Percocet is a brand name drug containing acetaminophen and oxycodone used to treat pain. Because of the medication’s second ingredient, it is often abused to create a strong, euphoric high, but this behavior is extremely dangerous. Percocet abuse can lead to addiction, among a number of other serious side effects.
If you or someone you love has been misusing this drug, now is the time to seek help.
Understanding Percocet Abuse
According to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, “A combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen is used to treat moderate to severe pain and may be used to treat patients who require continuous pain relief due to chronic conditions, such as cancer.” Percocet is just one of the many brand names this particular combination of medications can be found under.
While many doctors prescribe Percocet and similar drugs safely to patients, the medication can also cause dangerous side effects when abused for the euphoric high it can create. One of the most severe of these consequences is addiction, and Percocet abuse can even be deadly under certain circumstances. This is why it is so important to only take the medication as prescribed.
Signs and Symptoms of Percocet Abuse
Percocet abuse is likely to cause many of the same effects the drug causes in lower doses, just on a grander scale. For example, many individuals experience drowsiness, relaxation, and confusion after taking this drug, and the effects will be more intense when a person abuses it. This is why individuals on Percocet, even low doses of the drug, should not drive.
If you are attempting to determine whether or not someone you love is abusing Percocet, look for the common signs and symptoms of this form of substance abuse, which, according to the National Library of Medicine, may include:
- Dry mouth
- An absence of pain
Percocet abusers will normally crush the drug and snort or inject it instead of taking it orally. This causes the effects of the drug to come on much more quickly and all at once instead of steadily over a long period of time like they are meant to. As such, the individual will experience intense versions of the symptoms listed above, as well as potentially severe mood swings and confusion. Noticing any of these is a strong sign that your loved one is misusing some kind of narcotic.
Dangers of Percocet Abuse
Percocet can be taken safely and effectively, but those who abuse it increase their risk of experiencing severe or dangerous side effects. These can include
This is one of the most dangerous side effects associated with opioid abuse. When a person takes a particularly large dose of any narcotic, including Percocet, they can potentially experience severe respiratory depression to the point where they may stop breathing altogether. This can be deadly, as well as possibly lead to a coma or brain damage.
Increased intracranial pressure that can worsen a head injury
According to DailyMed, “The respiratory depressant effects of opioids include carbon dioxide retention and secondary elevation of cerebrospinal fluid pressure.” This can worsen the effects of a head injury in those sustaining this type of trauma.
The withdrawal effects associated with opioids are not usually life threatening, and a person can become dependent on these drugs even without abusing them. However, those who do are likely to experience even more severe withdrawal symptoms, and the syndrome itself can resemble the flu, which can sometimes cause those who experience it not to recognize what it truly is.
One of the serious psychological side effects of opioid abuse is depression. Patients can potentially become so depressed that they begin to experience suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know is suffering from this consequence of Percocet abuse, seek professional treatment immediately.
Oxycodone, the main ingredient in Percocet, can cause seizures in some users. This is a rare side effect, but it can be more likely to occur in those who consistently take high doses of the drug.
Liver and kidney problems
Liver damage and kidney failure can occur with long-term, high dose abuse of Percocet. This is because acetaminophen, when taken consistently over time, can do serious damage to these particular organs.
Percocet has side effects that can potentially occur with its use, just like any other drug. But those who misuse it are much more likely to experience these effects, especially to their full extent.
Who Abuses Percocet?
Oxycodone is still one of the most highly abused opioid drugs on the market, although hydrocodone abuse may have surpassed it in recent years. Percocet can be passed between friends, neighbors, and family members, and as such, people of all age groups, ethnicities, economic groups, etc. have been known to abuse the drug. However, there is a serious issue of prescription opioid abuse especially among young people.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the three most common drugs involved in prescription narcotic-based overdose deaths, oxycodone is number two, second only to methadone.
- Blue dynamite, percodoms, and percs are several of the common street names used to describe Percocet (Center for Substance Abuse Research). When someone refers to the drug by these terms, they are often looking to abuse it.
- People age 12 to 25 are most at risk for Percocet abuse, as they have shown the largest increase of non-medical prescription drug use over the last few years (CDCP).
Percocet addiction can occur quickly, especially if the individual is consistently abusing large doses of the drug. Because many people, especially younger individuals, do not realize that prescription opioid abuse is just as dangerous as illicit substance abuse, they will often misuse it without concerns, which can lead to compulsive use and the other symptoms of addiction.
Unfortunately, though, the issue doesn’t stop here. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin.” This is one of the reasons why a person who consistently abuses a drug like Percocet must get help as soon as possible in order to avoid even more serious consequences.
Am I a Percocet Addict?
Percocet abuse can start out as voluntary, but over time, it is very likely to become addictive. Ask yourself the questions below in order to find out if your substance abuse has already led to a dangerous disease.
- Do I abuse Percocet every day?
- Do I feel I cannot get through work, fall asleep at night, etc. without the drug?
- Have I ever experienced severe withdrawal symptoms when I wasn’t able to obtain more of the drug?
- Are my friends and family members concerned about my substance abuse? Did I become hostile when they mentioned this to me?
- Is my substance abuse beginning to get in the way of my responsibilities?
- Do I no longer care about the things that used to matter to me like school, work, hobbies, etc.?
- Is my performance suffering in work or school?
- Have I experienced any severe consequences of my Percocet use in the past year, including
- Getting arrested?
- Losing an important relationship?
- Getting fired?
- Having financial problems?
If you answered yes to these questions, your substance abuse has gotten beyond your control, and it is time to seek help so you can put an end to it for good.
Percocet Addiction Treatment
Percocet addicts are treated in rehab similarly to heroin addicts in that medications and behavioral therapies are often used together to create a safe, beneficial recovery. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone are used to control symptoms like cravings that would normally lead to relapse, and behavioral therapies help patients change their beliefs, attitudes, and actions toward dangerous drugs. Other treatment options might include
- Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery
- Family or couples counseling
- Art or dance therapy
- Pet therapy
- Yoga or meditation
- Massage therapy
It is also important for an individual in Percocet addiction treatment to be screened and treated for any potential co-occurring disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, etc. According to the NIDA, if these disorders go untreated, they can derail the progress of one’s recovery, leading to relapse, which is why they must be treated simultaneously with one’s addiction.