Percocet Addiction

  • Generic Name or Active Ingridient: Oxycodone Hydrochloride And Acetaminophen

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, classifies Percocet as a schedule II narcotic, which means it carries a high potential for abuse. As such, the DEA does not allow refills on Percocet prescriptions - the individual must visit a doctor to get a new prescription.

Taking high doses of Percocet or using this powerful opioid for a long time may result in physical dependence or addiction, two separate and independent medical conditions.

The definition of addiction

Addiction is associated with certain behaviors, such as being unable to control opioid use, compulsive use, continued use despite being aware of the risks, and craving for opioids such as Percocet.

Addiction is chronic; many individuals struggle with addiction for years, especially without professional intervention and support of loved ones.

Physicians recognize addiction as a disease of the nervous system. Addiction to Percocet or other substances affects the cells of the central nervous system.

Percocet addiction is a primary disease, which occurs on its own and not as the result of another medical condition. However, research shows that genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors influence the development of Percocet addiction. These factors also influence the ways addiction affects each individual - not all addictions are exactly alike.

Many individuals become addicted to Percocet through non-medical uses; that is, to use Percocet to get high or to treat pain without a prescription. Using Percocet or other opioids non-medically increases the risk for addiction.

The Definition of Dependence

To be physically dependent on Percocet means the body needs this opioid to feel normal. When Percocet levels drop below a certain level, the dependent body struggles to restore chemical balance. The individual experiences this battle for chemical stability through unbearable, flu-like withdrawal symptoms.

Doctors diagnose a patient as physically dependent on Percocet if he suffers symptoms withdrawal symptoms once levels of this opioid decline in his system. This drop in opioids levels happen by not taking the opioid or through the administration of certain drugs, such as naloxone.

Addiction versus Dependency

Drug dependence is a condition in which an individual’s body needs a drug in order to feel normal. Addiction is the compulsive use of a drug.

Addiction and dependence on drugs are separate and independent disorders: a person can by physically dependent on a substance without being addicted to it, and vice versa. For example, a person may need an anti-hypertensive drug to keep her blood pressure at safe levels; if she were to stop taking the drug, her body would struggle to maintain blood pressure but she would not feel cravings for the medicine.

In contrast, a person can be addicted to cocaine without being physically dependent upon it. Someone addicted to cocaine will crave more once he runs out, but the drop in cocaine levels will not disrupt his body chemistry, so he will not feel withdrawal symptoms.

Both addiction and dependence cause real changes in the brain and body but addiction and dependence become apparent in different ways.

Addiction: What Family Members Should Know

Addiction is a disease, not a choice or a lifestyle. Your family member does not choose to be addicted to Percocet anymore than a person decides to have diabetes or any other condition. Scientists now know that recovery is not a matter of willpower, but that rehabilitation relies on medical intervention and behavioral modification therapy.

Family members should know that they might inherit a substance abuse problem from their parents. Researchers are still investigating the exact cause of drug abuse, dependence and addiction, but most agree that heredity plays a prominent role.

Scientists believe addiction is more likely in people who are hypersensitive to stress. Stressors within the household, like relationship or financial problems, increase the risk for addiction in hypersensitive individuals.

Environmental factors play a role as well. Peer pressure, emotional distress, anxiety or depression and environmental stress contribute to substance abuse. These environmental factors can cause, as well as be the result of, addiction to opioids such as Percocet.

Addiction affects the entire family. While only one person may be addicted to Percocet, this disease affects his parents, spouse, children, siblings and everyone else in the immediate and extended family. Percocet addiction affects the family in a negative way, as the addicted person spends more of her time seeking, using and recovering from Percocet and other opioids, and less time fulfilling her responsibilities, such as work, raising children, paying bills or taking care of the household.

Addiction to Percocet has a negative effect on the family unit but recovery can have a positive effect on everyone who participates. Helping someone overcome a serious illness brings families closer together.

Family members play an important role in recovery. It is not uncommon for a family member to choose the rehabilitation facility the addicted individual eventually enters. The family can encourage the addicted individual to seek and complete treatment.

It is possible to arrest the disease’s progress at any time. Family members should not let their loved ones “hit rock bottom” before asking for professional help; rock bottom may include overdose, prison or death. The longer an individual is addicted to Percocet, the greater his chances for collateral damage and health hazards that affect the entire family, such as legal trouble, overdose, loss of work, divorce, child neglect, financial trouble and more. Early treatment helps families avoid this costly collateral damage.

Recovery often begins when the individual recognizes the problems his addiction to Percocet causes. Family members sometimes mistakenly shield the addicted individual from the consequences of his actions and, as a result, enable the addictive behaviors to continue. Family counseling can teach family members how to support a loved one without enabling him.

The treatment and recovery experience is most effective when the individual feels physically, emotionally and spiritually safe in his home environment. Family members should recognize addiction as a disease and avoid blaming the individual for his illness.

Family members should know that keeping illicit drugs in the house puts the entire family in danger. Using Percocet or other opioids without a prescription is illegal. The addicted person risks going to jail, losing time from work and incurring fines and legal fees, which diverts valuable resources away from the household. Furthermore, hosting illegal activities in one’s home increases the risk for criminal activity, such as keeping large amounts of illicit substances in the house, home invasion and theft.

Addiction: What Parent Should Know

Parents should know that environmental stress, such as divorce, going to a new school or relationship problems increases the risk for drug abuse and addiction among children. While it is normal for children to change as a natural part of growing up, parents should be alert to unusual behaviors.

Parents should look for warning signs including a child’s loss of interest in people or activities that used to be important to him. He may drop old friends and develop new ones, but be reluctant to introduce you to them. His grades or performance at an after-school job may decline. A child struggling with Percocet addiction may seem unmotivated and lack energy.

The addicted child may sneak away and be unable to provide a reasonable explanation for his absence. Parents should take note if the child’s mood or demeanor changes between the time he sneaks away and his return. For example, he may seem moody or anxious before he leaves but be relaxed and happy after he returns from his mysterious disappearance.

Parents should know that Percocet addiction is expensive. A youngster with an addiction may have money issues unusual for a child of his age. Parents should remain alert for and investigate the whereabouts of any money or items missing from the home.

Parents should know that their drug use affects their children. Youngsters who grow up in an environment where illicit drug use is tolerated are more likely to develop addictions later in life. Parents should know that their children will adopt the parent’s lax attitude toward drug abuse and therefore be more likely to abuse drugs such as Percocet when he grows older. A child who is not punished for doing drugs faces little resistance on the road to addiction.

Caring for a Family Member with an Addiction

Addiction is extremely difficult for every member of the family but it is important to remember that the addicted person needs compassion now more than ever if recovery is going to take place. The family should develop a plan to help the addicted individual, with every member of the family participating in the recovery effort. The family should meet frequently, with or without the addicted individual, to help one another deal with the stress and emotional drain of addiction.

Each member of the household can make a commitment to take good care of the addicted individual, himself and the rest of the family. Develop plans to share household chores, childcare and financial responsibilities. Work as a group so that no one individual carries the burden of opioid addiction.

It is okay to learn about addiction by visiting websites, asking questions and seeking referrals from other people who have supported a loved one battling this disease.

Family members should know that it is okay to talk about addiction. Family members can talk amongst themselves, even before the addicted individual is able to talk about his disease. Start a conversation with another member of the household; sharing common emotions and experiences can unite family members and help them forge a common, well-planned path to recovery. The support and guidance of a strong family unit provides powerful resistance to Percocet addiction. Family counseling teaches loved ones how to start a dialog between themselves and the addicted individual.

Addiction changes neurological pathways in the brain in a way that prevents the addicted individual from talking about his disease. The addicted person will likely be very resistant to talk about substance abuse. He will voice feelings of anger and betrayal at first, and will probably refuse treatment. He may even become violent or combative - this is addiction trying to protect itself from recovery. Despite passionate protests from the addicted individual against rehabilitation or even talking about his disease, it is imperative that family members continue to urge communication and professional treatment.

Signs of addiction: For those around

Percocet addiction changes a person’s behavior, thought processes, emotions and interactions with others. Family members, co-workers, friends and other people around the addicted individual may notice sudden or subtle changes. Addiction alters executive functioning, or the way a person thinks. These alterations cause the person to have trouble perceiving, learning, controlling impulses and making sound decisions.

A friend or co-worker may notice changes in a person addicted to opioids, including:

  • Excessive Painkiller Prescriptions for Self and/or Family
  • Frequent Emotional Crisis
  • Prioritizing Activities Involving Opioids
  • Arguments or Violent Outbursts
  • Withdrawal from Relationships, Family or Friends
  • Child Neglect
  • Abnormal, Illegal or Anti-Social Actions
  • Separation or Divorce
  • Unexplained Absences from Home
  • Legal Trouble
  • Neglect of Social Commitments
  • Unpredictable Behavior such as Inappropriate Spending

Addiction Symptoms: Physical and Psychological

Percocet addiction makes changes to the brain and body in a way that causes specific physical and psychological symptoms.

