Percocet is the brand name for a drug that combines paracetamol, a common pain reliever often found in over the counter medications and oxycodone, an opioid. Percocet is often used to treat acute pain because of injuries or surgical procedures. In some cases, it may be used to treat chronic pain as well. However, Percocet has seen some controversy in the last few years. Paracetamol was implicated as a factor in the deaths of 400 people in 2009, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended that its use should be limited.
Oxycodone is a synthetic opioid that can cause chemical dependence, addiction, and potentially deadly overdose symptoms. The abuse of prescription opioids can likely lead to the use of more dangerous and unpredictable illicit drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug abuse is often a precursor to heroin abuse. The abundance of prescription opioids in the United States has been implicated as a possible contributor to the current opioid epidemic of addiction and overdose.
Percocet dependence can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that can be a barrier to seeking effective addiction treatment.
Percocet causes withdrawal symptoms that are consistent with other medications that contain opioids. Chemical dependency can lead to withdrawal symptoms that are often compared to the flu. Some people who have gone through withdrawal say that it’s like a particularly bad case of the flu. Others site withdrawal symptoms as one of the most significant barriers to sobriety and lasting recovery. Opioid withdrawal isn’t known to be life-threatening, but it can be dangerous in certain circumstances, especially if you go through it on your own. Symptoms include:
These symptoms can be extremely unpleasant and attempting to detox on your own may likely lead to a relapse. In addition to flu-like symptoms, you may also experience powerful drug cravings. Percocet withdrawal can become potentially life-threatening when symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting and sweating cause you to become dehydrated. Dehydration is more likely in bad cases of withdrawal when a person is by themselves and too weak or distracted to rehydrate. The intolerance for the effects of the drug goes up and the tolerance for the effects goes down, leading to possible overdose — another danger of home detox.
Opioid withdrawal can also raise your heart rate and blood pressure. In an otherwise healthy person, these symptoms aren’t typically dangerous. But older people and people with heart conditions may be at risk for potentially life-threatening, heart-related complications.
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The timeline in which you experience Percocet withdrawal will vary depending on several factors including the size of the dose you were used to, the size of your most recent dose, and if you mixed the drug with any other psychoactive substances. Your age and size might also play a role in your Percocet withdrawal timeline. However, opioid withdrawal symptoms will typically start and end on a common timeline. Here’s what you might be able to expect when you start the detox process:
Ten Hours: You will most likely experience your first symptoms after about six to ten hours of your last dose. It may feel like the early onset of the flu with symptoms like yawning, insomnia, runny nose, sweating, tearing, agitation, anxiety, and muscle aches.
Three Days: Within three days you will start to feel definite flu-like symptoms, and that may begin to escalate closer to day three.
Five Days: By the fifth day after your last dose, your symptoms will peak in intensity. At this point, you may start to experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and heavy sweating. It’s important to stay hydrated during this phase like you would if you had the flu.
First Week: Toward the end of your first week, your symptoms will start to subside, and you will begin to feel better. Some symptoms may linger, but the worst withdrawal symptoms will be over.
Ten Days: By ten days, your symptoms will mostly be finished, with physical symptoms disappearing first. However, psychological symptoms may last longer. Without treatment, anxiety, depression, and cravings may last for months or indefinitely.
Again, Percocet withdrawal is not known to be significantly life-threatening, but it can be difficult to get through on your own. If nothing else, the most likely consequence of attempting detox by yourself is a relapse. Between extremely uncomfortable symptoms and powerful drug cravings, it’s difficult to resist using again. The safest and most effective way to get through withdrawal is to go through medical detox or to detox in a hospital setting.
When you first enter a treatment program, your needs will be assessed during the intake process. Clinicians may use the ASAM criteria to determine your biological and psychological needs.
After you complete detox, clinicians will help you find the next level of care that’s appropriate for your needs.
If you have high-level medical needs, or if you have recently stopped using (or you’re still using) a chemically addictive drug, you may need to go through medical detox. Detox is the highest level of care in addiction treatment, and it involves 24-hour medically managed care. Through detox, your symptoms will be mitigated as much as possible, and your safety will be the top priority. The staff is board-approved medical professionals that are on-site at all hours and clinicians that can help manage psychological and emotional symptoms. In some cases, your doctor might prescribe medications to help wean you off of the drug.
A week of detox may not be enough to address a substance use disorder effectively. In most cases, more in-depth treatment will be necessary. If you still have high-level medical or psychological needs, you may go through an inpatient or residential treatment program that involves 24-hour access to treatment services. Inpatient treatment may include medical monitoring or clinically managed care.
If you’re able to live on your own safety, without risking your sobriety, you may move into an intensive outpatient program. The most intensive level of outpatient treatment is partial hospitalization, which can involve 12 hours of treatment services each week. Lower levels of inpatient treatment involve no fewer than nine hours of treatment services each week.
When you are ready to live more independently, you may go through standard outpatient treatment that involves fewer than nine hours of treatment per week. Outpatient treatment is an important step between high-level treatment and complete independence that eases you into everyday life.
ASAM. (n.d.). What is the ASAM Criteria? Retrieved from https://www.asam.org/resources/the-asam-criteria/about
Darke, S., Larney, S., & Farrell, M. (2016, August 11). Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/add.13512
Harris, G. (2009, June 30). Ban Is Advised on 2 Top Pills for Pain Relief. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/01/health/01fda.html
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use