According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse an estimated 2.1 million Americans are addicted to prescription opiates like Percocet, so if you are struggling with an addiction to this drug, you are not alone. Percocet may seem harmless, as it contains the over-the-counter drug acetaminophen, but in combination with the opioid oxycodone it is a powerful painkiller, which is highly addictive. Once hooked on this analgesic it is not an easy habit to break and trying to withdraw from Percocet can require a supervised detox, owing to the unpleasant side-effects users experience when coming off the drug. So if its addictive nature is well recognized, why do so many people fall into its hold when it is a prescription drug?
Percocet and other opioid analgesics are seen as much safer options than street drugs like cocaine and crystal meth, as you can obtain them from your doctor. However, they work on exactly the same receptors in the brain as heroin, making them no less dangerous or addictive. Once you have a prescription for Percocet, a resource by the University of Nebraska explains that taking the painkiller for as little as two to three weeks places you at risk of developing an addiction. Without stringent monitoring in place, it is often easy to get repeat prescriptions for opiates, but even once this legitimate source runs out, there are other options for those abusing Percocet. For example, it is fairly common to attend more than one physician to get multiple prescriptions, while friends and family with unfinished packs of drugs are another source. That is before you even look to the internet or dealers to feed your habit.
As an article in The Washington Post points out, another danger is that anyone can become addicted to prescription opiates, no matter what your age, gender, ethnicity, education or employment status. Many people have a stereotypical view of a typical drug user, but as this shows, you are not immune to prescription drug abuse. Some groups may be at greater risk from the addictive potential of Percocet though. For instance, women typically have the drug prescribed more frequently for them, while seniors receive more drugs from their doctor overall, opening up the gateway to addiction more often among both groups. However, there is also a concern that young people are at particular risk, as abuse of prescription drugs among the under 25s is increasing more quickly than any other age range.
An addiction to Percocet develops due to the effects that oxycodone has on the reward center in your brain. The University of Colorado explains that when you take Percocet and the opioid component binds to its receptors in your brain, this inhibits a type of nerve cell that usually release a signaling molecule known as GABA, which otherwise inhibits the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine. However, over-riding this mechanism with an opioid floods your brain with dopamine and these pleasurable feelings encourage you to repeat the experience by taking more Percocet. When an addiction develops you experience drug cravings and adopt drug seeking behaviors to satisfy these. This can mean that other aspects of your life suffer, such as your education, employment and relationship with those close to you, as you focus on making sure that you get your Percocet fix and once in its grip you will stop at nothing to satisfy your cravings.
You not only suffer socially when you are addicted to Percocet, as this destructive habit also places your health and well-being at risk. Firstly, oxycodone has a range of possible side-effects that can affect everything from your skin to your heart, lungs and nervous system. As Penn State University discusses, some of the adverse effects of oxycodone include skin rashes, swallowing difficulties, nausea and vomiting, constipation, altered pulse, breathing difficulties, confusion, feeling faint and dizzy, and seizures. Secondly, as Percocet dependency develops, you need increasing doses of the drug to give you the same high, which places you at increased risk of an overdose. Painkillers are the leading cause of poisoning according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, with around 311,000 cases recorded in 2012. Medline Plus advises that signs of an oxycodone overdose include extreme tiredness, slow breathing that may stop and pinpoint pupils and that this is potentially fatal. While it is possible to reverse an opiate overdose using naloxone, it is best to avoid overdosing at all costs, which means seeking timely treatment for an addiction to Percocet.
When your body is dependent on a drug, going any length of time without it produces withdrawal symptoms. An opiate dependency is no different, withdrawal from percocet, either unintentional or as part of a drug detox, leads to a number of changes in your body. These are similar for any opiate containing drug and Harvard Medical School lists opiate withdrawal symptoms as:
- Feeling agitated and anxious
- Experiencing muscle aches and tremors
- Going hot and cold
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
Even though these symptoms of opiate withdrawal are not life-threatening, they make detoxing from Percocet an unpleasant experience. Their severity depends on the Percocet dose you were taking and how quickly you withdraw. When you take part in a supervised Percocet detox the team of addiction specialists will make sure that your withdrawal period is appropriate to minimize your discomfort, though you will have access to treatments to help you cope with the withdrawal symptoms of percocet if necessary.
Depending on your circumstances, you may take a maintenance medication to help you manage Percocet cravings, so you are not focusing on the painkiller and instead can concentrate on adopting a healthy lifestyle that is free from drugs. Alternative medication is also available that can reduce your risk of relapse. These treatments should not be seen as replacing one drug with another and they do not promote other addictions; they are there to increase your chances of successfully beating your Percocet habit.
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