Addictions to prescription opiates, such as Percocet, are at epidemic levels in the United States. While a Percocet addiction may take weeks or even months to develop, it’s best to seek treatment as soon as possible. According to the CDC, overdose deaths due to opiates have more than quadrupled since 1999 and 91 Americans die every day due to an overdose.
Understanding Percocet Abuse
Percocet is a combination medication intended to treat moderate to severe pain; it contains oxycodone (an opioid pain reliever) and acetaminophen (a non-opioid pain reliever). People who take too much Percocet risk a more serious overdose since the opioid depresses breathing and may cause coma or death, and the acetaminophen causes liver damage.
It is sometimes hard to recognize a Percocet addiction, especially if a person misuses it as part of pain treatment. Since opioid addictions bring on serious and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when a person stops taking the drug, it’s necessary to seek professional medical attention. A medically supervised detoxification allows the patient to stop taking the drug safely while offering medications and other comfort measures to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. People who don’t seek addiction treatment are more likely to start taking the drug again to avoid withdrawal symptoms and emotional symptoms like depression.
A professional detoxification process helps a patient break down any physical and emotional barriers to sobriety. Evidence-based treatment centers give patients a safe place to detox and prepare patients for the necessary psychological treatments that follow the withdrawal process. Therapies must meet the specific needs of the addict, so programs vary as a result. In addition, the best facilities offer specific standards of care for Percocet detoxification.
The human body contains a wide variety of systems that identify, break down and remove toxic substances. Each day, the body processes hundreds if not thousands of chemicals, and it marks those chemicals for removal in sweat, urine, and bowel movements.
When a person takes in huge amounts of Percocet, however, the body might face a backlog of chemicals that it must process. Instead of cleaning out the system in a few hours, the body might need a few days in order to complete the work and leave the person with a system that contains no remnants of drugs.
Organs do much of the detoxification work involuntarily. Most people can’t influence the speed with which their livers work, for example, and most people have no sensation of a tired or overworked liver. They may not notice the work is ongoing. This doesn’t mean, however, body systems don’t have an impact on consciousness. On the contrary, when something is amiss, these systems are trained to send out alert signals, highlighting that something is wrong. The conscious mind may not know what is causing these symptoms, but it may certainly know that something terrible is happening.
When someone stops taking Percocet, the body sends out signals of distress:
- Bone and muscle pain
While these symptoms aren’t life-threatening, they’re certainly uncomfortable. They are symptoms of the chemical damage from Percocet abuse. The narcotic ingredient in the pills, oxycodone, is an opiate that affects opiate receptors in the brain. It acts like a synthetic neurotransmitter, changing once someone stops opiates. As those changes take place, the symptoms grow stronger and stronger.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no benefit to pain and discomfort while someone is in early recovery from addiction. People addicted to Percocet have a compulsive desire to use the drug, no matter the consequences. While some people used to believe a painful recovery would keep a person from using again, that’s a misunderstanding of how addiction works. A person with a Percocet addiction struggles with intense cravings. If these cravings combine with physical pain, it’s more likely a person will relapse. For this reason, medications play a key role in Percocet withdrawal and recovery programs.
Managing Withdrawal Symptoms
Addiction treatment works in phases. First, an addict completes detoxification, then recovery, and then aftercare. One medication commonly given to Percocet addicts during detoxification is buprenorphine. This drug is a synthetic form of an opiate, which means it attaches to the same receptors as Percocet. It gives a person relief from withdrawal symptoms while avoiding the feelings of euphoria that go along with Percocet and other opiates.
Methadone is another commonly used drug that prevents withdrawal symptoms and helps people manage cravings for opiates without producing a high.
Some therapists also use a newer drug called naltrexone. This drug attaches prevents opiates from attaching to opiate receptors in the brain, so it also prevents users from feeling a high. If a patient relapses and takes Percocet, the naltrexone will keep the Percocet from having an effect. One study shows naltrexone also helps control some withdrawal symptoms.
