The opioid crisis has been devastating. In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies used questionable marketing tactics to sell opioid-based pain medication. Part of this process involved convincing the medical community that these products were non-addictive. Since it was a widespread belief that the drugs were non-addictive, physicians everywhere prescribed these drugs for both acute and chronic pain. With these drugs as readily available as they were, patients seemed to have an unlimited supply, making it easy for them to become dependent through misusing their prescriptions.
Eventually, doctors had to acknowledge the truth. By that time, opioids were widely prescribed, and a large number of patients had become addicted. These drugs were classified as Schedule II drugs and included Percocet, Demerol, Dilaudid, morphine, Vicodin and fentanyl. The Schedule I drug heroin is also part of this classification.
The rising number of overdose deaths involving prescription drugs served as a wake-up call for the medical community. The DEA took official steps to reduce the number of prescriptions written. Large numbers of the people who had become addicted turned to illegal versions popular on the street. Some eventually turned to heroin. An estimated 1.9 million Americans had become addicted to prescription pain medication by 2019. Prescription drug-related overdose death numbers rose to approximately 50,000 that same year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that more than 11 million people ages 12 and above misuse prescription opioid pain pills. Of those prescribed pain medications following surgery, close to 20% become dependent.
What Is Percocet?
Percocet is the brand name for the combination medication oxycodone with acetaminophen. It is a synthetic opioid medication used to treat moderate to severe acute pain. It is also used to treat chronic pain. Oxycodone was first developed in 1916, and by 2018, it was ranked as the 48th most prescribed prescription drug in the United States.
Percocet works by attaching to neurotransmitters in the brain, known as opioid receptors. These neurotransmitters then release dopamine, the “feel good” chemical, into the brain to give the user a feeling of euphoria and the impression of numbed pain. Percocet and other opioid pain medications are effective because they decrease the perception of pain messages that are being transmitted through the nervous system from other parts of the body.
It is the opioid factor in Percocet that leads to tolerance of the drug. Once a person develops tolerance, they are often tempted to increase their dosage to chase the feeling of euphoria they initially experienced. They can become dependent on the drug and ultimately addicted to it.
Due to the rising numbers of drug overdose deaths and alarming cases of addiction, federal and state governments now closely regulate prescribing protocols for doctors. Government departments also tell doctors to monitor patients for warning signs of abuse, such as doctor shopping or attempting to fill a new prescription too soon. These protocols have drastically reduced the number of pills prescribed.
Half-Life and Metabolism
When looking at details of the half-life of Percocet to see how quickly it’s processed by a person’s metabolism, it’s important to remember that Percocet is a combination drug, which means that you have to look at the oxycodone and the acetaminophen as separate entities. Oxycodone has a half-life of three to five hours. It remains active in the bloodstream for six to 10 hours and processes out of the body in 24 hours. Acetaminophen has a half-life of two to three hours, stops being active in the bloodstream after four to six hours and processes out of the body in 12 hours.
Most of the metabolism of Percocet takes place in the liver. This can be concerning because of the presence of acetaminophen in Percocet and acetaminophen’s proven long-term effects on the liver. Evidence of acetaminophen-related liver damage has affected the dosing of Percocet, and the amount of acetaminophen per tablet is reduced compared to previous decades. The oxycodone itself metabolizes into two metabolites: oxymorphone and noroxycodone. These metabolites process out of the liver quickly.
Physiological factors that can affect the metabolism of Percocet include:
- Age: The older the patient, the slower the metabolism.
- Gender: Males metabolize drugs faster than females.
- Weight: People who are obese are more likely to have a slow metabolism as well as being able to retain drugs in their bodies for longer periods of time.
- Other conditions: Conditions of the liver and kidneys can slow metabolism.
- Presence of other substances: The presence of other substances, such as alcohol, can slow the metabolism of drugs in your system.
