Many prescription medications, including Percocet, include substances like oxycodone that contain opioids, which produce mind-altering effects and are found in drugs like heroin. Typically, prescription medications that contain opioids, such as Percocet, are prescribed to relieve temporary moderate to severe pain. Too often, however, individuals enjoy the pleasurable feelings brought about by the drug, which leads to them taking it too often and for the wrong reasons. This misuse of prescription drugs can have severe consequences that affect a person’s health and wellbeing.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more people in the United States die from overdoses of prescription opioids than from all other drugs combined, even notorious illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The primary reason prescription medications are dangerous is due to the fact that opioids – like those found in Percocet – can dramatically affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Consequently, taking high doses of these drugs often results in dramatically slowed breathing referred to as depressed respiration. This can lead to the brain not receiving enough oxygen, which can cause permanent brain damage and even death.
While prescription drug addiction is serious, affected individuals can make a full recovery with the right treatment plan. Below you will find helpful information related to identifying and treating a Percocet addiction.
For most, it may be hard to recognize when an individual’s Percocet use has escalated to drug abuse or an addiction. After all, people are prescribed Percocet for various medical conditions, and whether or not a person is taking a drug too often or for the wrong reasons may not always be clear. While the circumstances surrounding an addiction vary from case to case, prescription drugs are commonly abused in the following ways:
- Administering a drug in a way that is not intended: Most, if not all, prescription drugs, are taken in tablet form. This allows the substances found within the tablet to be dispensed slowly and in a controlled manner. Oftentimes, abusers will break the tablets and then snort or inject (after mixing the crushed pills with water) the powder found inside. This results in the drug entering the bloodstream and affecting the brain more quickly.
- Taking someone else’s medication: Many medication users are unaware of the dangerous effects that prescription drugs elicit; oftentimes, they will share their unused pills with their friends or family members.
- Taking a drug for a purpose that is not medically related: Almost all prescribed medications, including Percocet, can produce pleasurable effects. This is one of the main reasons people abuse prescription drugs.
An overarching theme found in stories of drug abuse is that the abuser was unaware of how dangerous prescription drugs can be when used in a manner that they weren’t intended to be. According to the NIDA, when doctors prescribe medications, they take various factors into consideration, such as a patient’s body weight and previous experience with medications. The strength and frequency of administration for a particular prescription is influenced by these factors, which means that every prescription is individualized.
Moreover, a common misconception exists, that prescription drugs, even when abused, are somehow safer than illicit, or street, drugs. Prescriptions drugs are only safe when they are taken for their intended purpose. Abusing a prescription drug is no different than abusing street drugs like heroin or cocaine.
The Physical Effects of Percocet
According to a study published in Anesthesiology, oxycodone, the primary ingredient in Percocet, acts as a central nervous system suppressant. Oxycodone is a synthetic opioid, similar to the organic opioids that elicit psychoactive effects in heroin. Both organic and inorganic opioids act on specifically shaped receptors in the brain called opioid receptors. When opioids enter the brain via the bloodstream, they bind to opioid receptors and bring about a number of short-term physiological effects, including:
- Impaired coordination
- Slowed heart rate
- Slowed respiration
- Urinary retention
The more serious side effects, such as slowed heart rate and respiration, are far more likely to happen when Percocet is taken outside the parameters of a prescription. Even if someone is suffering from a medical condition, chronic Percocet use is not advised. Serious long-term effects of Percocet use include:
- Liver damage
- Kidney failure
- Chronic constipation
- Decreased testosterone levels
- Physical and psychological dependence
The risk of overdosing on Percocet is great, especially because many of the long-term effects, such as liver damage and kidney failure, show few symptoms before they become severe. Since prescription drug abusers can develop a tolerance to Percocet, they often increase their dose in order to achieve the desired euphoric and relaxing effects of the drug. When this happens, the long-term damage associated with Percocet progresses more rapidly. Other, more immediate consequences can also result from overdosing on Percocet, the most severe of which include cardiac failure, seizures, and intense vomiting.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, medical detox is needed for those who wish to stop abusing opiates. The use of medications should be determined on an individual basis. While long-term maintenance medications are sometimes used, medication never constitutes full recovery treatment in and of itself. Psychological therapy is always necessary. With proper therapy, individuals can identify and address the underlying issues that led to Percocet abuse in the first place.
There are several benefits to using treatment medications. Certain medications can reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with Percocet withdrawal. Since opiate addictions can be so severe, sometimes a long-term tapering process is needed, during which replacement medications are used, with dosages slowly lowered over time under medical supervision.
The three most commonly used medications for opiate detox are:
Treating professionals will help clients determine the best method of detox for their situation. As opiate detox can involve a variety of serious withdrawal symptoms, those suffering from opiate addiction should never attempt to detox from the drugs on their own. Medical supervision is necessary.
Comprehensive care involves the use of intensive therapy following medical detox. This therapy may take the form of individual or group sessions, and various therapeutic approaches may be used in these sessions, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, and holistic therapy techniques.
In therapy, individuals identify factors that may have initially led them to abuse substances like Percocet. In addition to environmental factors, such as living with family members or friends who abuse drugs, issues of mental health are explored in therapy. Oftentimes, substance abuse occurs in an effort to self-medicate mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. In these instances, it’s important to treat co-occurring mental health issues concurrently to ensure the most robust recovery. If mental health issues go untreated, it’s likely that individuals will return to substance abuse post treatment when the same triggers arise.
Several sources, including an article published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, advocate for the use of family therapy as a treatment method for substance abuse and addiction. As is the case with any hardship, it is easier for an individual to obtain and sustain recovery with the help of a strong support network.
Inpatient treatment is generally recommended for those suffering from opiate addiction, as is the case with Percocet addiction. The intensive care provided in an inpatient setting allows clients to fully focus on recovery from their addiction, giving them the best chance of a strong footing in recovery. After graduating from an inpatient program, individuals often continue with outpatient care, so they can obtain continued guidance and support as they begin to re-establish themselves in life outside of residential treatment. Participation in ongoing group supports and 12-Step meetings can give people additional support in their newfound sobriety.