Percocet is a combination medication of acetaminophen and oxycodone, an opioid used to treat pain. Short-term and long-term opioid use changes brain chemistry, leading to physical and psychological dependence. This means stopping use is likely to cause uncomfortable, and often painful, symptoms of withdrawal.
Percocet has a half-life of around four hours, so it moves in and out of the system at a quick rate. As a short-acting medication, the onset of withdrawal symptoms are likely to occur soon after last use.
However, there are no set stages of withdrawal that are the same for every person. Although withdrawal can be broken into three stages, when symptoms occur depends on the duration of use, the daily dose, and how much time passed between doses.
Understanding Opioid Dependence
In the brain, opioid medications like Percocet attach to opioid receptors and block pain signals. This results in intense euphoria, which is very addicting. The presence of Percocet in the system causes the brain to work harder and make adjustments, changing chemical levels related to vital functioning like consciousness and breathing.
Continued use establishes new levels of these chemicals to create a new norm in the brain and body. When Percocet use is abruptly stopped, these areas in the brain become unstable, causing intense symptoms of withdrawal.
Symptoms Of Percocet Withdrawal
Percocet withdrawal symptoms can feel like a terrible flu, but are usually not life-threatening. A short-acting opioid like Percocet is likely to cause withdrawal symptoms between eight to 24 hours after last use. Withdrawal from Percocet and other opioids is very hard to undergo without help, can be dangerous, and may lead to further drug use.
Early symptoms of Percocet withdrawal can include:
- eyes tearing (watery eyes)
- muscle aches
- runny nose
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Symptoms likely to occur later in the Percocet withdrawal process include:
- abdominal cramping
- dilated pupils
Symptoms can be so intense and painful that people may use other opioids, like heroin, to help alleviate the discomfort. While there is no exact timeline of Percocet withdrawal symptoms that is the same for everyone, a person can better understand how to manage withdrawal when the process is broken into three different stages: early, peak, and late.
Percocet withdrawal symptoms can start as early as a few hours after last use. Emotional areas in the brain become unstable and extreme feelings of anxiousness begin to take over. You may have trouble sleeping, experience severe muscle aches, and feel physical pain all over your body.
Many people report this can be the most physically painful part of withdrawal, which lasts around two to three days or so.
Other symptoms of Percocet withdraw may include:
After two to three days, withdrawal is likely to reach peak symptoms. Because opioids depress respiratory functioning, removing them can cause breathing and heart rates to increase, which can make you feel worried or uneasy.
Areas of the brain that regulate body temperature are also disrupted, causing the body to sweat profusely. The body is now trying to get rid of waste any way it can, with vomiting or diarrhea likely to occur.
Symptoms can last for several days, and may also include:
- muscle cramping
- shaking of limbs
- stomach cramps
The late stage of Percocet withdrawal is reported to be more psychological than physical, but many painful physical symptoms still persist. Percocet is a weaker opioid because it’s combined with acetaminophen, so symptoms may not last as long as more powerful opioids, like Oxycontin or heroin. Anxiety is likely to return, as well as intense cravings to use more drugs.
Symptoms can last for nearly two weeks and may include:
- intense drug cravings
- mood swings
The Risk Of Protracted Withdrawal
With all opioids, there is the risk of protracted, or prolonged, withdrawal. This part of the withdrawal phase can last for up to six months. Symptoms are characterized by a nagging feeling of low self-worth and a poor sense of well-being. Additionally, a person is likely to feel intense cravings for Percocet and other opioids.
This part of Percocet withdrawal can lead to relapse, or worse. If a person dependent on opioids has successfully completed withdrawal, they’re at an increased risk of overdose. Tolerance to opioids has likely been reduced at this point, and a person may take more than their body can handle.
Entering A Medically Supervised Detox Program
Although Percocet withdrawal symptoms aren’t life-threatening, they can be difficult to manage without help. Due to the discomfort, many people will succumb to drug urges or attempt to self-medicate their symptoms by taking other substances.
To avoid falling deeper into the cycle of addiction, it’s recommended for people struggling with opioid dependence be monitored on a regular basis to assess symptoms and avoid further consequences. Entering a medically supervised detox program helps ensure safety and comfort during the worst of withdrawal, while also helping to prepare a person for further treatment.
Detox programs allow staff to administer medications to alleviate symptoms, observe and monitor a patient’s progress, and provide support during the process of withdrawal. In many inpatient rehab centers, detox programs are factored into overall treatment.
Percocet Addiction Treatment
There are three government-approved medications available to address opioid dependence: methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex), and naltrexone. These medications are useful for lessening dependence, reducing drug cravings, decreasing overdose, and helping people engage in and complete treatment.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is almost always combined with behavioral therapy. Therapy works to help people understand what led to their addictive behaviors and how to change thinking and attitudes about drugs to better prepare for life in recovery. Popular therapies for opioid addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy.
Be advised, withdrawal is very painful. Processes in the body and brain are severely dysfunctional. To maximize support and safety, the professional management of opioid withdrawal can lessen physical and psychological barriers to help you engage in treatment and grow as a person.
Additional resources from DrugRehab.org:
- Statnews — A Survivor on What Opioid Withdrawal did to His Body
- U.S. National Library of Medicine — Withdrawal Management for Opioid Dependence
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Opiate and opioid withdrawal
- U.S. WorldMeds — Changes in Brain Chemistry can Trigger Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome