Percocet Withdrawal

  • Generic Name or Active Ingridient: Oxycodone Hydrochloride And Acetaminophen

Percocet is an opioid painkiller, available only with a doctor's prescription. Percocet contains oxycodone and acetaminophen. Because it produces a pleasant, euphoric feeling, many individuals use Percocet to get high.


Withdrawal is a normal response to the sudden drop in the level of opioids in a person who is physically dependent on Percocet. In fact, doctors diagnose a person as being dependent on Percocet if the individual suffers withdrawal symptoms after he stops taking this drug or if the doctor administers medication to lower the level of opioids.

Commonly called withdrawal, drug detoxification is a lengthy and uncomfortable process, resulting in overpowering physical and psychological symptoms that prevent many individuals from discontinuing Percocet. Physical withdrawal symptoms last five or more days; psychological symptoms may last much longer, especially if left untreated or poorly treated.


The human body adapts to the presence of some foreign substances, including Percocet, by adjusting its chemical balance. The body can become tolerant of these substances, which means it takes an ever-increasing amount of the chemical to achieve the intended effect. When a person becomes tolerant of Percocet, she must take a stronger dose to relieve her pain or to get high.

With prolonged use, the body becomes dependent on a substance. This means an individual must maintain a certain level of the substance in her body to feel normal. If the level of Percocet were to fall, her body would struggle to maintain chemical balance. She feels this battle for stability through withdrawal symptoms.


Physicians use medications such as naloxone, sometimes called Narcan, to lower high levels of opioids such as Percocet to save a person's life after overdose or to help detoxify the individual as the first step of rehabilitation.

The severity and duration of Percocet withdrawal relies on the strength and frequency of doses. In other words, a person who abuses high doses of Percocet for years will experience stronger withdrawal symptoms than someone who has used minimal amounts of this drug for a short time.


Physical symptoms from Percocet withdrawal are similar to flu symptoms, but withdrawal also causes psychological symptoms whose demoralizing affects can be just as overpowering and debilitating as the physical symptoms of withdrawal. Social stigmas against drug dependence prevent many people from seeking professional assistance, so some people attempt to overcome Percocet withdrawal on their own, without the help of medical professionals. Without the proper tools to ease withdrawal symptoms, many of these individuals relapse to opioid abuse.


Physical symptoms of withdrawal begin a few hours after the last dose of Percocet or the administration of naloxone. These physical symptoms last for five or more days, with the worst day occurring on or about the fourth day. Physical symptoms are very uncomfortable, forcing even the most determined and disciplined individual back to opioid abuse without the help of trained detoxification specialists.

Physical symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever, Runny Nose or Sneezing
  • Goose Bumps and Abnormal Skin Sensations
  • Hot Sweats and Cold Sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Low Energy Level
  • Muscle Aches or Pains
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Pain
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Rigid Muscles
  • Runny Nose
  • Shivering, Tremors
  • Teary Eyes
  • Yawning


The psychological symptoms of Percocet withdrawal can be as intense as the physical aspects and, without proper medical attention, strong psychological symptoms can lead to relapse to opioid abuse. Some individuals struggling with Percocet withdrawal experience psychosis or a loss of contact with reality. Opioid abuse affects the nervous system on a cellular level that changes a person's critical thinking skills, or the way he makes decisions. This loss of judgment and logical thinking is quite dangerous, especially as an individual tries to free himself from Percocet abuse.

Percocet withdrawal frequently leaves people feeling hopeless or unworthy of recovery. These psychological symptoms of Percocet withdrawal increase the risk for relapse to Percocet abuse or even Percocet overdose. Demoralizing psychological withdrawal symptoms prevent many from even attempting rehabilitation.

Other psychological symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Restlessness
  • Social isolation

Possible Complications

The primary complication associated with going through Percocet withdrawal is relapse, which increases the risk for overdose. A person who has just gone through the detoxification and withdrawal phase stands a greater risk for overdosing on Percocet because detox reduces his tolerance for opioids; he can now overdose on a much smaller dose than he used to take before going through the withdrawal process.

Other complications of opioid withdrawal include vomiting and then breathing the stomach contents into the lungs, which may result in infection. Extreme vomiting and diarrhea may result in dehydration.

Treatment options

Treatment for Percocet withdrawal takes place in two stages: detoxification and rehabilitation. Detoxification describes the withdrawal process where the individual's body struggles for chemical stability. Rehabilitation is a treatment phase in the individual participates in behavioral modification techniques to learn how to live without Percocet. Rehabilitation curbs relapse rates so that the person does not have to go through withdrawal more than once.

More people are abusing opioids such as Percocet and, as a result, more individuals are now physically dependent upon this type of painkiller. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 23 million people in the United States needed treatment for alcohol or substance abuse in 2010. Of those, only about 11 percent received treatment at a specialty facility.

Opioid abuse accounted for just over 5 percent of admissions to publicly funded substance abuse programs that help people overcome physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms during detoxification and rehabilitation.


To avoid social stigmas of rehab, skip a hospital stay or to keep their dependence on Percocet a secret, some people try to endure opioid withdrawal alone, without the help of medicine to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Doctors call this self-detoxification; some people call it "going cold turkey," referring to the cold, clammy, pale and bumpy appearance the skin takes on during the withdrawal process.

