving drugs: acetaminophen and oxycodone. Percocet is available in several strengths, all with 325 mgacetaminophen and with different dosages of oxycodone: 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, and 10 mg.
The acetaminophen in Percocet is the same active ingredient in Tylenol and similar to other over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen and aspirin. It enhances the pain-relieving effects of oxycodone. Although it does not contribute significantly to the abuse potential of Percocet, acetaminophen can cause liver toxicity if it is taken in large doses over a long period of time.
The oxycodone in Percocet is responsible for both the euphoric effects that individuals experience when taking the drug and the physical dependence and abuse potential of the drug. These effects are achieved by the affinity for oxycodone to lock onto certain receptors of endogenous opioid neurons in the brain and produce similar effects to endogenous opioid neurotransmitters. The short-term effects of taking Percocet will typically last 4-6 hours and include pain relief, mild euphoria, and mild feelings of sedation, dizziness, lightheadedness, etc.
A large number of potential side effects have been listed for Percocet. The most common side effects from taking Percocet include:
Some rarer but more serious side effects include:
Signs of an allergic reaction to Percocet include hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or face. Allergic reactions to acetaminophen are sometimes displayed as a skin rash that spreads and causes peeling and blistering. Allergic reactions are rare; however, if one suspects an allergic reaction to Percocet, contact a physician immediately.
As mentioned above, the oxycodone component of Percocet is a controlled substance that is considered to be potentially a drug of abuse and one that can produce significant physical dependence in users. Developing a physical dependence to a drug can be a symptom of an addiction (substance use disorder); however, it is neither necessary nor sufficient to have a physical dependence on any particular drug in order to abuse it or have an addiction to it.
Physical dependence occurs when someone displays two separate symptoms:
Nearly anyone who abuses Percocet for a significant length of time will develop physical dependence on the drug, and this will complicate any attempts at recovery. However, the symptoms of abuse and addiction represent the nonmedical use of a drug that results in significant issues with the individual’s functioning, such as an inability to control drug use; personal ramifications to health, relationships, and work; and other issues.
The majority of individuals who use Percocet for pain control and under the supervision of a physician will develop physical dependence if it is used for any significant length of time; however, these people will often not abuse the drug or become addicted to it. Individuals who abuse or become addicted to Percocet most often use it for reasons other than pain control. Most often, but not always, these individuals procure the drug through illegal means, such as buying it on the street, getting it from someone who has a prescription for the drug, etc. Individuals who abuse Percocet typically take the drug for its euphoria-producing affects and will often mix it with other drugs, such as alcohol. Typically, these individuals will start out engaging in occasional use of the drug, and many will begin using it regularly as a coping or escape mechanism.
Some signs that a person might have a Percocet use disorder include:
There are a number of treatment options for Percocet abuse. Medical detox is necessary to withdrawal from Percocet, as it is for all cases of opiate detox. Sometimes, replacement medications, such as methadone or buprenorphine, are used for a long-term detox process.
Just going through detox will not be enough. Individuals attempting to recover from Percocet abuse or addiction need to engage themselves in a comprehensive treatment program.
The program should include some type of individual or group counseling/therapy specifically targeted at drug abuse/addiction. In addition, treatment for other co-occurring psychological issues/disorders should be available.