Side Effects of Percocet
The side effects of Percocet are similar to other opioid pain medications. These include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Shallow breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Mood swings
In some patients, the following rare effects have been noted. These severe effects, if seen, require immediate medical intervention:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Reduced alertness
- Heart rate either too fast or too slow
- Chest pains
- Uncontrollable vomiting
- Swelling of tongue, throat, lips, eyes, hands, feet or ankles
- Rash or hives
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Stomach pain
Long-Term Effects of Percocet
For those who have become addicted to Percocet or have been on long-term treatment for chronic pain, there are some serious long-term effects on the body. Due to the presence of acetaminophen in the drug, the damage to the liver is of particular note. The long-term effects on the body include:
- Kidney failure
- Liver damage
- Lasting constipation
- Urinary retention
- Decreased testosterone in men
- Physical and psychological addiction
The Need for Tapering
While withdrawal from any drug is not easy, it is more important to taper off of opioid drugs. Percocet needs to be tapered down following long-term use of the drug. It is not recommended that the user quit cold turkey. While it might seem that the withdrawal symptoms will only be uncomfortable, there is a possibility of physical or psychological outcomes that can be described as adverse. The recommendation for tapering is especially important for patients who have used or misused the drug for an extended period of time.
The Tapering Process
For those who have used Percocet for more than two weeks, it is recommended that a monitored slow tapering process be used. The first step of slow tapering is sitting down with your doctor to carefully plan the process. For long-term use that does not involve addiction, the dosage is taken down in 10% increments over time. For patients who have shown signs of addiction to Percocet, the tapering process needs to occur in an inpatient, medically supervised detox environment. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
During the tapering process, the following things will occur:
- Your doctor will regularly monitor your blood pressure, pulse and temperature.
- Your doctor will request blood or urine samples to monitor the amount of medication and presence of other substances in your system.
- You may be asked to permit your doctor to communicate with your other health care providers, pharmacists and family members to get any information that might help you.
- Your doctor might introduce alternative pain therapies if needed for chronic conditions or prescribe other medications to help control withdrawal signs and symptoms.
If at any time you are tempted to increase your dosage during the tapering-down period, contact your doctor immediately for guidance. Tapering needs to be carefully monitored, and the doctor and patient have to agree on every step for it to be successful.
Signs of Withdrawal
Symptoms of withdrawal from Percocet can start within 24 hours of the last dose. Withdrawal symptoms commonly experienced within the first 24 hours include:
- Aching muscles
- Tearing up in the eyes
- Runny nose
- Sweating excessively
- Inability to sleep
- Yawning frequently
After the first 24 hours, you will see your symptoms become more intense. These later symptoms include:
- Muscle cramps in the abdominal area
- Goose bumping of the skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
Granite Recovery Centers
When it comes time to get help for misuse of Percocet or other addictions, Granite Recovery Centers has you covered. With multiple locations, we offer every aspect of the treatment process. Our professional counselors will sit down with you and customize a program especially for you. We will listen to your needs and answer your questions.
We understand the difficulties presented by misuse of prescription drugs. From the moment you step into our medication-assisted detox program, you will know that you are in the right hands. Once you complete detox, you will go into one of our tranquil locations for your inpatient treatment program. Our evidence-based treatment program will help give you your best chance toward recovery. Integrated with a 12-step curriculum, we set you up for a lifetime of recovery support.
Our tranquil surroundings at each location promote an air of healing and give you the best chance to learn new, healthy behaviors to replace your unhealthy practices. You will learn techniques for relaxation that include meditation practices. Once you complete your inpatient program, you might believe that you need an extra boost when you go home. If so, continuing into our outpatient program might be a good fit. We will customize each program to your needs. We do not believe that a standard 28-day program meets everyone’s needs who walk through our doors; your program will be set to your needs and not a cookie-cutter approach.
Our founders developed Granite Recovery Centers from their own journey through recovery. They knew what needed to be done for a successful commitment to sobriety. Once you have completed your treatment program, you will participate in our aftercare program for the additional support that everyone should have coming out of intensive programs.
At Granite Recovery Centers, we believe that family involvement is critical to success. There are portions of your program where your family will come and be involved with you. The more your family understands, the more support they can offer when you come home. In addition, everyone who graduates from our programs is a member of our extended family. You will likely find that in years to come, our alumni gatherings feel more like a family reunion.
Suppose you want to continue with a supportive living environment during aftercare. In that case, we have several sober living options where you can be surrounded by people who are as dedicated to their recovery as you are. While we hope that you have a supportive environment at home, that is not always the reality, and sober living can be the right answer for many who need every opportunity to succeed.
If you need a Percocet addiction treatment program that will get you on a path to long-term health, look no further than Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire. If you came to us today because you were concerned for a loved one, call and speak to one of our professional intervention consultants for guidance.