Having skin that looks like a plucked turkey is the least unpleasant physical symptom associated with Percocet withdrawal and self-detoxification. Uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, cold sweats and muscle pain can last for several days to two weeks. While Percocet withdrawal is not fatal, unbearable withdrawal symptoms and dangerous complications can endanger the individual's health and recovery efforts.

Other people take a scientific approach to self-detoxification by developing a homemade treatment plan using a variety of products to address the withdrawal symptoms. Once such remedy is The Thomas Recipe, in which a person takes Valium or some other anti-anxiety medication to reduce psychological symptoms and overcome extreme insomnia. The individual then weans himself from this drug once he is free from dependence to Percocet. He also takes anti-diarrhea medication, plus vitamins and supplements to ease muscle aches and fatigue which accompany opioid withdrawal. The goal is to make it past the fourth, most uncomfortable day.

While well-crafted homemade treatment plans may reduce withdrawal symptoms, the individual may suffer dangerous complications and high risk for relapse. In addition, self-detoxification addresses only the physical aspects of opioid abuse; self-detox does not address the behavioral side of opioid dependence. Opioid abuse makes changes to the brain and though processes; without behavioral modification, the person never "rewires" his brain to learn how to live without Percocet. Without adequate medical intervention, a person who engages in self-detox is doomed to relapse to opioid abuse because he does not address all aspects of his disease.

Relapse is a serious complication associated with quitting opioids, and relapse carries an increased risk for overdose. An individual who has recently detoxified his body and returns to opioid abuse is at a greater risk for toxic overdose, as detoxification lowers the body's tolerance to opioids. He can accidently overdose on a lower dose than he used to take before detoxification.

Toxic overdose requires emergency, sometimes lifesaving treatment. In the emergency department, physicians and nurses administer medications such as naloxone to reduce Percocet to safe levels quickly. Once doctors have stabilized the overdose patient's condition, she may participate in behavioral rehabilitation as an inpatient or outpatient.

People who have not overdosed and are in otherwise stable condition may choose outpatient drug replacement therapy, or DRT, so that they may participate in behavioral rehabilitation before going through the withdrawal process. During DRT, physicians prescribe drugs such as methadone, Suboxone or buprenorphine, which bind to the same opioid receptors within the body as opioids do so that the patient does not experience debilitating withdrawal symptoms. The replacement drugs last longer than opioids and do not produce the euphoric effects, so the patient does not feel "high" nor does he experience terrible symptoms of withdrawal. Patients enrolled in DRT programs temporarily bypass the withdrawal process and move directly into the rehabilitation phase designed to rewire those areas of the brain affected by Percocet abuse.

After the individual learns how to live without Percocet, he weans himself from the replacement drug by taking increasingly smaller doses. Supporters of DRT recognize the flexibility of outpatient treatment while opponents say it is merely trading one addiction for another.

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 for several years.

Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT, refers to any substance abuse treatment plan that includes pharmacological intervention to reduce the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms. DRT is one type of MAT; this type of treatment is available as an outpatient or inpatient plan, depending on the patient's needs and the severity of his Percocet withdrawal symptoms.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMSA, medication-assisted treatment:

  • 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 a variety of drugs to ease Percocet withdrawal symptoms and facilitate detoxification in a controlled and monitored environment. During detoxification, physicians administer drugs, such as naloxone, to decrease the Percocet levels and still other drugs to alleviate the resulting symptoms of withdrawal. Nurses monitor the patient for dangerous complications, such as dehydration or aspiration, and respond immediately. While standard inpatient MAT detox programs ease the physical aspects of addiction, individuals must still endure the demoralizing process of detoxification.

Rapid detox is the most humane method of detoxification because this advanced technique shortens detoxification times and erases the demoralizing aspects of Percocet withdrawal. During rapid detox, board-certified anesthesiologists administer standard detoxification and anti-withdrawal medications along with a light but effective course of anesthesia and sedatives so that the patient rests in a comfortable "twilight sleep." When the patient awakens from rapid detox, he will have no recollection of the grueling and demoralizing detoxification and withdrawal period. He can then move onto the rehabilitation process, unencumbered with the psychosis or other psychological symptoms that usually accompany the lengthy and difficult detoxification process.


Although medical treatment and behavioral modification are independently useful in the treatment of opioid withdrawal, addressing both the physical and behavioral aspects of physical dependence to opioids offer the best hope for recovery. Behavioral therapy may take place at an inpatient or outpatient facility. To offer the best chance of success, it is important to match the type of facility to the individual's personal needs. Both pharmacological and behavioral treatments work to restore normalcy to those brain function and behavior related to opioid withdrawal and dependence. These treatments also aim at improving employment rates, reducing relapse and lessening side effects associated with physical dependence to opioids.

After successful rapid detox, standard detoxification or drug replacement therapy, patients may participate in the second phase of recovery: drug rehabilitation. These specialized treatments offer behavior modification techniques designed to change the neurological changes that caused physical dependence or improve the environmental factors that led to the initial dependence on drugs and reduce the risk for relapse. An individual may choose to participate in inpatient or outpatient care. Programs can be as short as 28 days or as long as 6 months or a year.

Long-term recovery from opioid withdrawal depends on success during both the detoxification and rehabilitation phases. A significant number of individuals suffer relapse, especially those who engage in self-detoxification or do not participate in rehabilitation.