Physical symptoms of drug addiction include:

  • Unexplained Weight Gain or Weight Loss
  • A Change in Sleep Patterns
  • Deteriorating Physical Appearance - Looks Sickly
  • Nagging Cough
  • Diminished Hygiene Care
  • Body or Clothing May Have an Unusual Odor
  • Bloodshot Eyes with Large or Small Pupils
  • Tremors
  • Slurred Speech

The disease of addiction causes “hard-wired” changes in the reward circuit of brain. These physical changes are responsible for the uncontrolled, compulsive behaviors associated with addiction. A psychological reward is something that reinforces a certain behavior. When offered, a reward causes a behavior to increase in intensity. Natural rewards, such as eating or mating, ensure the success of a species. Unnatural rewards, such as flooding the opioid receptors with drugs such as Percocet, reinforces unhealthy behavioral patterns and trick the brain into perceiving opioid abuse as a rewarding experience.

Psychological symptoms of addiction to Percocet and other opioids include:

  • Inability to Abstain Consistently
  • Impairment in Behavioral Control
  • Cravings for Drugs or Intense Reward Experiences
  • Diminished Capacity to Recognize Significant Personal or Relationship Problems
  • Dysfunctional Emotional Response

Researchers have found that addiction causes “hard-wired” changes in brain structure and function, especially in those areas of the brain associated with reward. A psychological reward is something that

Behavioral, Cognitive and Emotional Changes

Percocet addiction alters the way an individual behaves, thinks and feels. These changes may come about suddenly or slowly. These behavioral, cognitive and emotional alterations remain long after the individual has stopped using Percocet. Without effective professional intervention, these changes increase the risk for relapse weeks, months or even years after successful detoxification.

A person battling a Percocet addiction often takes higher doses of opioids more frequently than she intends, even while she promises to control her behavior in the future. She loses days or weeks looking for Percocet, getting high or recovering from opioid abuse. The quest for Percocet soon overshadows everything else; eventually, she only cares about Percocet or any opioid she can lay her hands on. She continues to abuse Percocet, even though she understands the damage the opioids cause. It may seem that she lacks the interest or ability to quit Percocet abuse.

Opiate addiction affects thought patterns by altering the reward circut. Addiction causes her to become preoccupied with Percocet. She develops a warped and unhealthy admiration for Percocet, ignoring or downplaying the risks of opioid abuse. She begins to blame all her problems on other people or events rather than as a predictable consequence of Percocet abuse.

Addiction to Percocet and other substances causes emotional dysfunction. Addiction increases sensitivity to stress, especially in those individuals who are already hypersensitive to stress. An addicted individual experiences increased anxiety, sadness and emotional pain. She may exhibit an inappropriate emotional response to situations, such as flying into a rage over nothing or laughing during sad events.

Addiction and gender: how women and men are affected differently

Addiction seems to affect men and women differently; there is also a difference in how men and women become addicted to substances such as Percocet. The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show more males than females use illicit drugs. Girls between the ages of 12 and 17 years, however, were more likely to abuse pain relievers such as Percocet than males in the same age group.

Some studies suggest women are more likely to abuse prescription drugs such as Percocet and are more likely to abuse multiple substances than are males. Males and females express their addiction to opioids such as Percocet differently; addicted women are more private about their addiction than are men. Males are more likely to exhibit social disorders and participate in criminal activity, such as dealing drugs, theft or belonging to a gang. Addicted men are more likely to engage in drug abuse with others at parties.

In contrast, addicted woman tends to abuse drugs alone, in the privacy of her own home. Researchers believe females face a greater social stigma associated with addiction because of their roles as primary childcare providers, among other reasons.

Men are more likely to admit to drug abuse than are women, according to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Historically, women have a lower rate for entry into treatment, staying in treatment and completing treatment than men. Social stigmas, economic barriers and family responsibilities prevent addicted women from seeking or completing treatment programs at the same rate as men.

Treatment options

The American Society of Addictive Medicine warns that addiction can cause “disability or premature death, especially when left untreated or treated inadequately.” Nearly 15,000 people die in the United States each year from overdoses on prescription painkillers such as Percocet. Many more suffer physical, emotional, social, economic and criminal affects from opioid addiction.

There is a great need for quality treatment for drug addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 23 million people in the United States over the age of 12-years needed treatment for alcohol or substance abuse in 2010; of these, only about 11 percent received treatment at a specialty facility. Despite the social implications and health hazards associated with opioid addiction, just over 5 percent of admissions to publicly funded substance abuse programs were for treatment of opioid abuse.

Some people try to quit Percocet abuse along, without the help of medical technology to diminish withdrawal symptoms. This grueling and ineffective process is known as self-detoxification, or “going cold turkey.” Cold turkey refers to the goose bumps and cold, clammy, pale appearance of an addict’s skin as he goes through detoxification - his skin resembles a plucked turkey.