Research shows patients addicted to pain relievers like Percocet often receive medications during the detoxification phase, and then go through a tapering process until they receive no drugs at all.
Then, these patients receive psychological therapy. Medical experts believe this process isn’t always the best way to treat people addicted to opiates. In fact, many believe that people addicted to Percocet and similar drugs might need to stay on medication therapies for months, if not years. The damage brought by addiction is so severe that tapering the dose down or eliminating it leaves the addict at an increased risk of relapse.
One study shows added risk from tapering down medication therapy. Many patients who received 12 weeks of medication assisted therapy and then tapered down, still relapsed. In fact, only 8 percent of patients stayed clean after stopping the medication.
The best opiate addiction treatment includes medications and talk therapy. Patients need all kinds of support as they live in recovery, and many need the added support of medications to control cravings.
Just because detoxification and rehabilitation programs overlap doesn’t mean detoxification isn’t important. The start of a detoxification program may mark the first time an addict admits the scope of his Percocet addiction to medical professionals. This admission to self and others offers an ideal time for medical screening to take place. Since many addictions co-occur with other conditions, such as mental health conditions, it’s important to receive treatment for all diseases at the same time.
Patients who get relief for all their symptoms, such as withdrawal symptoms and depression symptoms, have a better chance of managing the responsibilities of daily life once they leave a treatment facility.
In addition, there are special health considerations that go along with Percocet abuse. Since Percocet pills contain acetaminophen, the drug causes irreparable liver damage at very high doses. People who abuse Percocet take higher doses of acetaminophen each and every day. For this reason, doctors run a liver panel blood test on people who enter detox programs for Percocet addiction. Sometimes medications can be used to reverse the damage the addiction has caused.
People who crush Percocet tablets, mix them with water, and then inject them can also develop blood-borne infections such as HIV or hepatitis. They may also develop staphylococcus infections at the injection site. Doctors often screen patients for these conditions as well, and treatment for these conditions may begin as part of the detoxification process.
Making the Most of Detoxification
While detoxification from Percocet is rarely life-threatening, it is difficult to go through alone. Failure rates grow higher and higher if addicts don’t access help through medications and counseling. While addicts and their families may know they need help for addiction, they may be at a loss to determine where they should access help. A family physician’s office may be a good place to start. If the addict obtained Percocet through the doctor’s office, the doctor will know why the drug was prescribed and how often the prescription was refilled.
The addict may have to supply additional information, such as:
- How often the drug was taken
- Whether the drug was taken orally, or whether it was sniffed or injected
- Where the person obtained the drugs
- How the person is feeling now
- Whether or not addiction issues run in the family
Physicians often refer patients to an addiction treatment program for more help. Some programs require patients to formally check in, and live on the premises for a specific period of time. People, who are at risk for complications, including people who have tried and failed to stop using in the past, benefit from inpatient programs that allow them to fully focus on getting sober. Someone with a less severe addiction may only need outpatient services, which still offer daily or weekly therapy options.
During outpatient treatment, patients receive medications and therapies, but still live at home. People who have strong family connections may benefit from these programs, as they won’t experience a complete break in their daily routines. The choice is really personal, and it should be made in consultation between the addict and the addict’s doctor.
At Michael’s House, we’ve developed a program that helps Percocet addicts get through the detoxification process and move on to a helpful and healing recovery program. All of these services fall under one roof in our facility, ensuring a continuity of care and no loss of momentum. Please call us today at 760-548-4032 to find out more.
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 Holmes, David. “Prescription Drug Addiction: The Treatment Challenge.” The Lancet.2012.
 Weiss R.D., et. al. “Adjunctive Counseling During Brief and Extended Buprenorphine-Naloxone Treatment for Prescription Opioid Dependence: A 2-Phase Randomized Controlled Trial.” Archives of General Psychiatry. December 2011.