Percocet is a synthetic opioid medication that is comprised of oxycodone and acetaminophen. The oxycodone component acts as a narcotic pain reliever while the acetaminophen serves as a non-opioid pain reliever and fever reducer. Percocet is prescribed to people who experience moderate-to-severe pain, especially the kind that comes with bones fractures, Cesarean sections, and surgeries.
However, Percocet is a potent pain medication that can be habit-forming. It also has a high potential for abuse, given its designation as a Schedule II controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). That designation means that opioid medications like Percocet have “a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
People who abuse Percocet can expose themselves to health complications that can be life-threatening. Misusing Percocet can result in an opioid addiction from the oxycodone and severe liver damage from acetaminophen. What’s more, you can develop painful and debilitating withdrawal symptoms that manifest once the Percocet cycles out of your system.
Learn more about the perils of withdrawal and why professional addiction treatment is vital.
When your body has become accustomed to opioids like Percocet, it can experience disturbances once the drug exits the system. Those disturbances are referred to as withdrawal symptoms. While opioid withdrawal generally is not life-threatening, the symptoms can be quite uncomfortable, and, in some cases debilitating. When you need Percocet to feel normal, dependence is established.
In essence, opioid withdrawal can feel like you have the flu. While the withdrawal symptoms do not co-occur, they can be experienced throughout the entire process or manifest at specific withdrawal stages.
Here are the common withdrawal symptoms associated with Percocet:
Percocet withdrawal manifests differently in every person. There are significant factors that play a role in how these symptoms occur in each individual. Those factors include:
The amount of time it takes for Percocet to leave the body — or its half-life — is estimated at around 3.5 hours. This means that half of the drug will be absorbed at that time. Being aware of a drug’s half-life can help you know when those withdrawal symptoms will start to manifest.
Typically, Percocet withdrawal symptoms begin 12 hours after the last dose and can last for two weeks or more, depending on how much is taken.
The following constitutes what a general withdrawal timeline may look like with Percocet:
First 24-48 hours: The initial symptoms of withdrawal occur during this timeframe, which includes symptoms such as body aches, fever, and other flu-like symptoms.
Days 3-5: This is the time frame where withdrawal symptoms typically peak. Many of the symptoms you experience in the first two days will linger. You may also experience symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea.
Days 6-7: During this interval, the physical symptoms of withdrawal will subside, but psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression will remain and take hold. You may also experience strong cravings to use Percocet during this period.
Days 8 and beyond: While most of the physical symptoms will diminish, the effects of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS will manifest. PAWS can consist of cravings, depression, and irritability, which can linger for weeks, months, or even years. The tools you can receive in treatment can help you manage these psychological effects.
Percocet-related PAWS may include these conditions:
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Percocet withdrawal can be painful and uncomfortable. That’s precisely why it is best to seek professional addiction treatment instead of attempting to quit “cold turkey.” Medical detoxification administered in professional treatment is safer than quitting on your own. A medical team can administer approved opioid treatment medications like naltrexone or buprenorphine to relieve persistent cravings.
They will also treat the withdrawal symptoms that arise, and provide mental and emotional support as you go through this process.
This is the first phase of professional treatment. The goal of detox is you achieving medical stabilization. Depending on the severity of your Percocet addiction, your detox process can last between three to seven days. Throughout detox, you will be supported and overseen by a team of doctors, nurses, and support staff. You will receive a comprehensive medical assessment to determine if you have any other medical needs. This assessment will include a medical exam and a urine or blood screening for drugs.
After those results are reviewed, you may require more testing, whether that’s additional blood tests, a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), or testing for other diseases or conditions.
Once all the test results are reviewed, a doctor will develop your detox plan. You will be monitored around-the-clock during this time to ensure a safe and comfortable process.
Once you have completed detox, you may continue treatment at either a residential facility or in a partial hospitalization program (PHP). Your physician will determine the right course for you, based on the severity of your addiction and whether you have additional substance addictions or co-occurring medical or mental health conditions.
Residential treatment focuses on one of the most pertinent areas of opioid addiction, the psychological and emotional realms. You will live full-time at the facility where you will receive intensive, evidence-based treatment in a structured environment. Sessions are typically five days a week. During this phase, the root causes of your addiction will be addressed.
Plus, you will be provided mental and emotional support and equipped with life skills that prepare you to re-enter society as a newly sober person.
A partial hospitalization program or PHP is a hybrid of inpatient care and outpatient treatment. In other words, you will live in a transitional living facility while undergoing a comprehensive treatment plan. The focus of PHP is to help you learn positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and techniques to prevent relapse.
The next phase of opioid addiction treatment is intensive outpatient, which allows you to live independently as you receive therapy and counseling on a part-time basis. You can live at home or a sober living facility, which allows for a structured environment for those in substance abuse recovery.
Though the sessions are not as frequent, you will still have access to intensive therapy. If needed, you will also continue under a medication management program. This stage will also include periodic or weekly drug testing.
Once you complete your treatment, you will have opportunities to join other treatment center alumni by participating in weekly support groups and social events. These opportunities allow you to connect with other alumni and develop meaningful friendships. Ultimately, this network can support you and your long-term life and recovery goals.