Potent and unrelenting withdrawal symptoms, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, cold sweats and muscle pain can last for five or more days, with the worst symptoms occurring on or about the fourth day. Without proper medical assistance and monitoring, the addicted individual may suffer complications. For example, he may vomit and inhale stomach contents, a complication known as aspiration. He also risks hazardous dehydration from excessive vomiting and diarrhea. Complications and overpowering symptoms of withdrawal force many determine individuals back to opioid abuse.

Other people develop a homemade treatment plan including a variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications in hopes of reducing withdrawal symptoms enough to make it all the way through detoxification. Once such concoction is The Thomas Recipe, in which a person takes Xanax or some other medication to calm his anxiety and help him sleep. He then weans himself from the prescription anti-anxiety medication after withdrawal symptoms subside. The main goal is to make it past the fourth day, on which the worst symptoms typically appear. He also takes medicine to reduce diarrhea plus vitamins and supplements to ease muscle aches and fatigue.

While The Thomas Recipe or other homemade treatment plans may reduce withdrawal symptoms, the individual might still suffer dangerous complications. Furthermore, self-detoxification addresses only the physical dependency of Percocet abuse; self-detox does not address the behavioral aspects of opioid addiction. Because self-detox does not address the neurological changes associated with Percocet addiction, the individual faces a great risk for relapse.

Relapse is the primary complication associated with Percocet detoxification. Someone who has recently quit taking Percocet is at greater risk for overdose after relapse because detox lowers the body’s tolerance to opioids. She can accidently overdose on a smaller dose than she used to take before detoxification.

Overdose is a dangerous medical condition that requires emergency, sometimes lifesaving treatment. Doctors administer naloxone and other medications to reduce Percocet to safe levels quickly. Nurses monitor patients for aspiration or dehydration and respond appropriately. Once the patient has completed the withdrawal process, she may participate in behavioral therapy as an inpatient or outpatient to address the underlying issues associated with Percocet addiction.

Some individuals participate in the outpatient treatment program known as drug replacement therapy, or DRT. During this type of therapy, physicians prescribe drugs such as methadone, Suboxone or buprenorphine, which bind to the same opioid receptors within the body as opioids such as Percocet do. DRT reduces withdrawal symptoms so that the individual may skip the detoxification process and move directly into the behavior modification phase. DRT drugs last longer than opioids so patients must take them only once every couple of days. and do not produce the euphoric effects, allowing the individual to participate in treatment without a hospital stay. Supporters of DRT recognize the flexibility of outpatient treatment while opponents say it is merely trading one addiction for another.

After the individual changes the behaviors associated with addiction, he weans himself from the replacement drug. Harvard Medical School cites estimates that 25 percent of methadone DRT patients eventually abstain, another 25 percent continues to take the drug and 50 percent go on and off methadone.

Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT, refers to any substance abuse treatment plan that includes pharmacological intervention. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMSA, this intervention:

  • Improves Survival
  • Increase Retention in Treatment
  • Decreases Illicit Opiate Use
  • Decreases The Risk for Hepatitis and HIV
  • Decreases Criminal Activities
  • Increases Employment
  • Improves Birth Outcomes for Pregnant Women Battling Addiction

Inpatient MAT programs use medication to lower opioid levels and ease withdrawal symptoms. During detoxification, physicians administer medication such as naloxone to decrease the level of opioids and still more drugs to address the resulting symptoms of withdrawal. Medical personnel observe the patiently closely for dangerous complications, such as dehydration or aspiration, and take appropriate measures to reduce these complications. While detox eases the physical aspects of addiction and lessens the duration of withdrawal somewhat, individuals must still endure the demoralizing process of detoxification.

Rapid detox is the most humane and efficient method of detoxification. During rapid detox, board-certified anesthesiologists administer standard detoxification and anti-withdrawal drugs alongside anesthesia and sedatives that allow the patient to rest in a comfortable “twilight sleep.” When the individual wakes up, he will have no memory of the punishing and demoralizing detoxification and withdrawal period. She can move directly onto the rehabilitation process without worrying about having to wean herself from a replacement drug later down the road.


The American Society of Addictive Medicine states that recovery from addiction is “best achieved through a combination of self-management, mutual support, and professional care provided by trained and certified professionals.” This rehabilitation can take place in an outpatient clinic, or at a short-term or long-term residential facility. Professional treatment programs include personal, family and group counseling; each addresses a specific aspect of opioid addiction. These programs include behavior modification programs and provide peer support.